Favorite Reads of 2011

If there is one thing the world doesn’t need, it’s another end-of-year list. So here is one more. Of the hundred or so books I’ve read in the last year, these are my favorites.

I don’t pretend the list is comprehensive. There are plenty of books on my TBR pile which I didn’t get to (but hope to). I didn’t limit myself to some arbitrary number—no mere Top Ten here—and these aren’t ranked. In style, genre, voice, they vary widely, which makes it particularly hard to say one is better than another. All have one thing in common—all are books which make me say, “Ooo, ooo, ooo, you have to read this!”

And while I certainly mean that—Ooo, ooo, ooo, you DO have to read these—more than anything, I’m writing to the authors of these amazing books to say, “Thank you. Your work touched me, moved me, inspired me, enthralled me, and hells yeah entertained me.”

The List, In No Particular Order

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

I wrote at length about Myra’s debut elsewhere. From that, I will pluck one line—”Hourglass … is the latest young adult novel to blow me away”—and encourage you to read the rest, as well as this amazing book.

Dove Season by Johnny Shaw

I had the privilege of reading Dove Season before release, and in my blurb I described it as mellifluous. It is that in spades. It’s also a rocking story rich in atmosphere and flawed humanity.

The Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

I’m firmly in category of Ass Kicked by this book. It’s gripping, unnerving, heartbreaking, terrifying… Impossible to put down.

Here by Denise Swank

Denise has released three books this year, all superb. Her latest, Here, leapt onto this list with her crispest writing yet, her most gripping characters (no small feat) and a story which both grabbed my heart and flooded me with adrenalin.

Victoria Dahl Threesome

Bad Boys DoGood Girls Don’t, and Real Men Will

Fun, giddy, and hot. Yes, Victoria, you gave me a … no, not you personally. I mean … Not that you wouldn’t. You’re totally hot. Oh, shit. This isn’t going right. What I mean to say is your books, well you … I mean — people, just read these books. Meanwhile, I’ll be in my bunk.

The Night Season by Chelsea Cain

I’ve enjoyed all of Chelsea’s books, but with The Night Season, she’s reached a new level of amaze. This book was fascinating and thrilling all at once, a thought-provoking page-turner with lots of gasp and heart-in-throat moments.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Lyrical and haunting, a beautiful tale which was both otherworldly and in the moment. Reading this book was like being carried by the wind.

A Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander

Lady Emily is my fictional girlfriend, so all you other dudes can just step back! I am assured by Tasha that Lady Emily feels the same way about me. To which I say, swoon. I love all the Lady Emily books, and A Crimson Warning ranks among my favorites.

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

The charming Flavia de Luce has certainly captured me. While her second outing wasn’t quite up to the standards set by Bradley’s marvelous debut, this third tale in Flavia’s adventures was, and then some.

Making Waves by Tawna Fenske

Another entry in the hot, funny, clever, page-turner category which also sent me to my bunk. The shower scene? Oh lord…

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block

I’m one of many current writers who point to Lawrence Block as a primary inspiration. His Scudder books, as well as his Rhodenbarr books, are perennial re-reads for me. This was a superb addition to the Scudder canon.

Liquid Smoke by Jeff Shelby

A few years back, the fine ladies at Murder by the Book recommended Killer Swell and Wicked Break. Fab, hard-edged mysteries in what was for me an exotic and ultimately fascinating setting. So when I heard my own publisher, Tyrus, would be bringing out a new Noah Braddock mystery from Jeff, I was thrilled. Jeff did not disappoint. Honestly, you gotta read all three.

The Pull of Gravity by Brett Battles

I’m a fan of Brett’s thrillers, but in this he goes in a different direction with this heartful story about a man confronting his haunted past in the Phillippines. It’s magnificent.

Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers

This is how much I loved this book. I finished it at about 2:00 am, and rather than turn off the light and go to sleep, I turned to page one and started over. I didn’t just read this book twice. I read it twice in a row. And I will re-read it again very soon, because it so beautiful and sad and funny and great.

Special Mention:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book has been around a while, and I read it the first time a couple of years ago. I re-read it this summer, and—if anything—loved it more. A painful, enthralling, important book.

Anticipated for 2012

  • Anything by the authors above, but in particular:
  • Timepiece by Myra McEntire (Cheating here, since I read an ARC and already know I love it.)
  • Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig (Same, read an ARC, loved it).
  • False Memory by Dan Krokos
  • I Am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
  • The Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell (Don’t tell Sean I said so because it will go to his giant, dome-like head, but he’s a damn fine writer.)
  • This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Oh, and By The Way…

I also had the privilege of reading a number of manuscripts which I hope will find their way into print (digital and ink) very soon. In particular I would like to say to publishers and editors out there: please hurry and snap up the novels of Trisha Ziegenhorn. I’ve already written my blurbs.

2 Comments

  1. Bill,

    I just recently read County Line and now I have gone back to the library to get Chasing Smoke & Day One, Lost Dog was not in! I wanted to share a couple of wonderful authors with you, Harlan Coben & Michael Connelly. I know that both are what many would consider “Mainstream” authors, but, both are excellent writers and excellent reads.

    I come from a family of readers and will pass your name along. Keep up the great work!

    Sincerely,

    Michael W. Noonan

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