Sunday, January 01, 2012

Best Reads of 2011

A baseball diamond and the circus, two magic places, were at the heart of my best reads in 2011.

Those books, both by first-time novelists, were The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. 

The Art of Fielding is about the inability to find perfection on the baseball diamond or in human relationships. The Night Circus is the story of a mysterious magical challenge played out a circus that appears only between dusk and dawn. Both are love stories. Both were superbly written.

Other top reads in fiction:

The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson. Vikings. Hidden gold. Sailing ships. Swords and pillage. Do I need to say more? 

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine -- don't be put off by the fact that this book is for young readers. It deals with very adult emotions. Erskine is a Virginia writer who drew her inspiration for this novel from the Virginia Tech shootings.

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon. Tremendous short story collection.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. A modern take on Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. A surprise ending from a modern master. Winner of the 2011 Booker Prize.

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson.  The sweep of one man's life is captured in 116 pages.

The Cut by George Pelecanos.  A return to form by this D.C. writer.  Riveting.

In non-fiction, here's what I liked:

Faulks on Fiction by Sebastian FaulksReading about books is one of my guilty pleasures. Faulks is an entertaining enabler.

The Killing of Crazy Horse by Thomas Powers.  I'll never tire of reading about the Little Big Horn. 

Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. I like reading about food almost as much as I like reading about books.  Just an awesome memoir. 

Yogi Berra Eternal Yankee by Allen Barra. The only baseball book worth passing on in 2011. Gotta love Yogi and Barra (no relationship) does right by him; clearly making the case that Mr. Berra is one of the greatest -- on and off the field. 

Just Kids by Patti Smith. Another awesome memoir.  Absolutely fascinating. Great insight in the development of an artist. 

The Greater Journey by David McCullough.  Read this. Watch Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris and fall in love with the City of Lights.

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