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Favorite Fiction Reads of 2011

Part of this post first appeared on Book Riot on 12/15/11 as part of my Best Books of 2011 recommendation, which you can read here.

My first short list of favorite reads in 2011 — which covers everything I read this year, regardless of when it was published — was more than 25 books long. I managed to cut down my list to five fiction and five nonfiction favorites. Since I don’t think I’ll be finishing any more books this year, I’m posting my fiction picks today and nonfiction picks tomorrow. Let me know what you think!


The Magician King by Lev Grossman

As I said in my one sentence review of this book, The Magician King was fucking awesome. When I finished this book I was just giddy and couldn’t stop blabbering about it to The Boyfriend. If you like fantasy, even a little bit, I highly suggest picking up Grossman’s first book in the series, The Magicians, so you can read The Magician King.

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

I absolutely loved reading Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. The book is sarcastic, warm, sweet, engaging and laugh-out-loud funny throughout. Norman perfectly captures the absurdity of office life, very much like the hilarious When We Came to the End, but with a lot more affection for every character.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

I loved The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and I have a special, goofy place in my heart for The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, which probably makes me the ideal reader for When She Woke. Even so, this literary mash-up uses many of the best parts of the works that inspired it to create an astute and honest look at sexual politics and personal choice in a world so close to the world we live in now it’s spooky.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Not everyone is going to fall in love with a more than 500 page book set at a small college in Wisconsin that pays homage to baseball and Moby Dick, but I was charmed by this book. Reading it was one of those immersive experiences where I fell in love with the characters, setting, and story over a long weekend of reading. I can tell this is a book I’ll go back and read again.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

I didn’t have a ton to say about The Imperfectionists when I first read it last summer, but it’s a book that’s stayed with me since I finished it. I loved the use of interconnected short stories, the setting at an international English-language newspaper, and the characters that filled each story with humor and sadness. The stories change tone quickly and kept me off balance, but in the best way possible.

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  • Bettina December 29, 2011, 5:50 am

    I felt the same way about The Imperfectionists (my review is here). I loved the pace of the stories and the different characters – this is the kind of book I would recommend to pretty much anyone without hesitation.

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:07 pm

      I have recommended The Imperfectionists to a lot of people, especially other journalists and writers. It has such a variety of characters that I just loved.

  • Amanda December 29, 2011, 8:03 am

    The only one of those that I’ve read is When She Woke, which I really liked up until the last third. The last third just felt out of place or out of character for me. I don’t know. I still gave it 4 stars, but it didn’t quite make my best-of lists this year.

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:08 pm

      The book does take a pretty big switch in the last section, but that part reminded me more of The Handmaid’s Tale, which I liked. I could be totally mis-remembering the Atwood book though!

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) December 29, 2011, 8:07 am

    The only one I’ve read is Domestic Violets and it almost made my best of 2011 list, but didn’t survive the final cut.

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:09 pm

      I’m curious to read what books beat Domestic Violets on to your list!

  • Man of la Book December 29, 2011, 8:35 am

    Very cool books Kim. Looks like you had a good reading year.


    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:10 pm

      Thanks, I thought it was a good year!

  • Beth F December 29, 2011, 8:36 am

    One of things that I love about these lists is everyone’s different takes on different books.

    I didn’t love Grossman’s first so I passed on this one.
    Domestic Violets & When She Woke both made my initial top reads list but didn’t make it to the top 10.
    I stopped reading Art of Fielding at about page 100. No particular reason why I stopped except it didn’t grab me.
    I really enjoyed Imperfectionists but it didn’t make even my initial list.

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:12 pm

      Yes, I love the different books I see on so many of the lists. I think The Magician King is a much better book than the first in the series, but it may not be for everyone anyway. And I do think that The Art of Fielding isn’t a book for everyone, even though I loved it.

  • Wendy December 29, 2011, 9:35 am

    I haven’t read any of the books on your list, YET! I am interested in When She Woke, Domestic Violets and The Art of Fielding…so we’ll see if they manage to make it onto my stacks in 2012! Thanks for sharing!

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:12 pm

      If you had to pick on, go with Domestic Violets — it is so, so funny!

  • Trisha December 29, 2011, 10:13 am

    I really need to read that Grossman series!

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:13 pm

      I think you’d really like it!

  • Andi December 29, 2011, 10:27 am

    Great choices, Kim, and these are all books I want to read. I have When She Woke on my shelves now, and the more reviews I read of The Art of Fielding, the more I want to give it a go. 🙂

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:15 pm

      It’s a slow book, in places, but it’s the sort of book that I thought was well-worth the journey. Watching the characters come together was just lovely.

  • Aarti December 29, 2011, 11:56 am

    I’ve heard so much about Domestic Violets! Also, When She Woke. Those two are ones I’ll be looking out for in future.

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:18 pm

      That’s a fantastically funny book, I highly recommend it.

  • Teresa December 29, 2011, 12:31 pm

    I absolutely agree on Domestic Violets and When She Woke. Great Choices!

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:19 pm

      Awesome! I love being in agreement 🙂

  • Meg December 29, 2011, 3:58 pm

    Lots of great reads! When She Woke has gotten my attention since I first got a glimpse of that cover, and Domestic Violets made my best-of list as well. It was so funny and poignant — a really great read.

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:20 pm

      The cover of When She Woke is really striking. “Funny” and “poignant” are the perfect words for Domestic Violets.

  • Jennifer December 29, 2011, 4:06 pm

    Unfortunately, this has not been the best year for me and reading. All of these books have been on my radar but I have yet to get to reading any of them. I hope that 2012 gives me some time to catch up on all the amazing books I didn’t get around to reading in 2011.

    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:21 pm

      Some years are better for reading than others. I hope you get a chance to read some great books in 2012.

  • softdrink December 29, 2011, 6:55 pm

    How have I missed the fact that The Art of Fielding pays homage to Moby Dick? That just clinched the deal…I’m never, ever reading it.


    • Kim December 29, 2011, 8:22 pm

      Lol! It’s not a book for every reader… I suppose not for anyone who has suffered through Moby Dick!

  • jenn aka the picky girl December 29, 2011, 9:56 pm

    I loved loved loved Domestic Violets and equally HATED The Magicians. Seriously.

    • Kim January 4, 2012, 10:21 pm

      Wow, that’s quite the difference! I do love the way people can agree on some books and disagree on others. It’s so interesting.

  • Joanna December 30, 2011, 12:41 pm

    Domestic Violets sounds so good – and different. Thanks for the great list!

    • Kim January 4, 2012, 10:21 pm

      It’s a fantastic book. I just loved it.

  • gavin January 1, 2012, 4:05 pm

    Great list, Kim. You’re the third person in the last week that raved about The Imperfectionists and has me moving it up my TBR list.

    • Kim January 4, 2012, 10:22 pm

      I’m a sucker for books about journalism, so that one was right up my alley. But it’s such a character-driven book, i think there’s something for everyone.

  • Emma @ Words And Peace January 2, 2012, 2:36 pm

    I forgot if I already commented on another similar post of yours, sorry. great titles, though I admit I have not yet read any. here are my favorites: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/12/30/year-of-reading-2011/

    • Kim January 4, 2012, 10:23 pm

      That’s fun as well, to read lists and find new books to read. I can’t wait to see what you picked!

  • Buried In Print January 9, 2012, 8:39 pm

    I’ve added Violets to my TBR list; the others are already read or waiting. I am so impressed that you got your list down to 5. I’ve been thinking about trying that, but haven’t gotten up the nerve to even try it yet! Hope you find lots of great reads in 2012 too!