Best of 2011: Fiction and Non-Fiction for Adults

Updated: September 27, 2012

The best books of the year, as selected by LAPL librarians. Perfect for holiday gift-giving!

Book cover for Anatomy of a disappearance : a novel
Anatomy of a disappearance : a novel
Matar, Hisham, 1970-
This is a beautiful and poignant story of an adolescent boy who uncovers family secrets while enduring the loss of both parents. However, it is the sudden and mysterious disappearance of his father that is the most difficult heartache to endure.

Book cover for The art of fielding : a novel
The art of fielding : a novel
Harbach, Chad.
Harbach's first novel examines life, love, and baseball at a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin. Like a baseball season, the story goes up and down and brings you to a conclusion that can leave you feeling exhilarated or frustrated.

Book cover for A dance with dragons
A dance with dragons
Martin, George R. R.
The latest title in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The entire series is remarkable - a fantasy that will enrapture even those who think that they can't abide fantasy.

Book cover for A Discovery of Witches
A Discovery of Witches
Harkness, Deborah E.

The book is set in an alternate universe where witches, vampires, and some otherworldly types uneasily coexist. When a powerful but non-practicing witch finds a manuscript that has been hidden for hundreds of years and falls in love with a vampire, that coexistence is threatened in a major way.

Book cover for Emily, alone
Emily, alone
O'Nan, Stewart, 1961-
A quiet study of a Pittsburgh widow coming into her own. O'Nan consistently reveals universal humanity through his characters, while giving the city its own vibrant role.

Book cover for Getting better : why global development is succeeding : and how we can improve the world even more
Getting better : why global development is succeeding : and how we can improve the world even more
Kenny, Charles.
Call Number: 330.9 K367
Former World Bank economist Charles Kenny has written an optimistic yet practically realist book about improvement in global development and human well-being worldwide. The book is recommended by foreign aid skeptic William Easterly and foreign aid defender Bill Gates. Now a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., Kenny writes the weekly column, The

Book cover for The hare with amber eyes : a family's century of art and loss
The hare with amber eyes : a family's century of art and loss
De Waal, Edmund.
Call Number: 736 D515

De Waal explores his family history through the vehicle of a collection of his great uncle’s precious netsuke collection. Following the path of these small Japanese sculptures takes us through Europe, two world wars, Japan, and points outward raising questions about the power of objects, what they tell us, and our relations with them.



Book cover for The hottest dishes of the Tartar cuisine
The hottest dishes of the Tartar cuisine
Bronsky, Alina, 1978-
One of Publishers Weekly's best fiction works for 2011, this is a darkly comic story of three generations of women who survive not only the privations of life in the former Soviet Union, but survive and thrive despite the theatrics of the acerbic, outrageous, and dictatorial matriarch, Rosa.

Book cover for It's so easy : and other lies
It's so easy : and other lies
McKagan, Duff.
Call Number: 789.14 M153
The former Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver bassist gives an honest and balanced account of the rise and fall of one of the most notorious rock bands, as well as his own personal struggles with fame and drug addiction.

Book cover for The long goodbye : [a memoir]
The long goodbye : [a memoir]
O'Rourke, Meghan.
Call Number: 811 O742O
O'Rourke's book manages to examine grief both from a personal and global perspective. O'Rourke's emotions are so close to the surface that the reader begins to mourn her late mother as well.

Book cover for The magician king : a novel
The magician king : a novel
Grossman, Lev.
Lev Grossman's follow-up to The Magicians (2009) is even better than its predecessor. A must read for any adult who secretly wishes they could find a door to Narnia, get an invitation to study at Hogwarts, or wake up to find the TARDIS in their front yard.

Book cover for The marriage plot
The marriage plot
Eugenides, Jeffrey.
Set in the early 1980s, three recent college graduates embark on a journey towards love, God, self-discovery, and impending adulthood in this heartbreaker of a book.

Book cover for A more perfect heaven : how Nicolaus Copernicus revolutionized the cosmos
A more perfect heaven : how Nicolaus Copernicus revolutionized the cosmos
Sobel, Dava.
Call Number: 520.92 C782So
Sobel takes a daring approach midway through the book, using a play to describe how Copernicus worked with a young scholar named Rheticus, to write a book that would begin the Scientific Revolution. Instead of being fanciful, the play brings to life a historical figure who is very hard to know.

Book cover for My song : a memoir
My song : a memoir
Belafonte, Harry, 1927-
Call Number: 789.14 B425-1
My Song recounts Harry Belafonte's seven-decade entertainment career, his life as a social activist, and his experiences as a father and husband. Mr. Belafonte does not mince words when describing his experiences with racial oppression and his encounters with the powerful and privileged.

