Last year was the year of the short story with six entries either short story collections or novels made up of linked stories.  This year the novel returns with a vengeance with no short story fiction in the list at all.  This list is not a random list; it is a ranked list with #1 my number 1 choice, #2 my number 2 choice, etc. 

These are the same rules as last year.  I’m restricting the Top 10 list to books which were published since 2000 and then listing afterwards a few of the older books which I found rewarding during the year.  Like last year, I don’t think the newly published fiction should have to compete with time-tested classics.

Here is the Top Ten list.

1.  “The Old Romantic” by Louise Dean  (2010) – This novel is a wicked joy with the meanest and sharpest dialogue of the year.

 2.  “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles  (2011) – I guarantee that this most charming of novels will make you wish you were in New York City in 1937-38.

 3.  “Room” by Emma Donoghue (2010) -  What can I say that hasn’t already been said?  A five-year old boy and his mother locked in ‘Room’.

 4.  The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes (2011) – A London schoolboy grows up and learns not to trust the life story he’s been telling himself for many years.

 5.  “Swamplandia” by Karen Russell (2011) -  A delightful story of the BigTree family and their alligator wrestling amusement park in Florida. 

 6.  “We the Animals” by Justin Torres (2011) – A dramatic family story that has a visceral impact which will leave you thinking about your own family.

 7.  “Netsuke” by Rikki DuCornet (2011) –  A novella of relentless sexual obsession from the viewpoint of the guilty party.

 8.  “The Tragedy of Arthur” by Arthur Phillips (2011) – If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then this humorous novel flatters William Shakespeare..     

 9.  “In the Garden of Beasts” by Eric Larson (2011) – Not fiction, a “novelistic history”; a story of love, terror, and a United States family in Hitler’s Berlin. 

 10.  “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky” by Heidi W. Durrow (2010)  – A compelling original coming-of-age story that takes place in both Chicago and Portland.

Now as promised here are some excellent novels I read in 2011 that were first published before the year 2000.

“cloudstreet” by Tim Winton (1991) – The crowd-pleasing wild story of two Australian families, the Pickles and the Lambs, who share the same house. 

 “After Claude” by Iris Owens (1973) -  Perhaps the bitchiest novel ever written about an anti-heroine named Harriet.

 “Hard Rain Falling” by Don Carpenter (1966) – A tough realistic novel about two young guys in Portland, Oregon who are outside society, outside the law.    

 “The Vet’s Daughter” by Barbara Comyns (1959) – A unique primitive novel about the veterinarian from Hell and the rest of the family.

 “The True Deceiver” by Tove Jansson (1982) – A simple menacing novel which is like a cold dark morning in Finland.

That’s all, Folks..

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