Archive for the ‘Best Books 2011’ Category

Books We Loved Reading

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Best Books lists carry an air of assigned reading, but lists of favorites are about enjoyment.

USA Today‘s book critics just listed the ten books they “loved reading in 2011.” Included are titles that haven’t appeared on the Best Books lists we tracked (check our adult fiction, nonfiction and childrens Best Books Spreadsheets), like Jaycee Dugard’s memoir of being kidnapped and held captive for 18 years, A Stolen Life, which they describe as “a firsthand testament to the resilience of the human spirit” and P.D. James’ Austen-inspired Death Comes to Pemberley.

On Twitter, librarians are posting their favorite eleven titles of 2011, using the hashtag #libfavs2011. This list, too, is more fun than many Best Books list (join the conversation here. If you’re late to the party, it’s OK, jump in with multiple tweets). Just reading the tweets is a great way to add to your book knowledge. We’ll be posting the full list next week, but meantime, the top titles are:

1) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (RH/Crown)

2) Before I Go to Sleep, S. J. Watson, (Harper)

3)  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, (RH/Doubleday)

4) Bossypants, Tina Fey, (Hachette/Little,Brown)

5) Beauty Queens, Libby Bray, (Scholastic)

6) Habibi by Craig Thompson, (RH/Pantheon)

7) The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson, (HarperCollins/Ecco)

More Librarian Favorites

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

It’s like a national Library Staff Picks display. For eleven days, librarians are tweeting their eleven favorite books of 2011 (thanks to GalleyChat regulars Stephanie Chase, Multnomah County Library and Robin Beerbower, Salem, OR., Public Library who organized it). Today is day eight of the challenge, but it’s not too late to add your favorites (use #libfavs2011 — don’t worry, they’re not doctrinaire about posting just one a day; you can jump in at any time).

There’s not much consensus, but the fun of the exercise is seeing how many books get mentioned (over 90 in the first three days, many of them debuts). In the first days, Ready Player One got several shout outs (see earlier story). Stephanie reports some of yesterday’s leads were:

Before I Go to Sleep, S. J. Watson (Harper); this psychological thriller has received strong support from librarians throughout the year, who made it a BEA Librarians Shout & Share pick and talked it up during GalleyChat sessions.



The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. The story of a relationship-adverse former foster child who has the strange ability to change people’s lives through her knowledge of the Victorian language of flowers, is described by one librarian as, ” Beautifully written, heartwrenching, unforgettable.”



The YA debut, Hourglass by McIntyre (Egmont USA) has been mentioned by someone every day of the past three days (note to Hollywood: it’s a series! The second book, Timepiece, is coming in June). This unuusual blend of genres is described as, “Inventive, smart, funny, and action-packed. Could not put it down!”


Tweet Your Favorite Books of the Year

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Two of our GalleyChat regulars have started a hashtag for librarians to list their top 11 favorite books from 2011, #libfavs2011. It runs through Dec. 31, so head on over to Twitter and join in. (Thanks to Robin Beerbower, Salem [OR] Library and Stephanie Chase, Multnomah County Library, for starting and shepherding this project).

So far the title with the most mentions is the debut, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (RH/Crown). Librarians backed it early on (it was BEA Shout & Share pick). Try it on readers who claim to hate science fiction. USA Today put it this way, “This unabashedly geeky view of a 2044 dystopia provides an enchanting escape from today’s economic crisis, dreary politicians and international turmoil,” adding, “Few novels set up an engaging plot as fast as this one.” Check your holds; some libraries are showing a significant number.

Publisher Broadway Books is treating the trade paperback, coming in June, as a relaunch, with a new cover.

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
Retail Price: $14.00
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Broadway – (2012-06-05)
ISBN / EAN: 0307887448 / 9780307887443

RH Audio/BOT; Audio and eBook on OverDrive

Book Recommendations from Two Big Readers

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Former President Bill Clinton and star of The Office, Mindy Kaling appeared on the Today Show to promote reading and their favorite books to give as gifts. Their lists are very different (although Clinton said he’d love to read the first four on Mindy’s list).

