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Great reads from past year

TAKE a look at the top English language books in 2011 that had people talking. They range from daring novels and intellectual arguments to deeply moving memoirs.


1.THE ANGEL ESMERALDA: Nine Stories, By Don DeLillo. (Scribner, US$24)
2.THE ART OF FIELDING, By Chad Harbach. (Little, Brown, US$25.99)
This allusive, Franzenlike first novel about a gifted but vulnerable baseball player proceeds with a handsome stateliness.

3.THE BARBARIAN NURSERIES, By Hector Tobar. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$27)

4.BIG QUESTIONS. Or, Asomatognosia: Whose Hand Is It Anyway? Written and illustrated by Anders Brekhus Nilsen. (Drawn & Quarterly, cloth, US$69.95; paper, US$44.95)In this capacious, metaphysically inclined graphic novel, a flock of finches act out Nilsen's unsettling comic vision about the food chain, fate and death.

5.THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC, By Julie Otsuka. (Knopf, US$22) Through a chorus of narrators, Otsuka unfurls the stories of Japanese women who came to America in the early 1900s to marry men they'd never met.

6.CANTI, By Giacomo Leopardi. Translated by Jonathan Galassi. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$35)
Leopardi may at last become as important to US literature as Rilke or Baudelaire.

7.THE CAT'S TABLE, By Michael Ondaatje. (Knopf, US$26)
8.CHANGO'S BEADS AND TWO-TONE SHOES, By William Kennedy. (Viking, US$26.95)
9.COME ON ALL YOU GHOSTS, By Matthew Zapruder. (Copper Canyon, paper, US$16)

10.11/22/63, By Stephen King. (Scribner, US$35)
A meditation on memory, loss, free will and necessity, King's novel sends a teacher back to 1958 by way of a time portal in a Maine diner. His assignment is to stop Lee Harvey Oswald – but first he must make sure of Oswald's guilt.

11.THE FREE WORLD, By David Bezmozgis. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$26)
12.GHOST LIGHTS, By Lydia Millet. (Norton, US$24.95)

13.THE GRIEF OF OTHERS, By Leah Hager Cohen. (Riverhead, US$26.95) Complex but fundamentally decent characters hurt one another and are hurt by forces greater than themselves as a family sinks beneath the weight of a terrible secret.

14.GRYPHON: New and Selected Stories, By Charles Baxter. (Pantheon, US$27.95)
15.HOUSE OF HOLES: A Book of Raunch, By Nicholson Baker. (Simon & Schuster, US$25)

16.THE LAST WEREWOLF, By Glen Duncan. (Knopf, US$25.95)A wry, world-weary and hyper-articulate werewolf, morally as well as physically ambiguous, is tortured by the spirits of his victims and ready to surrender to his pursuers.

17.THE LEFTOVERS, By Tom Perrotta. (St. Martin's, US$25.99)
18.LIFE ON MARS, By Tracy K. Smith. (Graywolf, paper, US$15)

19.THE LONDON TRAIN, By Tessa Hadley. (Harper Perennial, paper, US$14.99)Hadley's artfully constructed, socially realistic novel is split between two characters who react in opposite ways to their old affair.

20.LONG, LAST, HAPPY: New and Selected Stories, By Barry Hannah. (Grove, US$27.50)

21.LOST MEMORY OF SKIN, By Russell Banks. (Ecco/HarperCollins, US$25.99) This novel, about a paroled sex offender, bravely tries to find humanity in people whom society often despises.

