Before we get all out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new, let’s pause for, say, 60 seconds, to talk about the best books of 2011. Oh, there were some treasures this year—books that I greedily added to my already-overflowing shelves. If you haven’t read them yet, here are the top ten 2011 titles that your year wouldn’t be complete without:
10. The Berlin Boxing Club. Every year in publishing introduces us to a new angle on the Holocaust. This book, which should be especially appealing to teenage boys, offers a parts-poignant, parts-harrowing look at the life of a teenage Jew-who-didn’t-look-like-a Jew growing up in Berlin in the 1940s. Think coming-of-age-story meets sports story meets riveting Holocaust tale.
9. Blink & Caution. Love fast-paced thrillers? Blink & Caution was this year’s best. When two damaged teens join forces, there’s sure to be drama—and maybe a little romance. Throw in a cover-up involving big bad big business, and you have all the makings of one YA title you won’t be able to put down.
8. Bluefish. Now for a horse—make that fish—of a completely different color, there’s Bluefish. I wouldn’t call this book heavily plotted; it’s more interested in the emotional journeys of its two main characters, Travis and Veleeta. What this book lacks in plot, however, it makes up for in gorgeous writing and a pretty unforgettable story about friendship.
7. Page by Paige. Skeptical about graphic novels? Page by Paige may well make you a believer. Oh, to draw like Laura Lee Gulledge! This book’s charming, whimsical, and insightful take on all issues teen angst-related makes it a title I’ll be returning to—and sharing with my friends.
6. Science Fair Season. No, you won’t find the best writing of the year in Science Fair Season, but you’ll probably find the most inspiring true stories. In this speedy nonfiction read, you’ll meet the next generation of scientists, big thinkers, and teens who care deeply about their world. From nuclear reactors to solar heaters built from discarded car radiators, these projects will amaze and move you.
5. Secrets at Sea. The year wouldn’t be complete without a nod to at least one animal story, right? In the tradition of Cinderella and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, 2011’s Secrets at Sea offers up mouse drama that’s imaginative, funny, and just plain fun. Better yet: Classic Richard Peck storytelling means you can count on a story that’s both well-plotted and delightfully written.
4. The Big Crunch. To call The Big Crunch a romance doesn’t really do this tender-but-comical book justice, but that’s really what it is: the best teen romance, in fact, of 2011. Anyone who’s experienced the flush, the awkwardness, the joys and pains of first love, will enjoy watching June and Wes’s relationship develop in this lovely book from Pete Hautman.
3. This Dark Endeavor. Even if you don’t love Frankenstein, chances are you’ll love this story about young Viktor and his desperate quest to save his dying twin brother. With its dark forests, magical creatures, and nods to the original tale, Kenneth Oppel’s latest will satisfy Harry Potter fans and classics nerds alike.
2. The Watch that Ends the Night. In 2011, Allan Wolf made me love a novel in verse. He also humanized the sinking of the Titanic—a story which always seemed merely like history, until I read his brilliant take on 24 of the thousands of souls that perished (or nearly perished) in one of the most infamous catastrophes in maritime history. This book is poetry, and storytelling, at its best.
1. What Comes After. I said it at the time of filming; I’ll say it again now. What Comes After was (and is) my favorite book of 2011. Protagonist Iris Wight’s story isn’t always an easy one. But it’s also filled with beauty, grace, and moments of the most powerful storytelling I encountered this year. I can’t wait to share this book with friends and viewers in 2012…and beyond.
Happy New Year!