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Below are the lists featured on the show (each had a longer list, available on the web site)

Kaling’s List

#1 11/22/63, Stephen King, (S&S/Scribner)

#2 Bossypants, Tina Fey (Hachette/Little,Brown)

#3 Lady Gaga, Terry Richardson, (Hachette/Grand Central)

#4 My Father’s Daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow, (Hachette/Grand Central)

#5 Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, Andrew Bolton, (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Clinton’s List

#1 Jerusalem: The Biography, Simon Sebag Montefiore, (RH/Knopf)

#2 Lincoln, David Herbert Donald, (S&S)

#3 Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, (RH/Modern Library and others)

#4 The Way of the World, David Fromkin (RH/Knopf)

#5 The Cure at Troy, Seamus Heaney (S&S/FSG)

BEST BOOKS Spreadsheets Are Here!

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011


We’re happy to announce that our annual spreadsheets, rounding up all the titles in the national best books lists, with ISBN’s and information on additional formats — audio, large print, and eformats from OverDrive — are now available for downloading and checking against your collections.

Above are the top books on each list, by number of selections.

The Year’s Top YA Fiction — NPR

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

After some of the screeds about YA fiction that have found their way into the press, it’s refreshing to read the following on NPR’s web site,

…young adult fiction has developed into one of the most complex and extensive genres in literature. 2011 brought us a wealth of new reads that continue to twist traditional formulas and take risks that are, by and large, paying off with wholly unique reading experiences.

Those encouraging words come from Marissa Meyer, who may be slightly prejudiced — her own debut YA novel, Cinder, arrives in January.

Meyer lists her choices of Top 5 YA Novels of the year (Meyer is recording the piece, which will be broadcast soon). Three of her picks have appeared on other Best Books lists (see our spreadsheet of all the major picks to date) but two are unique:

So Silver Bright
Lisa Mantchev
Retail Price: $16.99
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends  – (2011-09-13)
ISBN / EAN: 0312380984 / 9780312380984


Mike Mullin
Retail Price: $16.95
Hardcover: 476 pages
Publisher: Tanglewood Press – (2011-09-27)
ISBN / EAN: 1933718552 / 9781933718552

Marissa Meyer’s own YA novel kicks off the new year in red high heels. Kirkus describes it as a “debut [that] offers a high coolness factor by rewriting Cinderella as a kickass mechanic in a plague-ridden future.” It’s being backed by a strong marketing campaign (as outlined by PW), including an excerpt in USA Today, and a book trailer which debuts today on Entertainment Weekly‘s “Shelf Life” blog.

Cinder: Book One in the Lunar Chronicles
Marissa Meyer
Retail Price: $17.99
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends – (2012-01-03)
ISBN / EAN: 0312641893 / 9780312641894

Macmillan Audio (listen to excerpt here); Thorndike Large Print

Enough Best Books!

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

If you need an antidote to all the Best Books lists, try the New York Daily News list of the Most Overrated titles of the year (including the book that Esquire magazine named THE Book of the Year, The Submission by Amy Waldman).


Wednesday, December 14th, 2011


We have asoft spot for the quirky debut novel by short story writer, Kevin Wilson, The Family Fang. Back in March, we discussed it in a special edition of GalleyChat and have enjoyed tracking its success ever since (Nicole Kidman likes it, too. She recently signed it for a movie). The latest accolade; it’s #4 on People magazine’s picks of the years Top Ten Books (Dec. 26 issue).

Like most of the other titles on People‘s list, it’s already on several others. The major exception is #9, In Zanesville, which received its first Best Book mention yesterday, when Nancy Pearl called it her favorite novel of year on NPR’s Morning Edition.

