Thursday, February 2, 2012

BEST of 2011: Adult Fiction/Nonfiction

There were a lot of potentially great 2011 books that I haven't gotten around to reading yet (Joan Didion's Blue Nights has been languishing unread on my bedside table for weeks now!), but after surveying our entire library staff, here are our picks for 2011's Best Books for Adults:

Fiction Picks

Agent X by Noah Boyd
Rogue former FBI agent Steve Vail races against time to track down a Russian intelligence officer who may have been caught trying to identify treasonous Americans. in this sequel to 2010's The Bricklayer.

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.
Tracy's Review

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
Montana wildfire fighter Rowan has a strict rule: never get romantically involved with anyone she works with. But the moment she meets new recruit Gull Curry that rule is severely tested. And when it becomes clear that someone blames Rowan for her jump partner's death, and is determined to get revenge, Rowan finds that she needs Gull's help and support more than ever.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Cirque des Rêves arrives in the night, without warning, and captivates its audience from dusk till dawn. What the audience—and most of the performers—do not know is that the circus is merely the arena for a much grander scheme. Two magicians have set their protégés on a collision course, a deadly game where not even the participants themselves are sure of the rules—or the consequences.
Tracy's Review
Lucinda's Review

Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton
Stumbling onto a murder scene that a reporter likens to the crimes of Jack the Ripper, young detective constable Lacey Flint races against time to prevent additional deaths and realizes that the killer is taunting her with secrets from her past.

Night Road by Kristin Hannah
Former foster child Lexi has become Mia's best friend, and Mia's twin brother, Zach, has fallen in love with her. The twins' mom, Jude, couldn't be happier that her children are happy-until one dark night when Lexi is implicated in a terrible accident and the family is torn apart. Years later, Jude must consider reconciling with Lexi.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
This book is a bit bizarre and probably not for everybody, but fans of the off-kilter worlds created by Katherine Dunn and Kelly Link will inhale this wildly fantastical tale. It features a 13-year-old alligator wrestler, a 16-year-old who channels ghosts, and a 17-year-old boy who studies Latin and runs away from home to work at a hell-inspired amusement park called The World of Darkness. Home is Swamplandia!, a family-run tourist attraction deep in the Everglades presided over by their father, “Chief” Bigtree.

Unveiled by Courtney Milan
At the urging of her brothers, Margaret agrees to pose as her own father's nurse in order to spy on the man who has exposed their family secrets and plans to inherit her father's dukedom. But when Ash comes to the manor to inspect his expected inheritance, she quickly discovers that he is not the villainous interloper she anticipates. Quietly compelling and emotionally complex, this Victorian tale of revenge and redemption, family loyalty and secrets is easily a cut above the standard historical romance fare.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
In this dsytopic thriller based loosely on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, a young woman awakens to a nightmarish, hostile new life where her skin has been genetically altered—turned bright red as punishment for the crime of having an abortion.

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
Eight gripping stories make up this debut story collection set primarily around the military base in Fort Hood, TX. The characters are real and haunting, and their stories are full of complexity and humanity. With simple yet elegant prose, Fallon makes the domestic lives of soldiers and their loved ones real and important.

Nonfiction Picks

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
Insights into the economic crisis, from the author of The Blind Side.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tina Fey's uncensored account of her life, stitching together the serious and the comic.

Confidence Men by Ron Suskind
Drawing on extensive research and interviews, the Pulitzer Prize winner examines Wall Street, Washington, and the education of a President.

The Memory Palace by Mira Bartók
This richly textured personal narrative chronicles the author’s childhood with her brilliant but schizophrenic mother as well as the perpetual shadow cast over her adult years by her mother’s illness.

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
U.S. Memory Champion Joshua Foer shares the "Art and Science of Remembering Everything."

Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso
This memoir is an absolutely gut-wrenching and a fearlessly honest account of family dysfunction and sexual abuse by an unrelated pedophile.
Tracy's Review.


UK said...

Now You See Me was a gripping read that didn't let me go until the very last page. Lacey is a young police officer working off-duty on a case when she comes across a woman that literally dies in her arms. This vicious murder propels Lacy into the biggest murder investigation that she has ever been involved in. But unfortunately, the murderer seems to have an eerie attachment to Lacey and the murders seem to be mimicking Jack the Ripper. And of course everything isn't what it seems....

Now You See Me is one of those books that sucks you in from the very first page. The main character Lacey was a curious individual that had my interest from the very beginning. Lacey is one of those characters that has secrets, and the secrets add to both the mystery and atmosphere that is constantly present in the story. The atmosphere begins from the very beginning; it was a creepy presence that grew as the book went on. I loved the references to Jack the Ripper and all of the historical tidbits that were included. I felt like they really added to the book and made it just that much more creepy. The plot was both unique and compelling.

Tracy said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing, UK. I picked up *Now You See Me* on a recommendation from my sister, and S.J. Bolton is now one of my go-to authors for thrillers/police procedurals.

I figured out the "twist" ending a little earlier than I would like, but the book was still compelling. And I too loved the Ripper references. If you like books with Jack the Ripper connections and don't mind reading YA fiction, you might be interested in Maureen Johnson's *In the Name of the Star* or Stefan Petrucha new book, *Ripper.*

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