The New York Times Names the Ten Best Books of 2011

FICTION
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
11/22/63 by Stephen King
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

NONFICTION
Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens
The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand his Extraordinary Son by Ian Brown
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman

Click here to see the list with links to reviews on The New York Times’ website, or check out their list of the 100 Notable Books of 2011.

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Featured Author: Tana French

Irish novelist Tana French made a huge impact on the mystery-loving community with her first novel, In the Woods, which came out in 2007 and won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.  Her newest, the recently-released Faithful Place, reaffirms what The Likeness already demonstrated–that French is no one-hit wonder.  Her books are equal parts psychological character study, police procedural, and finely-tuned, impeccably-written literary novel.

In the Woods

Dublin homicide squad detective Rob Ryan is sent out to investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl whose body has been found on the site of an archaeological dig.  The case, however, has a personal element for Rob: the dig is located in a wooded area where, twenty years before, two of his best friends went missing.  Young Rob was found with his shoes full of blood and no memory of what had happened; his friends were never found.  Not only does Rob want to find the young girl’s murderer, but he also hopes that solving the case will shed light on the disappearance of his childhood friends.

The Likeness

Detective Cassie Maddox, Rob Ryan’s partner during the events of In the Woods, now works in the domestic violence department of the Dublin police.  She’s called to the scene of a murder, however, because the murdered girl–inexplicably–looks exactly like Cassie.  What’s even stranger is that her ID lists her name as Lexie Madison, which was one of Cassie’s former undercover identities.  Since the girl’s roommates–a tightly knit and slightly mysterious group–think that Lexie has been assaulted but not killed, the police send Cassie to infiltrate their inner circle and find out both the truth about Lexie’s identity and that of her killer.

Faithful Place

Frank Mackey, the head of undercover operations for the Dublin police, left his home in Faithful Place more than twenty years ago on the same night he and his girlfriend–Rosie Daly–planned to run away together to London.  Rosie never turned up at their meeting place, and, heartbroken, Frank assumed she had left for England without him.  Now, however, a body has been found behind a fireplace in a derelict building in Faithful Place.  Frank returns to the neighborhood and the family he swore he would never see again to try to find out what really happened to Rosie all those years ago.

Staff Pick – The Millennium Trilogy

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
Staff Pick
Chosen by Karen H., Technical Services Asst.

Looking for a good crime novel set in a foreign land? A thriller in which the worst criminal is difficult to identify? With a touch of dysfunctional family mixed in with a love story, fluctuating levels of morality, and a foreign legal system vulnerable to computer hacking?

Then jump into the world of Lisbeth Salander, the focal point of Stieg Larsson‘s Millennium Trilogy, set in modern-day Sweden. The author penned the titles in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (released in May) before his death in 2004. The titles have been internationally successful with, of course, films eventually to be released in America.

Larsson, a Swedish journalist, allows Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative reporter, to guide the moral compass in the trilogy, suggesting an autobiographical element to fast-paced events in a series which must be read in order. Without giving away the plot or the unique characters, for they are what propel the story, the reads are not for the faint of heart.

Lisbeth has lived a sad, institutionalized life with unfortunate contacts with the Swedish child-care system. She is a brilliant, computer-savvy 20-year-old who bumps into a long string of mostly undesirable characters. Along the way she has learned to suspect people before she accepts them and slowly finds a few she can trust. Somehow she survives, but not without a few scars and a little flinching by this reader.

The exposé of society’s underbelly, the back rooms and bedrooms become part of Larsson’s scenes of crime. The author provides no safe ground for the reader in this intriguing but anxiety-filled, unfamiliar society. The Millennium Trilogy is a roller-coaster ride on which the reader definitely wants to continue. Enjoy the trip!

Featured Author: Mary Roach

Mary Roach is a science writer known for tackling conventional topics in an unconventional, quirky, and humorous way.  Her research often focuses on how and why scientists study what they do, and she always seems to be on the lookout for a quirky fact, an obscure reference, or an amusing anecdote.  All of these are presented, of course, with the utmost hilarity.  Her newest book is Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

What happens to our bodies in zero gravity?  How do astronauts go to the bathroom?  How do astronauts manage to get along with one another–and avoid going insane–in such confined spaces for weeks or months on end?  Whatever happened to the chimps who were the first “Americans” in space?  These are the important aspects of space travel explored by Roach in her newest book.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Roach made a splash with her first book, which examined what happens to us when we die.  Specifically, what happens to our bodies?  Roach takes a look at human cadavers as used in all forms of research, from medical students’ gross anatomy classes, to cadavers used as crash test dummies, to cadavers being used for plastic surgeons and morticians in training to learn their trades.

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

In Spook, Roach examines another aspect of what happens to us after we die–the afterlife.  Does the soul have weight?  What exactly is “ectoplasm” made of?  Ever eager to join in on the research, she even attends a psychic training school in England and accompanies a group setting out to make audio recordings of the ghosts of members of the Donner party.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

Bonk is Roach’s irreverent take on sex and sex researchers.  Many of the more interesting aspects of the book focus on animals–such as the quest of Danish scientists to determine whether orgasms make female pigs more fertile, and the vital question of why Viagra doesn’t work for pandas.

New York Times Best Seller Lists 8/25-8/30

HARDCOVER FICTION

1. SMOKE SCREEN, by Sandra Brown
2. THE BOURNE SANCTION, by Eric Van Lustbader
3. ACHERON, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
4. THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
5. MOSCOW RULES, by Daniel Silva