The Year’s Best, and the Best Yet to Come (Armchair BEA)

Today’s the day you could win big at Armchair BEA, so be sure to check out the incredible giveaways being hosted and posted there today! In addition, we’re talking about the books that have won our love this year (so far), and some that we’re looking forward to loving!

I’ve reviewed 18 books so far this year, which puts me pretty close to the book-a-week pace I think is most realistic for me. However, this is a question addressing quality over quantity, and either that’s been really solid – I’ve given fully half of those books a 4 out of 5 rating, or better – or I’ve been overly generous in 2011.

When it comes to my nonfiction reading, I know there’s been some really good stuff, and my involvement with the Indie Lit Awards is one reason why. I spent a few weeks this winter reading finalists for the 2010 Non-Fiction ILA, and I’m pretty sure one of those books – The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson – will be one of my personal Books of the Year for 2011. (It was also the ILA winner in that category, and took several other better-known book prizes as well).

I will be part of the panel evaluating Biography and Memoir for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards, so I’ve been making a point of looking for potential nominees in that category. Wendy McClure’s The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie is a standout, mixing memoir with biography of author Laura Ingalls Wilder and commentary on the continued impact of her books.

In fiction, two of my favorite 2011 reads incorporate controversial issues and social commentary: Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling and Jennifer Haigh’s novel Faith.

I’m really not one to look too far ahead in my reading – partly because I never know when I’ll actually get to a particular book – but I do have high expectations for a few 2011 releases that I haven’t yet read. I’m anxious to read Beth Kephart’s upcoming YA novel, You Are My Only – I plan to bring a galley of this one back from BEA, and am eager to meet its author in person tomorrow! I’m also looking forward to Mary Doria Russell’s just-released historical Western, Doc. In nonfiction, I’m hoping to snag a galley of Dava Sobel’s A More Perfect Heaven: How Nicolaus Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos, while in New York this week; she has a genuine gift for making science accessible, and I’ve really enjoyed her previous books.

What’s stood out in your 2011 reading so far – and what are you really looking forward to reading later this year?

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