22.THE MARRIAGE PLOT, By Jeffrey Eugenides. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$28)
23.A MOMENT IN THE SUN, By John Sayles. (McSweeney's, US$29)
24.MR. FOX, By Helen Oyeyemi. (Riverhead, US$25.95)
25.MY NEW AMERICAN LIFE, By Francine Prose. (HarperCollins, US$25.99)
26.1Q84, By Haruki Murakami. Translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel. (Knopf, US$30.50)
27.OPEN CITY, By Teju Cole. (Random House, US$25)
28.THE PALE KING: An Unfinished Novel, By David Foster Wallace. (Little, Brown, US$27.99)
29.PARALLEL STORIES, By Peter Nadas. Translated by Imre Goldstein. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$40)
30.SAY HER NAME, By Francisco Goldman. (Grove, US$24)
31.SCENES FROM VILLAGE LIFE, By Amos Oz. Translated by Nicholas de Lange. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US$22)
32.THE SENSE OF AN ENDING,By Julian Barnes. (Knopf, US$25)
33.SEVEN YEARS, By Peter Stamm. Translated by Michael Hofmann. (Other Press, paper, US$15.95)
34.SHARDS, By Ismet Prcic (Black Cat/Grove/Atlantic, paper, US$14.99)

35.SPACE, IN CHAINS, By Laura Kasischke. (Copper Canyon, paper, US$16) What may be the most ambitious, and disturbing, of Kasischke's eight books of poems strives to comprehend first and last things.

36.STONE ARABIA, By Dana Spiotta. (Scribner, US$24)
37.THE STRANGER'S CHILD, By Alan Hollinghurst. Relatives grapple with the legacy of a poet killed.
38.THE SUBMISSION, By Amy Waldman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$26)

39.SWAMPLANDIA! By Karen Russell. (Knopf, US$24.95) Russell's exuberant first novel, an expansion of her story "Ava Wrestles the Alligator," concerns the pleasures and miseries of life in a failing theme park in the Everglades.

40.TALLER WHEN PRONE: Poems, By Les Murray. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$24)
41.TEN THOUSAND SAINTS, By Eleanor Henderson. (Ecco/HarperCollins, US$26.99)
42.THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE, By Helen Schulman. (Harper/HarperCollins, US$24.99)
43.THE TIGER'S WIFE, By Tea Obreht. (Random House, US$25)
44.THE TRAGEDY OF ARTHUR, By Arthur Phillips. (Random House, US$26)
45.TRAIN DREAMS, By Denis Johnson. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$18)


46.AND SO IT GOES. Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, By Charles J. Shields. (Holt, US$30)
47.ARGUABLY: Essays, By Christopher Hitchens. (Twelve, US$30)
48.THE ART OF CRUELTY: A Reckoning, By Maggie Nelson. (Norton, US$24.95)
49.ASSASSINS OF THE TURQUOISE PALACE, By Roya Hakakian. (Grove, US$25)
50.THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY: Explanations That Transform the World, By David Deutsch. (Viking, US$30)
51.BELIEVING IS SEEING: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography, By Errol Morris. (Penguin Press, US$40)

52.THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE:Why Violence Has Declined, By Steven Pinker. (Viking, US$40) Are humans essentially good or bad? Has the past century seen moral progress or moral collapse? Pinker addresses these questions and more.

53.BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, By Gabrielle Hamilton. (Random House, US$26) This memoir by the chef at the Manhattan restaurant Prune is a story of hungers specific and vague.

54.BLUE NIGHTS, By Joan Didion. (Knopf, US$25)

55.THE BOY IN THE MOON: A Father's Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son, By Ian Brown. (St. Martin's, US$24.99) The truth Brown learns from his severely disabled child is a rare one: The life that seems to destroy you is the one you long to embrace.

56.CARAVAGGIO: A Life Sacred and Profane, By Andrew Graham-Dixon. (Norton, US$39.95)
57.CATHERINE THE GREAT: Portrait of a Woman, By Robert K. Massie. (Random House, US$35)
58.CLARENCE DARROW: Attorney for the Damned, By John A. Farrell. (Doubleday, US$32.50)
59.COCKTAIL HOUR UNDER THE TREE OF FORGETFULNESS, By Alexandra Fuller. (Penguin Press, US$25.95)
60.DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, By Candice Millard. (Doubleday, US$28.95)
61.THE ECSTASY OF INFLUENCE: Nonfictions, Etc, By Jonathan Lethem. (Doubleday, US$27.95)

62.1861: The Civil War Awakening, By Adam Goodheart. (Knopf, US$28.95) In this account of the war's first stage, Goodheart turns his lens upon fascinating figures who loomed large at the time but have now been mostly forgotten.

