So here is my Top 10 of 2011, as with the YA rundown, they aren't books necessarily published this year just books I discovered this year. I'd love to hear from others of the best books they've discovered this year or whether you've enjoyed the same books as me. Click on the title to see the full review.
10. The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (2010)
A close battle between this and The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht, both on the Orange shortlist this year, but ultimately I found this to be more readable with a better ending. Very emotional story set in Freetown, Sierra Leone, as it attempts to rebuild itself after the civil war. Forna weaves lots of stories together in a moving yet pacy novel.
9. A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel (1992)
A complicated, historical epic about the French Revolution focusing on three of the main players: Camille Desmoulins, Georges-Jacques Danton and Maximilien Robespierre. The brutality of the period is brought to life as the lives of the three complex, fascinating men are explored. A bit of a project as it gets packed with names and politics but well worth the challenge.
8. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman (2011)
An emotional novel about Harri, a Ghanian little boy growing up in central London and becoming involved with a knife crime incident in his neighbourhood. It is by turns uplifting and crushing as Harri tries to navigate the brutal life he finds himself in the middle of but does so with charm and humour.
7. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011)
A beautiful looking book with a melancholic, careful story inside. The winner of the Man Booker Prize is a contemplative and literary look at life and memory as Tony reflects back on his school days, friendships and his first romantic relationship with the complicated Veronica.
6. One of our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde (2011)
The next excellent installment in the Thursday Next series. It's worth reading this series in order as this won't make much sense without some background knowledge so start with The Eyre Affair. The book follows the written Thursday Next trying to track down the real Thursday amidst the threat of war between Racy Novel and Women's Fiction. Complex, funny and clever and packed with literary jokes and puns.
5. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
I read four novels by Ishiguro this year and this is the first of two on the list. I am constantly in awe of his talent for language and story and I have enjoyed everything he has written. This is the lovely story of the butler Stevens and his meandering thoughts on loyalty, dignity and being a butler. Beautifully written and both gently humourous and wonderfully melancholy.
4. Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (2011)
A superb historical seafaring adventure for grownups. Jaffy is employed by Jamrach to look after the exotic animals in his menagerie which turns into an adventure to try and find a dragon for an eccentric millionaire. Superb characterisation and a story that is interesting, strange, dark and wonderful.
3. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro (1995)
One of the strangest and yet most amazing books I have ever read. Bizarre and dreamlike from the outset, Ishiguro really challenges what a novel is suppose to be. There is not a big reveal that explains the weirdness, just a literary meander through the amazing things a talented writer can do with words.
2. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt (2011)
My personal choice for the Man Booker Prize, this is a darkly funny Western that follows the brothers and assassins, Eli and Charlie Sisters. Quirky without being weird with a superb first person narrative in Eli who is one of the best characters and narrators I have recently encountered in fiction.
1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011)
I just loved this book; magical, quirky and beautiful. The circus arrives and leaves mysteriously and contains wonders that teeter on the edge of possibility. A wonderful cast of characters surrounding the entrancing central relationship between Celia and Marco who have been pitted against each other in a war of magic outside their control. I didn't know whether to devour it all at once or spread it out and make it last as longa s possible.