Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten FAVORITE Books of 2011
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. It’s awesome. Every Tuesday, the lovely folks over at The Broke and the Bookish post a top ten list topic so that book lovers like you and me can pour over our shelves and make our own lists. You can check out all the other Top Ten Tuesday‘s on their site!
Oh man, this one is a KILLER. I don’t know if you guys can ever tell by my previous lists of any kind, but I have almost a mental block when it comes to following number restrictions. I LOVE lists, but things like “pick your favorite ONE book that you read this year” give me the sweats. I’m so sorry, but I’m probably going to give you five instead. I STRUGGLE with the only 10 business! Some weeks are harder than others, though, and this one–picking my 10 favorite books of the past year–oh my God. I don’t even know how I managed to keep this list to a reasonable number. (Well, actually I DO have an idea how: I cheated all over the place. You’ll see.)
In no real order:
Anna and the French Kiss/Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins. I read BOTH of Stephanie Perkins’ books this year and I loved them both REALLY HARD. I’m talking major, MAJOR everlasting love. Stephanie Perkins writes some of the best contemporaries around, no contest. The characters are individual, honest, and real and I LOVES THEM. I feel what they feel. But the relationships? Heavens to Betsy! Those are slow-burning, panty-melting, heart-clenching things of beauty and they make me DIE. Stephanie Perkins could write an Ikea manual on how to put together my bookshelf and I would read every word, rapt, and then clutch the thing to my chest and sigh for days. The love she creates is heartfelt, complicated, genuine, deep, and it ALWAYS WINS. She’s positively magical.
Eon/Eona, by Alison Goodman. HOLY CRAP. These books were so amazing. I had never even heard of this duo until one of my library school book club friends told me that she had just finished EON and was blown away by it. I didn’t need any other recommendation aside from that one to pick up EON, devour it, run to the library, crazed, to get EONA, devour THAT, then collapse in a heap. It was afterglow. (Seriously, though, I’ve never run-walked to my library quicker. I was so afraid that other people would know how incredible these books are and I would have to throw some elbows in the F-J stacks.) These two books are some of the best, most well-constructed, smartest, most magical fantasies I’ve ever read. Eona is an all-time great character. She’s so vivid and real and her story is so intense and twisty and dangerous. Plus, I WEPT at the end of EONA. Tears = win in my book.
A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. *Takes several deep breaths* Ok. If you’ve been around my blog before or maybe checked me out on Twitter (you totally should! I’d be so excited to see you!), you might have seen me rave and geek out over A Song of Ice and Fire or even the TV show, Game of Thrones, which is based on the books. I’m kind of a newbie to this series, but it sucked me in IMMEDIATELY and I am now completely in its thrall. ADwD is the most recent book in the series and…I don’t know what I can even say about it that’s not the mindless babbling of a superfan. But what I love about these books is that I cannot stop thinking about them. The characters, the world, the stories…I’m always wondering about where they’re going, and theorizing on what everything means. They’re enrapturing, and ADwD was no exception.
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, by Jeanne Birdsall. Have you guys read any Penderwicks? They’re middle-grade books, but you shouldn’t let that keep you from reading them. I swear they won’t let you down. This is a sweet, funny, heartfelt, endearing series about this AMAZING family of girls who live with their dad (mom passed away some time before the books began). *Sigh* This family…they just touch my heart, you guys. They LIKE each other. Even when they fight. Their dad is a little absent-minded professor, but the mutual affection between everyone is just so lovely. PLUS, one of my very favorite things to read in books is guys and girls JUST BEING FRIENDS. Good ones. Jeffrey, the friend who is a boy, is the freaking cutest thing EVAR, and the way that he is sweet and close to all the girls–Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty (OHMYGOD, BATTY. Talk about ADORABLE!)–is awesome. In this book, the girls and Jeffrey go on vacation in Maine and it’s all just fantastic and heartwarming.
Iron Fey series, by Julie Kagawa. I sometimes have a hard time with fairies. I LOVE them, and I want to read about them, but occasionally I strike out when reading books about them. Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, though, was the cure for all my fairy ills. I’m so glad that I caught up with and finished it this year. Meghan is a plucky, strong character and her struggles and journeys are dangerous and complicated by her feelings for the one guy she shouldn’t have any feelings for: Ash, prince of the UnSeelie court (Meghan’s Seelie. Bitter enemies, and all that) and panty-melter extraordinaire. Making things even MORE complicated is her best friend, Puck, who just loves to make trouble. These are the best fairy stories I’ve read and I recommend them to anyone I know who ever says, “I don’t really like books about fairies” because these books are LOCKS for a great read.