63.EXAMINED LIVES: From Socrates to Nietzsche, By James Miller. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$28)
64.1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, By Charles C. Mann. (Knopf, US$30.50)
65.GEORGE F. KENNAN: An American Life, By John Lewis Gaddis. (Penguin Press, US$39.95)
66.GREAT SOUL: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India, By Joseph Lelyveld. (Knopf, US$28.95)
67.HARLEM IS NOWHERE: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, By Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts. (Little, Brown, US$24.99)
68.HOLY WAR: How Vasco da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations, By Nigel Cliff. (Harper/HarperCollins, US$29.99)
69.IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, By Erik Larson. (Crown, US$26)
70.INFERNO: The World at War, 1939-1945, By Max Hastings. (Knopf, US$35)
71.THE INFORMATION: A History. A Theory. A Flood, By James Gleick. (Pantheon, US$29.95)
72.INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion, By Janet Reitman. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US$28)
73.IS THAT A FISH IN YOUR EAR? Translation and the Meaning of Everything, By David Bellos. (Faber & Faber, US$27)
74.JERUSALEM: The Biography, By Simon Sebag Montefiore. (Knopf, US$35)
75.THE KEATS BROTHERS: The Life of John and George, By Denise Gigante. (Belknap/Harvard University, US$35)
76.KNOCKING ON HEAVEN'S DOOR: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, By Lisa Randall. (Ecco/HarperCollins, US$29.99)
77.MALCOLM X: A Life of Reinvention, By Manning Marable. (Viking, US$30)
78.THE MEMORY CHALET, By Tony Judt. (Penguin Press, US$25.95)
79.MIDNIGHT RISING: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, By Tony Horwitz. (Holt, US$29)
80.MOBY-DUCK: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them, By Donovan Hohn. (Viking, US$27.95)
81.MY SONG: A Memoir, By Harry Belafonte with Michael Shnayerson. (Knopf, US$30.50)
82.THE NET DELUSION: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, By Evgeny Morozov. (PublicAffairs, US$27.95)
83.ONE DAY I WILL WRITE ABOUT THIS PLACE: A Memoir, By Binyavanga Wainaina. (Graywolf, US$24)

84.THE ORIGINS OF POLITICAL ORDER: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, By Francis Fukuyama. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$35) What countries are capable of "getting to Denmark"? Fukuyama's answer emphasizes the role of contingency.

85.PAULINE KAEL: A Life in the Dark, By Brian Kellow. (Viking, US$27.95)
86.PULPHEAD, By John Jeremiah Sullivan. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, paper, US$16)
87.THE QUEST: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, By Daniel Yergin. (Penguin Press, US$37.95)
88.RIGHTS GONE WRONG: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for Equality, By Richard Thompson Ford. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$27)
89.RIN TIN TIN: The Life and the Legend, By Susan Orlean. (Simon & Schuster, US$26.99)
90.A Memoir, By Joshua Cody. (Norton, US$24.95)

91.THE STORM OF WAR: A New History of the Second World War, By Andrew Roberts. (Harper/HarperCollins, US$29.99) In a clear, accessible account of the war in all its theaters, Roberts asks how the Wehrmacht, the best fighting force, wound up losing.

92.THE SWERVE: How the World Became Modern, By Stephen Greenblatt. (Norton, US$26.95)
93.THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, By Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$30)
94.TO A MOUNTAIN IN TIBET, By Colin Thubron. (Harper/HarperCollins, US$24.99)
95.TO END ALL WARS: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, By Adam Hochschild. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US$28)
96.A TRAIN IN WINTER: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France, By Caroline Moorehead. (Harper/HarperCollins, US$27.99)
97.VAN GOGH: The Life, By Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. (Random House, US$40)
98.WHO'S AFRAID OF POSTBLACKNESS? What It Means to Be Black Now, By Toure. (Free Press, US$25)
99.WHY THE WEST RULES – FOR NOW: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future, By Ian Morris. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US$35)
100.A WORLD ON FIRE: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War, By Amanda Foreman. (Random House, US$35)


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