The OF Blog: A look at books being considered for my year-end Best of 2011: Novels

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A look at books being considered for my year-end Best of 2011: Novels

Yes, it's nearly two months away before I start writing those series of posts reflecting back on the year that was and the best 2011 releases that I've read.  Based on current reading numbers (should finish #436 and #437 today), looks as though I will have read over 500 books by year's end.  After a slow start, over a hundred of these will be 2011 releases and several of those will have been either debut novels or debut collections.  A bit more non-fiction was read this year than in year's past and there will be a decent number of non-English and translated fictions to note this year as well.  A few more YA titles (perhaps enough for me to justify a separate post) and the odd graphic novel or three are also possibly on the docket.

Over the past few years, I have consciously moved away from covering only marketed fantasy and SF on this blog.  Although this probably has caused some consternation among (former?) readers, as I have seen a noticeable decline in page views over the past 14 months (some of that likely due as well to working 40-60 hour weeks and not being as active online), I do hope that this longlist of books in a few of the categories I plan on covering will appeal to those readers who want more than seeing me repeat what they can find mentioned on other fine blogs and websites that do concentrate on core genre fictions.  2011 has been a good reading year for me, perhaps the most diverse in its quality and narrative styles in several years, and these titles should reflect this.

Note:  I'll be listing titles based on reading chronology, so there isn't any ranking involved:

Novels (Realist, Weird, and Speculative):

Bradford Morrow, The Diviner's Tale

J.M. McDermott, Never Knew Another

Karen Russell, Swamplandia!

Téa Obreht, The Tiger's Wife

Steven Erikson, The Crippled God

R. Scott Bakker, The White-Luck Warrior

David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

David Albahari, Leeches

Michael Cisco, The Great Lover

China Miéville, Embassytown

Chris Adrian, The Great Night

Minister Faust, The Alchemists of Kush

Blake Butler, There is No Year

David Anthony Durham, The Sacred Band

Genevieve Valentine, Mechanique:  A Tale of the Tresaulti

Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Jesse Ball, Samedi the Darkness

Lev Grossman, The Magician King

Carol Birch, Jamrach's Menagerie

Glen Duncan, The Last Werewolf

Donald Ray Pollock, The Devil All the Time

Alice LaPlante, Turn of Mind

Elanor Henderson, Ten Thousand Saints

Patrick Dewitt, The Sisters Brothers

Kevin Wilson, The Family Fang

László Krasznahorkai and Max Neumann, Animalinside

Mary Horlock, The Book of Lies

Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers

Justin Torres, We the Animals

Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding

Amy Waldman, The Submission

Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

Caitlin Sweet, The Pattern Scars

Helen Oyeyemi, Mr. Fox

Kameron Hurley, Infidel

Moacyr Scliar, Kafka's Leopards (translation)

Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones

Andrew Krivak, The Sojourn

Colson Whitehead, Zone One

Stewart O'Nan, Emily, Alone

Graham Joyce, The Silent Land (US release was in 2011)

Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again

Amit Majmudar, Partitions 

45 novels listed here, yet there are several others I'm working on for November and December (Péter Nádas' Parallel Stories, released in English translation last week, is a massive tome I hope to finish in the next week or two).  Later today or tomorrow, I will list the longlists for other categories.  I like to think that this longlist above ought to pique the interest of some here.  If so, which titles strike your fancy?


Liviu said...

I am reading Parallel Stories too and after 400 pages in I started really getting used to its style, while realizing that I missed a lot from before, so I went back to the beginning. So far my #1 novel from 2011 is another translation released on October 25, 1Q84, but the Nadas book can get there, we'll see.

November 17 is the date for the new CR Zafon in Spain and I have huge expectations for that too.

So far from your list only ADWD will be a top five book for me (now it's #3) and Embassytown a top 25; I will also recommend Night Circus in my 25-60 spots but White Luck Warrior made me drop the series, Sacred Band made me realize how far I moved from standard fantasy and The Pattern Scars made me wish it would have gone beyond almost 100% s&m to something broader...

James said...

I have IQ84 coming in the from the library sometime this month (I had it reserved weeks before release, but there were still a few holds on it) and am looking forward to that.

[i]Swamplandia![/i] (I love that title.) and [i]Jamrach's Menagerie[/i] are sitting atop my to-read pile and I will be making my way through them soon.

For me, [i]The Silent Land[/i] was this year's disappointment. I am a fan of Graham Joyce and I love most of his work, but this one just felt weak. [i]Embassytown[/i] was a decent enough read, I suppose, but the narrator's distance from the action, the quick wrap up, and having to slog through occasional bouts of babble ensured that it doesn't sit too highly on my list of favored reads.

[i]The Tiger's Wife[/i] is my favorite debut of this year, my favorite read period. And [i]The Night Circus[/i] comes in right behind that.

I have passed both [i]White Luck Warrior[/i] and [i]A Dance with Dragons[/i] on the shelf at my local library, but have felt no desire to pick them up. [i]The Judging Eye[/i] pretty much did away with any interest I had in the series and it has been so long since I read anything from Martin that I just don't give a damn about the series anymore.

I really enjoyed [i]The Devil All the Time[/i], but I haven't thought about it at all in the months since I wrote my review for it. Half the time, I forget that I read it at all. [i]The Last Werewolf[/i] was pretty damn good and has set the standard that I hold werewolf novels to. The only problem I had with the book, beyond the author's strange fascination with assholes, was the ending, which felt too cliched and was quite disappointing.

Looking forward to new (non YA) Zafon. Try as I might, his YA work just doesn't work for me.

James said...

Oh wow, yeah, I suck. Too used to messageboards.

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