Saturday, December 17, 2011

The NYT's Ten Best Books of 2011

Making a List
Leading up to the turn of a new year's calendar page, "best book" lists abound.  The New York Times recently published their 100 Notable Books of the Year List; here's their ten best.

Fiction Books
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
A baseball star at a small college near Lake Michigan launches a routine throw that goes disastrously off course and inadvertently changes the lives of five people, including the college president, a gay teammate, and the president's daughter.

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Jake Epping is an English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. Jake's enlisted by a friend to travel back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
A short story writer's first novel tells the story of the Bigtree family's failed alligator-wrestling theme park and the siblings who try to preserve their family and way of life.  This one's a very inventive novel with teen crossover appeal.

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
When his best friend Teddy dies of an overdose on the last day of 1987, Jude Keffy-Horn finds his relationship with drugs and his parents devolving into the extreme when he gets caught up in an underground youth culture known as straight edge.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
Remembering childhood stories her grandfather once told her, young physician Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for "the deathless man," a vagabond who claimed to be immortal.

Non-Fiction Books
Arguably by Christopher Hitchens
This collection of essays, most of which appeared in the Atlantic, the Guardian, Newsweek, Slate, and Vanity Fair, speak to everything from politics to religion, literature to popular culture. Not always admired for his criticisms and views, but always for his writing and wit, the author died yesterday in Huston.  Farewell, Mr. Hitchens.

The Boy In the Moon by Ian Brown
Canadian writer Ian Brown's son, Walker, was born with an extremely rare genetic mutation called CFC (cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome). Brown retraces his steps as he traveled the world, connecting with medical specialists and families similarly affected by CFC.

This authoritative biography, also a National Book Award Finalist, draws on new research to offer a more complete interpretation of a complicated man. Pair this one with the best-known autobiography, written with Alex Haley.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
The Nobel Prize winning author explores how we make decisions.  What drives us to decide to do or choose X instead of Y or Z?  Bias? Willpower? Logic? Optimism? Deliberation?  The book features very accessible prose for any decision maker.  A fun brain book, too!

A World On Fire by Amanda Foreman
An award-winning author explores the interdependence between Britain and both North and South. Letters, diaries, drawings, and journals help relate the history of British influence on the Civil War.