Book cover for The night circus : a novel
The night circus : a novel
Morgenstern, Erin.
In the mysterious traveling night circus, two young magicians have been trained to duel each other by creating ever more elaborate "tricks," but they do not fully grasp the effects of the contest on them or the circus.

Book cover for The night eternal
The night eternal
Toro, Guillermo del, 1964-
The last book in The Strain trilogy explains unanswered questions posed earlier in the series, and provides a very satisfying ending to the story. If you like vampires and end of the world stories, this is your book.

Book cover for Our Bodies, Ourselves
Our Bodies, Ourselves
Call Number: 618 B747 2011

This newest edition of the 1971 classic presents just about everything a woman needs and wants to know about health and sexuality. The perfect gift for women of all ages.

Book cover for The pale king : an unfinished novel
The pale king : an unfinished novel
Wallace, David Foster.
Wallace's posthumous novel about boredom and attention presents a mixed message for our times: "If you are immune to boredom there is literally nothing you can't accomplish." Despite the heroic efforts of his editors, the unfinished novel is disjointed, but really, not so different from Wallace's normal style: humorous, humane and transcendent at its best, intentionally tedious at its worst. Most remarkable are these two free-standing wonders: sections 22 (a 100-page account about why a character joined the IRS) and 46 (a 60-page barroom tete-a-tete between "The Fox" and "Mr. Excitement"), both unexpectedly moving.

Book cover for Pirate king : a novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
Pirate king : a novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
King, Laurie R.
The Pirates of Penzance, the early days of cinema, and Sherlock Holmes, blended together to create a frothy and enjoyable addition to the popular series.

Book cover for Popular crime : reflections on the celebration of violence
Popular crime : reflections on the celebration of violence
James, Bill, 1949-
Call Number: 364.973 J273
A highly opinionated and odd book in which celebrated baseball statistician and historian Bill James comments on some of the most "popular" criminal cases in history.

Book cover for Ready Player One
Ready Player One
Cline, Ernest

In Oasis, one can escape the wasteland that we have made of the earth. This all immersive virtual reality began as a multi-player role-playing game but has grown to encompass almost all of our interaction with the world. Oasis is where we work, learn, love and live. And it holds the possibility to change one person's life forever. When James Halliday, co-creator of this world, passes away with no family he leaves the entirety of his fortune to anyone who can solve his final game. But in thirty years since passing, no one has even deciphered the first riddle. Until now.

Book cover for Rebels in paradise : the Los Angeles art scene and the 1960s
Rebels in paradise : the Los Angeles art scene and the 1960s
Drohojowska-Philp, Hunter, 1952-
Call Number: 709.794 D784
During the 1960s Los Angeles was a place of great possibility and freedom for all kinds of artists. Today's well-known and respected artists were then rebels who stirred things up, created controversies and unintentionally challenged figures from the East Coast art establishment (who thought Los Angeles was a cultural wasteland). This is a joyous account of those glory days when the city provided the best blank canvas ever!

Book cover for Robopocalypse : a novel
Robopocalypse : a novel
Wilson, Daniel H. 1978-
Call Number: SF
One of the most original books of the year, Robopocalypse is about what happens to our future world when robots start thinking for themselves and set out to destroy humans. Creepy, realistic, and impossible to put down, it's written in the style of a narrative given after the robot uprising.

Book cover for The sense of an ending
The sense of an ending
Barnes, Julian.
Barnes probes time and memory with the con/de/reconstruction of poignant and intriguing recollections of a middle-aged man that challenge his impressions of self and life. Spare. Provocative. Brilliant.

Book cover for Spencer Tracy : a biography
Spencer Tracy : a biography
Curtis, James, 1953-
Call Number: 812.092 T762Cu

A monument of theater and film scholarship that more than justifies its length. The life of a regional theater actor in the 1920s, the inner workings of the Hollywood Studio system from the beginning of sound until its disintegration in the sixties, the techniques of the greatest pre-method actor and the stormy yet grand relationship with Katharine Hepburn are covered with thoroughness and insight. A must read for acting students and film buffs.

Spencer Tracy—Best Actor, 1938 (Captains Courageous) and 1939 (Boys Town)


Book cover for What Alice forgot
What Alice forgot
Moriarty, Liane.
After hitting her head, Alice wakes up thinking that she is 10 years younger and happier in life then she really is. As she slowly regains her memory, she also realizes how to change who she has become.

Book cover for You know when the men are gone
You know when the men are gone
Fallon, Siobhan.
As one war winds down and another seems to go on forever, this book is especially poignant in its description of those who wait back home for their loved ones in the service.