This is always a promising season for readers. As leaves fall, good books pile up on your winter reading stack. But is my good your good? Most of the time when I read, I know almost immediately whether a book will represent only a pleasurable few days or something I'll want to return to again someday.
As a child, I knew what I liked to read: adventure, sea stories, space-travel tales, mysteries. And even as my tastes have broadened, my palate seems to have remained true. Although I love the wit and mood of introspective (and lyrically composed) fiction, I'm nearly always drawn to thoughtful, well-plotted books — everything from Ulysses to The Man Without Qualities, Cervantes to Murakami, and Faulkner and Hemingway and Woolf in between. Given all this, 2011's best books made me a happy reader.