  1. The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes, (RH/Knopf)
  2. Bossypants, Tina Fey, (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio)
  3. Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe, (Macmillan/Holt; Macmillan Audio)
  4. The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson (HarperCollins/Ecco)
  5. Then Again, Diane Keaton, (RH/Random House; RH Audio)
  6. The Stranger’s Child, Alan Hollinghurst, (RH/Knopf; RH Audio)
  7. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson, (S&S;  S&S Audio;  Large print, Thorndike; Spanish Edition, RH/Vintage Books)
  8. State of Wonder, Ann Patchett (Harper; Recorded BooksHarperLuxeHarperAudio)
  9. In Zanesville, Jo Ann Beard, (Hachette/Little, Brown; Audio, Dreamscape)
  10. The Paris Wife, Paula McLain (RH/Ballantine; Audio; Random House and Books On Tape)

The Power of Pearl

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Two of the books that librarian Nancy Pearl recommended on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday experienced impressive sales surges at Amazon. A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman rose to #49, from #282.

A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War
Amanda Foreman
Retail Price: $35.00
Hardcover: 1008 pages
Publisher: RH/Random House – (2011-06-28)
ISBN / EAN: 037550494X / 9780375504945

Audio; Books on Tape; audio and ebook on OverDrive

The book Nancy calls “the best fantasy novel for fifth- to eighth-graders that I’ve read in a couple of years,” Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham, rose to #158 from a lowly #14,220.

Down the Mysterly River
Bill Willingham
Retail Price: $15.99
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Macmillan/Starscape – (2011-09-13)
ISBN / EAN: 0765327929 / 9780765327925

Audio; Brilliance

Nancy Pearl’s Favorite People (are in books, of course)

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

On NPR’s Morning Edition today, Nancy Pearl talks about her favorite books of the year; those that feature people who become part of your life, so much so that when you finish, it’s “like you’re losing a friend.” (listen here)

Among the four titles she features on air (three more are on the Web site) is a debut novel, that she calls “her favorite novel of the year”:

In Zanesville: A Novel
Jo Ann Beard
Retail Price: $23.99
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Hachette/Little, Brown- (2011-04-25)
ISBN / EAN: 0316084476 / 9780316084475

Audio: Dreamscape

She also recommends a 1,000-page  history of the Civil War, written from the point of view of Great Britain. Nancy says that author Amanda Foreman brings to life each one of the over 200 people she describes, from well-known politicians to a lesser-known female spy. The book is on many of the year’s best books lists.

A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War
Amanda Foreman
Retail Price: $35.00
Hardcover: 1008 pages
Publisher: RH/Random House – (2011-06-28)
ISBN / EAN: 037550494X / 9780375504945

Audio; Books on Tape; audio and ebook on OverDrive

More Books to Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Welcome to part three of my annual “Books to Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well” list, created to help answer perennial questions like, “What should I give my eight-year-old niece in Kansas?” On Friday, I suggested titles for the youngest children and as well as kids who just don’t like books. On Monday, I listed my picks of new picture books. Below are chapter book and family read aloud suggestions. Coming tomorrow, middle grade sleepers.

Chapter Books for Elementary Kids

If you asked the 4th graders at my school for their recommendations, they would encourage you to give series books. Boxed sets are a thrill because children read through these titles like peanuts. The list prices may look daunting, but shop around. They are heavily discounted by many online retailers.

Ages 7 and Up

My Weird School 21-Book Box Set, by Dan Gutman, illustrations by Jim Paillot, HarperCollins, list price $80.

For the kids who are looking for silly fun, these are the books. They are one step up from Captain Underpants. If a kid has already read through these, suggest a move up to the Louis Sachar’s Sideways School series (Scholastic).

Ages 8 and Up

The Secret Series Complete Collection by Pseudonymous Bosch, Little Brown, $80.00.

The readers who have just graduated from Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, have a real treat is in store with this series. You just can’t go wrong with a good mystery, mind-bending puzzles and a snarky narrator.


