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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top 10 of 2011 by Scott

One of my favorite parts of the year is being able to look back over what I have read and attempt to narrow that number down into a list of my favorite titles.  This year was a difficult task as there were so many great reads I enjoyed.

For what it is worth here are my top 10.  All of these titles were published in 2011 and available at the Stillwater Public Library.

10.  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness—This was my favorite YA novel of the year and most definitely the most emotional.  A monster appears nightly to 13 year old Conor as his mom undergoes treatments.  After finishing this read with my kids I called my mom and told her I loved her. 

9.  The Map of Time by Felix Palma—This is a classic time travel tale.  H.G. Wells is called on to investigate reports of time travel and in the process bumps in to Henry James, Bram Stoker and Jack the Ripper. 

8.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern—The Night Circus appears in the dead of the night.  It is open from sundown to sunup and nothing is as it seems.  Morgenstern’s debut novel is noteworthy because the main character is the circus and the world she has crafted is breathtaking.

7.  Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales—This is a detailed and insightful oral history of ESPN.  It chronicles the early days when no one thought a 24 hour sports network was either a good idea or possible to the 90s heyday of Olbermann-Patrick to the mainstay that ESPN is today.

6.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline—If you are a child of the 80s, as I am, then this book was written specifically for you.  Set 30 years in the future the key to success and fortune is how much you know about that one particular decade. 

5.  The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach--A fascinating reflection on friendship and fear. Harbach has done a masterful job in placing baseball and the college experience as the backdrop for a poignant and engrossing look at dreams and how their realization are often right in front of us.

4.  When She Woke by Hillary Jordan--This is a modern day retelling of The Scarlet Letter and is a perfect title to hand to someone that loved Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

3.  Cain by Jose Saramago--This was the great Saramago's final novel, a novelization of the story of Cain, slayer of Abel and the first biblical criminal. Well, the first along with God in Saramago's telling. Cain is forced to wander but it is not merely a nomadic existence. Instead, he moves to different "presents" that just so happen to coincide with OT occurrences. What emerges is a scathing, unrelenting and brilliant look at a primitive picture of God as contained with the Hebrew Scriptures. Cain spares God no mercy for expecting more from his creation than He delivers himself.

2.  I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve Earle—This was my biggest surprise of the year.   The singer-songwriter hit one out of the park with his debut. Earle has written a masterful reflection on loneliness, addiction, despair and redemption. With the hand of a seasoned writer he weaves in abortion, liberation theology, Mexican theological mysticism and an indictment on the moral bankruptcies of the priesthood. This is not an easy tale. It is grit and dirt and despair. But oh, is it beautifully written and chock full of characters worth remembering. 

1.  The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock—This book left me absolutely speechless when I was done and took a few days for me to really process its greatness.  Pollock has channeled his inner Flannery O’Connor for this brutal and unforgiving look at broken lives and despair.  This is a Southern Gothic master work that is unflinching in its portrayal of deeply flawed yet compelling characters.  It might be too dark and violent for some but that does not diminish the sheer power of this novel. 

Pick up these books and see other librarians’ favorites at the library.

Stillwater, OK.

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