2011 was yet another glorious year for literature. While we may have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy discussing and debating the end of books and bookstores (this year did, after all, bear witness to two major literary events: The eventual decline and inevitable death of Borders in the United States as well as the unstoppable growth and proliferation of the e-book. Not that either event possessed a causal conjunction with the other), there is no denying that the quality of our writing has gone from strength to strength, that the calibre of our literature is better than it has ever been.
From Umberto Eco to Stephen King, to Haruki Murakami, 2011 has seen works from old masters at the very top of their game. From Tea Obreht to Chad Harbach to Ernest Cline, 2011 has seen some absolutely remarkable debuts from authors who were merely teasing us with their literary potential.
Reducing a year’s selection of reads into such a short list is an impossible task. What is the criteria of selection? Do you split the list up into fiction and non-fiction? Or do you go even further and distinguish between genres and sub-genres? Where does it begin? Where does it end?
Which is why, this year, I have decided to keep things simple. Just one list, comprising both fiction and non, of what I believe to be the year’s best offerings. From short story collections to science fictions to graphic novels, from biography to history to current affairs, the only benchmark I employed when compiling this list was to pick books that served to inspire and enlighten and more so than any other this year.
The 11 books in this list are some of my favourites. They are books that have stood out in my memory as some of the best reads I have experienced this year. They are nothing short of exceptional, the kind of literature that is likely to stay with you for years to come.
I sincerely hope you agree.