Best books read in 2011

The end of the year is a good time for lists, right? I gave you one yesterday. Well, here’s another one. I’m sure in some cases you’ll look at these titles and be amazed I just now got around to them. But maybe that’ll help you understand why there’s nothing published in 2011 on the list. (Except After Obsession, of course, and I don’t know how many times I read that one before it was released!)

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman — By far the best read of this past year. It made me a fan of Gaiman, as you’ll see further down the list.
  2. Byzantium by Stephen R. Lawhead — It’s an historical fantasy, a sweeping epic about self discovery, with Vikings, Greeks, Arabs, and Irishmen. Just an excellent book.
  3. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry — I hesitate putting this one so high because I’m still so mad about the ending, but up until those last few pages I was totally engrossed.
  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman — Another brilliant, engaging modern fantasy about a boy raised in a graveyard by ghosts. One of those, “Why didn’t I think of that!” stories.
  5. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman — This is the story of the sons of Anansi the spider. At least, the Anansi we met in American Gods. Not as great as the original, but very good.
  6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling — Yeah, I know, I know, it’s been out forever. And I regretted putting it off so long. It was really much better than I expected it to be.
  7. The Dark Sacrament by David M. Kiley and Christina McKenna — A pretty down-to-earth, journalistic account of hauntings and possessions/exorcisms from modern Ireland.
  8. Carry the Wind by Terry C. Johnston — A very detailed, richly described tale about a young man who goes off to make a life for himself trapping beavers in the 1830s. Made me a fan of Johnston’s, though I didn’t like the sequel to this one as much.
  9. Crazy by William Peter Blatty — The newest book on this list, and I’m surprised to see Blatty come in so low, but in the end it was just, “Oh, that theme again.” Still, it was a nice story with some creepy moments and some emotional aches.
  10. In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck — The great John Steinbeck’s son does a very admirable job with this tale about discovered Chinese artifacts in California.
  11. First Blood by David Morrell — I love the movies and always meant to read this, then finally did. What do you know, John Rambo was much more complex than Stallone’s portrayal, and the ending is a lot different.
  12. The Rite by Matt Baglio — Technically, I have about 50 pages left to finish this one, so I’m speculating. Nothing at all like the film, really. There’s a lot of good info here, but the delivery is pretty choppy and it’s hard to really feel connected to Fr. Gary because of that.
  13. Borderlords by Terry C. Johnston — The sequel to Carry the Wind tended to really drag in the beginning, but picked up at the end. I’m sure I’ll pick up the third book pretty soon.
  14. The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner — Not the East of Eden-type book I was hoping for. In fact, I didn’t like it when I read it, but the story kept coming back to mind long after I’d finished.
  15. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers — This one was just kinda blah. It had potential, but didn’t seem to live up to it.
  16. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult — This sucked. I hated it from beginning to end and wished I hadn’t wasted a grant buying copies for my AP Literature class. Picoult tries to play the reader’s emotions like a ham-fisted troll holding its first violin.
  17. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley — My second read of this book wasn’t any better than the first. It can’t hold a candle to 1984. It’s basically a good idea with the barest threads of a story hung on it.

Alright, I was going to stop at 10, but since I apparently only read 17 books this year, I ranked them all. Only 17 books? That’s pathetic. Well, it doesn’t count skimming books I’ve read previously so I can lecture about them in class. Or the stacks and stacks of essays I read. Hopefully I’ll do better next year.

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