2011: The Literary Year in Review

It’s New Year’s Eve, a good time to look back on what’s happened in the literary world this year.

Here are two more “best books” lists I think I’ve missed, NPR’s choices of The Best Music Books of 2011 and 2011’s Best American Poetry.

Britain’s The Telegraph provides comprehensive coverage in The Literary Year 2011. If you weren’t able to keep up with all the controversy over literary awards this year, you can beef up your knowledge here. This article also summarizes major publications in various fields (such as memoir, biography, politics, and sports) and concludes: “If it was a listless year for fiction, the non-fiction market fared little better.” PBS Newshour offers Conversation: The Year in Fiction, a discussion with Washington Post book critic Ron Charles.

Book lovers are also word lovers. Merriam-Webster, the dictionary people, offer 2011: The Year in Words, a compendium of “Defining Moments: In politics, culture, sports and more, these words spiked in lookups because of events in the news.”

The Christian Science Monitor challenges your knowledge of the year’s highly touted publications with 2011 fiction quiz: Can you recognize the opening line? [Warning: Each individual item is on a separate page, so click at your own risk.]

I’ll be creating my own list of best books read in 2011 and posting it separately. If you have a similar list of your own, you can include a link to it in the comments section.

Finally, if you’d rather focus on the year ahead than on the year past, Christian Science Monitor contributor Rachel Meier has this list of 6 books you should resolve to read in 2012 (one recommendation per page, annoyingly).

Best Books Read in 2011: My List

Most of the “best books” list that come out at the end of a year refer to books published during that year. My list, however, comprises books that I have read during the year, regardless of when they were published. My list also combines fiction and nonfiction.

I finished my dissertation mid-year and read 30 books during 2011. Here are the best of them, arranged alphabetically by author:

  • Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games
  • Connelly, Michael. The Fifth Witness
  • Donoghue, Emma. Room
  • Egan, Jennifer. A Visit from the Goon Squad
  • Harbach, Chad. The Art of Fielding
  • Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken
  • Hoffman, Alice. The Story Sisters
  • McLain, Paula. The Paris Wife
  • Shapiro, Alison Bonds. Healing into Possibility
  • Watson, S. J. Before I Go to Sleep

My lists for previous years (1996-2010) are here.

Monday Miscellany: Happy Holidays!

Monday Miscellany is taking this week off for the winter holidays.

Season’s greetings and best wishes for peace and joy in 2012 to all!

13 best 2011 author interviews R

13 best 2011 author interviews – Noah Feldman talking about William O. Douglas – CSMonitor.com

A loose young woman in Nazi-era Berlin. A titanic failure of courage on the Titanic. A Supreme Court justice with a thing for hot blondes. An American president’s scandalous love child. Book authors answered questions about these earthy topics and many more – from sandwiches to Shakespeare – during Monitor interviews with me this year. Here’s a baker’s dozen of the memorable things that these authors had to say.

Randy Dotinga offers these choices in The Christian Science Monitor.

Warning: This is one of those each-item-on-a-separate-page lists. Click only if you have the time and the patience.

Healing Reads: The Year’s Five Best Books

Healing Reads: The Year’s Five Best Books – WSJ.com.

Health and medicine books tend to be long on advice and how-to, and short on compelling narrative and literary merit.

But several new books this year proved to be welcome exceptions, from a lyrical history of the human heart to an absorbing tale of one of the country’s toughest inner-city hospitals. Here are my top-five picks.

Here’s a different kind of list. Read why Laura Landro chose these five books:

  • Invasion of the Body: Revolutions in Surgery by Nicholas L. Tilney
  • The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear by Seth Mnookin
  • County: Life, Death and Politics as Chicago’s Public Hospital by David. A. Ansell
  • The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart by Stephen Amidon and Thomas Amidon
  • Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right for You by Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband



PW Staff: The Best Books We’ve Read This Year « PWxyz

PW Staff: The Best Books We’ve Read This Year « PWxyz

PW has already named its Best Books 0f 2011, but since readers rarely get to see the faces behind the scenes, we thought we’d let our staff share the best book they read in 2011, because deep down, we’re all just book nerds. Here are our staff picks.

A few of the books on this list are the ones you’ve been seeing on all those lists of best books released in 2011 (e.g., Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot, Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder). But most of them are not because this list isn’t limited to books published this year. In fact, I’ll bet there are a lot of titles on this list that, like me, you’ve never heard of.

The overlooked sci-fi of 2011 – Salon.com

The overlooked sci-fi of 2011 – Salon.com

When compiling best-of lists at the end of the year, it’s easy to overlook certain classes of deserving books. In a year filled with massive, highly publicized releases — a new Neal Stephenson, a Vernor Vinge sequel awaited for twenty years — wonderful books with less flash can go unnoticed in the shadows. A debut novel, perhaps. Or the second book in a quiet series. Or a novel published right at the busy holiday end of the calendar year.

I have selected one of each of these oft-neglected types to bring to your attention. But besides highlighting these superior books, this essay hopes to remind you to cast your own literary nets widely when selecting your personal candidates for the year’s finest.

I read very little science fiction and fantasy myself, but here’s some thoughtful reckoning for those of you who do.