Ages 9 and Up


Kate McMullan’s Mythomania. Capstone/Stone Arch Books, $5.95 each.

Are the kids wild about Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief? Give them this series of fractured Greek myth retellings, told from point of view of Hades. Now back in print after an almost ten year absence, they are therefore new to today’s kids. They’re not available as a boxed set, so suggest making their own, starting with Have a Hot Time In Hades!, Phone Home, Persephone!, Say Cheese, Medusa!, and Nice Shot, Cupid!

Family Read Alouds

Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists, Macmillan/First Second, $18.99.

The book’s editors have gathered traditional rhymes like Hickory Dickory Dock, Pat-a-Cake, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider, pairing them with famous graphic artists like Jules Feiffer, George O’Connor and Roz Chast.


Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, HarperCollins, ages 7 and up, $16.99.

This is an old-fashioned tale of two orphans reminiscent of classics like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess and Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Liesl must escape the clutches of her evil stepmother and Po is a ghost who is trying to become human. A mystery and a ghost story carefully wrought with deliberate pacing perfect for family read aloud time.

The Flint Heart: a fairy story by John Barstow, retold by Katherine and James Paterson, Candlewick, $19.99.

Originally published in 1910, this humorous fairytale adventure  was almost forgotten because of its archaic language and references. The Patersons rescued it from obscurity with their updated adaptation. John Rocco’s sumptuous art makes this a volume sure to become a family treasure.

Toys Come Home: Being the Early Experiences of an Intelligent Stingray, a Brave Buffalo, and a Brand-New Someone Called Plastic, by Emily Jenkins, RH/Schwartz and Wade. Ages 5 and up, $16.99.

Our pals from Toys Go Out and Toy Dance Party are back in this prequel where we find out how they all came together with The Girl. As we all know, toys have very busy lives when we aren’t looking. This satisfying story stands alone but once readers have entered its magical world they won’t want to stop until they have read all three books.

THE Best Book of the Year

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011


With the wide range of books, as well as readers tastes out there, it’s a challenge to pick the top 10 or even the top 100 books of the year. An intrepid few have dared to name ONE book as the best of the year.

The book lovers’ social network site, Good Reads, polled their users for the Goodreads Choice Awards. The YA dystopian novel, Divergent by Veronica Roth, (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan; Dreamscape audio), is the Favorite Book of 2011, with over 10,000 votes. That must be good news to Summit, the studio currently developing it for the big screen (a rundown of the many dystopian books to movies in the works is available at A sequel, Insurgent, is coming in May.

Esquire Magazine singles out The Submission, by Amy Waldman, (FSG; Audio, AudioGo; Large Type, Thorndike) as the Best Book of the Year  from their list of ten. It appears on the NYTs Top 100, but didn’t make the cut to their Top Ten.

We’ve set up links to the major best book lists on the right of the site. For and exhaustive (not to mention exhausting) list of links to hundreds of others, including British lists, check the Largehearted Boy.

New Best Childrens Books Spreadsheet

Monday, December 5th, 2011

UPDATE, 12/21

We’re happy to announce that our annual spreadsheets, rounding up all the titles in the national best books lists, with ISBN’s and information on additional formats — audio, large print, and eformats from OverDrive — are now available for downloading and checking against your collections.

Kirkus Best Books

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Kirkus Reviews’ roll out of their Best Books list is almost complete. Out today are their picks of the Best Nonfiction (adult) and Best Indie titles, drawn from the Kirkus Indie program (publishers pay $425 or $575 per title, for “Standard service” or “Express service” reviews).

The indie list includes titles from self-publishers iUniverse and Amazon’s CreateSpace.

Picture Book Revenge

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Last year, the New York Times infuriated many of us by claiming that parents were pushing their early elementary children into chapter books, causing new picture books to “languish on the shelves” and publishers to release fewer titles.

This year’s many exciting new picture books stand as proof that is not true. Below are my favorites, perfect for gift giving.

