Best of 2011: Fiction Favorites

Tis the season for Best of Lists. Your inner cynic may question the need for yet another. But this list is special. Really! You see, this list was hand crafted by the seasoned staff of the Everett Public Library.

Why is that so special you ask? Let us tell you.

As any good librarian knows, you always need to question the source of information. Publishers are pushing their products, literati are feeding their vanity, but our selectors are creating their lists based on the sheer joy of reading, watching, and viewing.

Secondly experience is key. You don’t want someone who reads ten books a year to make a top 10 list now do you? Our staff is exposed to hundreds of titles a year and has carefully sifted them down to the best of the best for you to enjoy.

As you can imagine, a list of the best that has been written, recorded and filmed in all of 2011 can be a bit long. So as not to overwhelm, our list will be published here on A Reading Life in seven easy installments. Today we start with all things fiction.


Before I Go to Sleep, by S. J. Watson   debut  When an amnesiac attempts to reconstruct her past by keeping a journal, she discovers dangerous inconsistencies in the stories of her husband and her doctor.

Turn of Mind, by Alice LaPlante   debut  Jennifer White, a retired surgeon with dementia, has been implicated in the murder of her best friend. She struggles with fractured memories of their complex relationship and wonders if she actually committed the crime.

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides  Madeleine Hanna breaks out of her straight-and-narrow mold when she falls in love with charismatic loner Leonard Bankhead. At the same time an old friend resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is his destiny.

Stone Arabia, by Dana Spiotta  For Denise and her brother, Nik, now in their forties, no other relationship has been more significant than the one they share. Nik makes his art in private, with Denise as his only audience. Denise is also her family’s first defense against a world in which friends die, their mother’s mind unravels, tragedy haunts them. Spiotta examines what it means to be an artist and redefines the ties that bind us.

The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht   debut Natalia becomes convinced that her grandfather once spent his last days searching for “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man, would go on such a farfetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

The Submission, by Amy Waldman   debut When an American Muslim wins a contest to design a Ground Zero Memorial, the city and the country are thrown into a debate about grief, art, and the nature of Islam.

Say Her Name, by Francisco Goldman   Goldman’s wife died in an accident just before their second anniversary. In this autobiographical novel, he obsessively collects every memory of her, especially her writings, with the hope of keeping her alive in his mind and assuaging his grief and guilt.

1Q84, by Haruki Murakami  An ode to George Orwell’s “1984” relates the stories of Aomame, an assassin for a secret organization who has been transported to an alternate reality, and Tengo, a mathematics lecturer and novice writer.

Faith, by Jennifer Haigh   When her older brother Art, a Catholic priest and the popular pastor of a large suburban parish, finds himself at the center of a scandal, Sheila McGann, estranged from her family for years, returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation.

Crime Fiction

Legal Thriller   The Fifth Witness, by Michael Connelly   Mickey Haller expands his business into foreclosure defense, only to see one of his clients accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take away her home. Mickey puts his team into high gear to exonerate Lisa Trammel, even though the evidence and his own suspicions tell him his client is guilty.

Thriller   The Troubled Man, by Henning Mankell When Kurt Wallander is called into the case of the disappearance of a retired naval officer, coincidentally his daughter’s future father-in-law, he becomes embroiled in a story of Cold War espionage.

Suspense   Iron House   by John Hart At the brutal Iron Mountain Home for Boys, Julian survives only because his older brother, Michael, is fiercely protective. When a boy is killed, Michael takes the blame for his brother. Now an enforcer in New York’s world of organized crime, the life Michael has fought to build unravels when he falls in love and wants to escape the mob.

Suspense   The Informant, by Thomas Perry   Years after the Butcher’s Boy wipes out several mobsters and disappears, Justice Department official Elizabeth Waring is approached by the mythical hit man, who asks her for crucial information in exchange for helping her to crack an unsolved murder case.

Mystery   Killed at the Whim of a Hat, by Colin Cotterill Forced to relocate to rural Thailand with her eccentric family, crime reporter Jimm Juree fears that her career is over. Then the bodies of two hippies are discovered in a local farmer’s field and a Buddhist abbot is murdered.

Mystery   Bent Road, by Lori Roy   debut Celia Scott and her family move back to her husband’s hometown in Kansas, where his sister died under mysterious circumstances twenty years before. Celia and her children struggle to adjust–especially when a local girl disappears.

SF, Fantasy & Horror

Fantasy   The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern   debut Waging a fierce competition for which they have trained since childhood, circus magicians Celia and Marco unexpectedly fall in love in a fantastical and fateful romance.

Fantasy   Among Others, by Jo Walton Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds: with the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins, and in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. When her mother tries to bend the spirits to dark ends, Mori confronts her in a magical battle that leaves her crippled–and her twin sister dead.

Fantasy   A Dance with Dragons, by George R. R. Martin   New threats emerge to endanger the future of the Seven Kingdoms, as Daenerys Targaryen, ruling in the East, fights off a multitude of enemies, while Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, faces his foes both in the Watch and beyond the great Wall of ice and stone.

SF   Leviathan Wakes, by James Corey  When Captain Jim Holden’s ice miner stumbles across a derelict ship, he uncovers a potentially deadly secret. Attacked by a stealth ship, Holden must find a way to uncover the motives behind the attack, stop a war and find the truth behind a vast conspiracy that threatens the entire human race.

SF   The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi   debut Freed from a nightmarish distant-future prison by a mysterious woman who offers him his life back if he will complete the ultimate heist, con man Jean le Flambeur is pursued in worlds where people communicate through shared memories.     

SF   Embassytown, by China Miéville  Avice Benner Cho is a human colonist on a distant planet populated by the Ariekei, sentient beings with a unique language. Cho is torn by competing loyalties when hostilities erupt between humans and aliens.

Horror   Zone One, by Colson Whitehead  Mark Spitz and his squad of  “sweepers” must must take care of the handful of zombies that remain in the aftermath of a zombie plague, as well as a second-tier of the infected known as “stragglers”: zombies who have bypassed the cannibalistic urges of their more lethal fellows in favor of a hollow-eyed, eerily nostalgic repetition of some mundane act.

1 thought on “Best of 2011: Fiction Favorites

  1. Pingback: Readers’ Choices – The Most Popular Books at EPL in 2011 |

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