Legend, by Marie Lu. This book kind of crept up on me with how much I loved it and now I can’t really get it out of my head. I’ve already read it twice (and reviewed it here), and something about it keeps me thinking about reading it again (I’m a HUGE rereader). Day and June are complex, morally twisty, strong characters whose relationship is fraught with drama and conflicting emotions. The stakes in this story are so high, and I felt real emotions for these characters almost right away. And I LOVED the world, too. Very vivid and clever. I am anticipating book number 2 in this series like WHOA.
Dairy Queen series, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. DJ Schwenk, you old so and so! Guys, I want to be DJ’s friend. I want to move to her farm, do hard labor, then laugh and be awkward and frank and FANTABULOUS together. I wish I had the stones to join a high school football team, too. This series is so wonderful and one of my favorite reads of the year mostly because there are very few YA protagonists who are more instantly likable than DJ Schwenk. And her relationship with Brian is great because it’s not perfect. Sometimes he acts like a tool, sometimes he’s the BEST EVER. DJ doesn’t really take any of his crap, once she figures out what’s going on because she is so fresh and uncomplicated. But as much as I love Brian, DJ is what makes the Dairy Queen so unforgettable. She has courage and gumption. I love this series HARD.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. I feel like I should be writing this whole thing in CAPSLOCK because my love for this book is BIG LIKE CAPITAL LETTERS. Before I read this I had never read any books about angels. Crazy, right? But true. It goes without saying, then, that I’m so glad I remedied that with DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, which was beautiful, gripping, and fantastic. It FLOORED me. Karou is smart, tough, and real. She’s imperfect. And that makes her wonderful. But she’s also mysterious, not knowing truly who or what she is. I was particularly captured by the parts of the story that took place in Eretz, which, like all of the other places described here, was vivid in my mind. And Akiva. GOD! He’s so conflicted and intense. Really, this story is just STUNNING. It’s good vs evil, but the line is blurred and wavering. GAH! I feel like the more I say about it the less I make any sense or do the book any justice at all. It’s magic. It’s gorgeous. It’s engrossing. Hands down one of my very favorite books of the year, and also of EVER.
The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. I have raved about THE SCORPIO RACES before. I might continue to rave about it for all time. When I heard that Scholastic was handing out ARCs of this at Book Expo this year, I made a beeline for their booth because I knew, somehow, that I would NEED this book desperately before I had even read it or knew anything about it at all, really. We’re meant to be together. THE SCORPIO RACES is my lobster (Friends!). I don’t know that I ever could have predicted loving a story about mythical water horses and the quiet, stark broodiness of a young girl and her friend who might be something more. But I did love it. I loved Puck and Sean, who come together so organically. The horses were majestic and dangerous. And the atmosphere of this book is AMAZING. I love Maggie Stiefvater, but this book, I think, might be hard for her to beat. But if a day comes when she DOES beat THE SCORPIO RACES? HOLY CRAP. I don’t know if I could handle it.
The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson. So. This book. THIS. BOOK. This book didn’t come out in 2011, but I didn’t read it until earlier this year and FOR ALL THAT IS HOLY AND AMAZEBALLS I have no idea why I waited so long. Jandy Nelson’s THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE slayed me into little tiny bits, then carefully found all of those pieces and lovingly glued me back together again. I read a lot of books about death and grieving this year, and they were all really good. But this one…it plucked every one of my heartstrings. Lennie is dealing with the death of her beloved older sister, Bailey, and in the midst of her grief finds herself pulled in opposite directions towards two boys: Her sister’s boyfriend, Toby, and the new guy in town, Joe. I liked that Lennie and Toby connected the way they did, even though it was totally wrong and really gross, because it helped me understand how torn up they were over their loss. And Joe. Joe Fontaine is probably tied for first in my favorite YA love interest for this year with Etienne from ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. His connection with Lennie was so passionate and genuine. I loved them together. And I LOVED LOVED LOVED how this gorgeous book showed me that grief comes from love, but that love can come from grief, too.
*I really also have to give honorable mentions to Jenny Han’s Summer series and Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series, which I also read this year. These two series ROCK MY SOCKS.