2011: The "Best Of" Bridesmaids

on Monday, December 26, 2011
Close But No Cigar

Of the 150 novels I read this year, 63 were published in 2011. Compiling a top ten has been rather difficult and so I feel it would be remiss of me not to give honourable mentions to the few books that just missed the cut. Really, any of these probably could have ended up in the final ten. The fickle finger of fate dictated that they weren't.

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips: This was worth reading for the 'lost' Shakespeare play alone, but The Tragedy of Arthur was far more than just an act of literary ventriloquism. Phillips's explanation of how he came to find the play is one of the funniest unreliable faux-memoirs you are ever likely to encounter.

Monsieur Linh And His Child by Philippe Claudel: Another brilliant offering from Claudel, following the masterful Brodeck's Report. Claudel certainly isn't afraid to tackle the big issues, this time turning his mind to the refugee experience in France. That he does so with such subtlety and grace makes this book much more than a lecture from the pulpit.

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad: It is somewhat disheartening to think that one of the finest debut novels of 2011 was penned by an octogenarian. It shows tremendous promise which time is likely to snuffle. On the flipside, Ahmad brings to these linked stories the weight of a life fully lived that most writers would kill for.

The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes: Barnes finally snared a Booker for this small but nonetheless affecting meditation on growing old, and questioning the idealistic assumptions of one's youth.

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson: Another exceptional debut novel, Ten Thousand Saints documents New York's burgeoning straight edge punk rock scene of the mid-80's through the lens of a bunch of seriously fucked up kids. Far from an indulgent nostalgia trip, Henderson exposes the hypocrisy, violence and passion of a counter culture that most wouldn't have the nous to touch. This was the book that Jennifer Egan's A Visit from The Goon Squad wished it had been. And there's not a Powerpoint presentation in sight!

The List I Swore I Wouldn't Write!

I've spent the last month frantically trying to get through as many 2011 novels as possible in the hope that I might not have to write this list. Alas, while I read fifteen, there was still a dozen I couldn't get to. I guess that's what January is for! (PS Let me know if any of these are must-reads. I know I won't get through them all, but would hate to miss out)

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen

The Revisionists also by Thomas Mullen (what amphetamines does this guy pop??)

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Leftovers by Tom Perotta

There But For The... by Ali Smith

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Call by Yanick Murphy

When She Woke by Hilary Jordan

Charles Jessold, Considered As A Murderer by Wesley Stace

The Facility by Simon Lelic

Embassytown by China Mieville


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