Monday Miscellany

How the literary female detective has changed

In The Christian Science Monitor Randy Dotinga says of Scottish mystery writer Denise Mina:

[she] has become one of the finest mystery writers of the 21st century. Her deeply perceptive grasp on the inner lives of crooks, cops, journalists, and their families has allowed her books to transcend the detective genre.

Asked how fictional female detectives have changed over the past 20 years or so, Mina replied:

At first, they had to act like men, carry guns and punch people – be able to beat people up and engage in fisticuffs. In the mid-1990s, their gender is talked about a lot, and they experienced prejudice. Now you’ve reached the point where a woman is just a different type of detective. You’re not getting information just because you’re a woman; it’s not your superpower anymore. It’s just a fact about who you are.

Document: The Symbolism Survey

In 1963, a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student named Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. Did they consciously plant symbols in their work? he asked. Who noticed symbols appearing from their subconscious, and who saw them arrive in their text, unbidden, created in the minds of their readers? When this happened, did the authors mind?

McAllister had just published his first story, “The Faces Outside,” in both IF magazine and Simon and Schuster’s 1964 roundup of the best science fiction of the year. Confident, if not downright cocky, he thought the surveys could settle a conflict with his English teacher by proving that symbols weren’t lying beneath the texts they read like buried treasure awaiting discovery.

What’s remarkable about this survey, writes Sarah Funke Butler, is that 75 authors responded. This was, of course, in the days before email and the internet. McAllister still has the replies from 65, the other 10 having been lost to “a kleptomaniacal friend.”

This article reproduces the original pages of replies by Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Ayn Rand, John Updike, Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow, and Ray Bradbury.

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress

Starting in 1984, the Center for the Book in the Library began to establish affiliate centers in the 50 states. Today, there is a State Center for the Book in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These Center for the Book affiliates carry out the national Center’s mission in their local areas, sponsor programs that highlight their area’s literary heritage and call attention to the importance of books, reading, literacy and libraries. Affiliates must submit an application to become part of — and retain — their Center for the Book status, which is renewable for a three-year period. The Center for the Book has established Guidelines for establishing affiliates and for programming activities. The State Centers gather annually at the Library of Congress for an Idea Exchange Day.

Self-published authors find e-success

USA Today offers yet another testament to the growing popularity of ebooks and to the sea change in the publishing industry that ebooks represent.

Today, authors . . . can bypass traditional publishers. They can digitally format their own manuscript, set a price and sell it to readers through a variety of online retailers and devices. Amazon sells e-books via its Kindle device and on its Kindle app for smartphones and computers. Barnes & Noble sells e-books through its Nook electronic reader device and app. There is also the Sony eReader, Apple’s iPad and Kobo, while Overdrive provides e-books to libraries.

Almost every day brings more digital modes for readers to obtain books in non-print forms, creating more choices for readers, opportunities for self-published writers, and challenges for traditional publishers.

Here are the eye-opening statistics:

According to the Association of American Publishers, e-books grew from 0.6% of the total trade market share in 2008 to 6.4% in 2010, the most recent figures available. Total net revenue for 2010: $878 million with 114 million e-books sold. In adult fiction, e-books are now 13.6% of the market.

Yet, in some cases, the success of ebooks can be a benefit to traditional publishers. Publishers are taking less of a chance if they accept a book that has already proven itself popular through ebook sales.

Crime Fiction Lover | Top Books of 2011

Crime Fiction Lover | Category Archive | Features.

I love a good mystery. If you do too, you’ll want to take a look at the top 5 mysteries as chosen by each of 4 reviewers for Crime Fiction Lover.

Best of 2011: 3 More Lists

Yes, the lists just keep coming. Here are 3 more from NPR:

Fired Up: The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy

Here are five of the best, most interesting, most mutated science fiction and fantasy novels published this year.

  • A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente
  • Rule 34, Charles Stross
  • The Heroes, Joe Abercrombie
  • Delirium, Lauren Oliver

7 Books With Personality: Nancy Pearl’s 2011 Picks

Nancy Pearl speaks:

Although all works of fiction and narrative nonfiction have characters — be they animals, hobbits, dragons, humans, werewolves or whatever — I’ve found that there are some books in which these characters are three-dimensional and awfully interesting. (Whether or not they’re likable is another question.) These characters become, as the story progresses, more and more real to me. It’s as though they’ve become good friends.

I’m always on the lookout for this kind of book, but they’re not always easy to find. Oh, I’ve read plenty of novels in which the characters are pleasant enough, but they’re not particularly memorable. The sort of book I’m talking about here leaves you with a longing to find out what happened to the characters after the book ended. Here are some books — six novels and a work of history — that have marvelously evoked characters.

Read why she chose each of these books:

  • In Zanesville, Jo Ann Beard
  • A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War, Amanda Foreman
  • Blind Sight, Meg Howrey
  • The Summer of the Bear, Bella Pollen
  • By George, Wesley Stace
  • Vaclav & Lena, Haley Tanner
  • Down the Mysterly River, Bill Willingham

Year-End Wrap-Up: The 10 Best Novels Of 2011

Maureen Corrigan has chosen these:

  • Swamplandia! Karen Russell
  • Open City, Teju Cole
  • The Submission, Amy Waldman
  • The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach
  • The Illumination, Kevin Brockmeier
  • The Leftovers, Tom Perrotta
  • The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
  • State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
  • Train Dreams, Denis Johnson
  • The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel, David Foster Wallace