List #118: Best Books 2011

'Tis the season for year-end lists. A personal favorite of mine. And I've been spending more time than I care to admit reading The AV Club and Cracked laughing, reliving some 2011 moments, and learning about more than a few things I missed.

But the lists that I most anticipate? Best of the Best in books, of course. I love it. I love scouring the lists and finding the books that I read. I love arguing over books that I didn't enjoy. I get pleasure when I find out my library already owns the majority of the list and I love the excuse to buy a few more when our collection is incomplete. I'm a geek and my geek-method of choice is the printed word.

Of course the list-making librarian has some of her own favorite lists:
The NY Times lists in both fiction and non-fiction and gives notable titles as well.
Kirkus for their professional worthy reviews and children's lists (my favorite picture book made their list but more on that later).
NPR and their genre-sensitive, fun-loving recommendations, that will please just about every reader.

But oh, lists from prestigious places can be bloated. They can celebrate the same authors over and over again. Or leave out the humor and only focus on the stories that gut your heart.

So for today's list, I give you my top 5 books of the year. I read 45 books so far this year (completing my goal with about 2 weeks to spare) and these are at the top.

Finished in January
Why I Read It:  Levithan has a tradition of writing books for his friends for Valentine's Day; a fact about him that I find so endearing I wish I could do the same for my own friends. This book of short dictionary entries tells the tale of a relationship; what we think about and what we discuss when we talk about love. 
Why I Loved It: If you're been following my blog since the beginning you'll know that my own long-term relationship ended on the first working day of 2011. I was bruised, lost, confused and feeling rather hopeless. Levithan let me relive the ups and downs of a relationship without making me feel badly about myself. He showed me that love isn't easy and gave me hope that the one out there, the one I hope wants to stick around, would understand where I was coming from.

Finished in February
Why I Read It: Reviews caught my eye when I first ordered this title for the library. But it took a coworker gushing and coming into work angry about it for me to really become interested. And then of course, it's because I've always loved Hemingway. I think of him fondly, memories of him and me staying up on snowy evenings at my liberal arts college, introducing me to the heart of American fiction. 
Why I Loved It: It left me with the strong desire to punch Hemingway in the face. It's as if his behavior gave all American men the excuse they needed to treat their women wrongly and chalk it up to experience and life and walk away without feeling regret. Hadley and Hem? Their love was pure and visceral and the one true. Without her, he wouldn't have been Hemingway. But in the end, sometimes that's not enough. And sometimes, the strong women needs to hear that and needs a reminder that it's okay to save some love in your heart for them, but to still walk away.

Finished in August
Why I Read It: Once again, reading reviews of this book before it was published struck me. Also, the cover is exactly what it should be. And most importantly, I love realistic fiction that takes on the voice of many.
Why I Loved It: It's the type of book that lets its readers get so close that you feel like you're stepping into the pages. Because finally, I found a book that showed women of my age that "you know what, love and life is hard and it might not turn out the way you expect it to but your'e going to be okay anyway." Plus, Close's prose are artwork. She weaves her story through characters and years with gentle yet realistic emotion.
Finished in November
Why I Read It: Three things: 1. I love Kelly Kappor 2. I love memoirs and essays from single, career-minded women. 3. Reading celebrity essays/memoirs is my guilty book pleasure of choice.
Why I Loved It: Because I think Mindy Kaling and I could be friends. She's smart and funny. She loves her job and she has horrible dating stories but doesn't give up. Sometimes it's nice to know that you aren't alone.
Finished in November
Why I Read It: It had been floating around the library for sometime but never quite made its way home with me. I am drawn to stories of family dysfunction and personal crisis.
Why I Loved It:  Tropper is alternatively hilarious and heart-breaking. His writing style feels fresh and tight but lacks the pompous air that sometimes hangs out around this type of novel. The family in this story seems completely unreal and unreasonable, but yet you'll find yourself and your family members in almost every corner of the book. Also, this novel has "future-indie-film" written all over it.

So, dear readers, share your favorites and why you loved them in the comments. We'd love to hear what you spend your year reading!

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