We still love chapter books; watch for my selection of the year’s best tomorrow, followed by middle grade and YA favorites.

Favorite Picture Books To Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

What Animals Really Like written and illustrated by Fiona Robinson, Abrams, 15.95. Ages 5+

Mr. Herbert Timberteeth, a beaver has composed a song about what he thinks animals enjoy — lions should like to prowl, wolves to howl and the pigeons to coo. His concert is disrupted when the animals insist on singing about what they really like. The cows like to dig, the warthogs like to blow big enormous bubbles and the kangaroos prefer ping-pong to hopping around. Absurdly humorous illustrations complete the package for a terrific read-aloud.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, Candlewick $15.99, Ages 6 and up

Fans of Emily Gravett’s The Odd Egg and Wolves (both S&S) will welcome this deceptively simple story of a bear who has lost his pointy red hat. His very polite exchanges with the other forest animals that aren’t very helpful. The deadpan humor will tickle the most jaded funny bone while beginning readers will delight that the limited vocabulary speaks volumes.


Blackout by John Rocco, Disney/ Hyperion ages 5 an up

It is evening and the family is very busy, too busy to play a board game with a little sister. Mom is working at the computer, Dad is cooking dinner and the older sister is on the phone. The little girl is resigned to playing a video game all alone when suddenly the lights go out. Rocco’s cartoon graphic panels capture the fear and excitement of the totally dark city in the shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Clarion Books

Little sisters can be embarrassing. Little sisters can be annoying. Little sisters snoop and can’t keep secrets. This collection of narrative poems describe the relationship, the ups and downs, the good and the bad between Jessica, the narrator and her little sister Emma.

Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, Hachette/LBYR, 15.99 Ages 6 and up

In this picture book biography we see primatologist, environmentalist Jane Goodall as a little girl with her stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee. Together they observe the natural world – birds making their nests, spiders spinning their webs and squirrels chasing one another up and down trees. McDonnell intersperses his signature sweet cartoons with Goodall’s own original sketches and notes.

You will Be My Friend! By Peter Brown, 16.99 Little Brown ages 5+

Lucy, the bear from Children Make Terrible Pets is aggressively looking for friend. She is very excited about turning cartwheels, having picnics, climbing trees, and going swimming with each new friend. Finding a compatible playmate isn’t that easy. The frogs are too wet and small. The skunk is too smelly and Lucy is a little too big to fit in with the rabbits. Will she ever find the “just right” friend?

A Zeal of Zebras written and illustrated by Woop Studio, Chronicle, 17.99

This arty trip through the alphabet pairs collective nouns with 26 colorful prints.

Did you know that a group of pandas is called an embarrassment? Did you know that a herd of Gnus is an implausibility?

The Information about the animals is accurate and will delight wordsmiths and artists alike.


The Queen of France by Tim Wadham, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, Candlewick, 16.99 ages 5+

“When Rose woke up that morning she felt royal. She opened the box of jewelry. She put on the necklaces. She put on the bracelets. She went to the make-believe basket. She put on the crown.” Rose’s mom and dad play along as she pretends to be royalty and goes about her day. The perfect read aloud for all those little girls begging for a princess book.

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan illustrated by Stéphane Jorish, Dial, 16.99

Betty Bunny, the youngest of four children, tries chocolate cake for the first time. She loves it. She loves it so much that she says, “When I grow up I am going to marry chocolate cake!” When Betty discovers that she can’t have her favorite food for every meal, she turns into a “handful.” Realistic family relationships create a warm light tone as Betty learns how to manage her impulsive behavior.

The Family Storybook Treasury: Tales of Laughter, Curiosity and Fun, HMH, 18.99

This oversized compendium includes eight classic picture books like Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh, Nancy Shaw’s rhyming wonder Sheep in a Jeep and the rambunctious bedtime favorite Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. The volume also includes poems by eight renowned poets including Kristine O’Connell George, Nikki Grimes and Bob Raczka.