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The Best Books Of 2011: The Complete List

Nov 20, 2011

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Use the list below to browse NPR's Best Books Of 2011 recommendations. Each critic's list is presented separately. Click on the article names to read our critics' comments about the books.


Staff Picks: The Best Music Books Of 2011
by NPR Staff

Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years In New York That Changed Music Forever, by Will Hermes, hardcover, 368 pages, Farrar Straus & Giroux, list price: $30

Alex Steinweiss: The Inventor Of The Modern Album Cover, by Kevin Reagan and Steven Heller, hardcover, 416 pages, Taschen America Llc, list price: $69.99

The Chitlin' Circuit And The Road to Rock 'n' Roll, by Preston Lauterbach, hardcover, 338 pages, W W Norton & Co Inc, list price: $26.95

Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction To Its Own Past, by Simon Reynolds, paperback, 458 pages, Farrar Straus & Giroux, list price: $18

Le Freak An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, And Destiny, by Nile Rodgers, hardcover, 318 pages, Random House Inc, list price: $27

Out Of The Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis On Rock Music, by Nona Willis Aronowitz, paperback, 232 pages, Univ. of Minnesota Press, list price: $22.95

Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years Of The Last Great Record Label, by Bill Adler, Dan Charnas and Lyor Cohen, hardcover, 311 pages, Random House Inc, list price: $60

Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music, by Rob Young, paperback, 664 pages, Farrar Straus & Giroux, list price: $25

Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry, by Clark Terry and Gwen Terry, hardcover, 322 pages, Univ. of California Press, list price: $34.95

Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries, by Jon Kristiansen and Tara G. Warrior, Hardcover, 720 pages, Pgw, list price: $39.95

I Want My MTV The Uncensored Story Of The Music Video Revolution, by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, hardcover, 608 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $29.95

Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History Of Grunge, by Mark Yarm, hardcover, 567 pages, Random House Inc, list price: $25


Truth And Beauty: 2011's Best American Poetry
by David Orr

What It Is Like: New And Selected Poems, by Charles North, paperback, 302 pages, Consortium Book Sales & Dist, list price: $20

Voyager, by Srikanth Reddy, paperback, 129 pages, Univ. of California Press, list price: $22.95

The Needle: Poems, by Jennifer Grotz, hardcover, 66 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, list price: $23

Traveler, by Devin Johnston, hardcover, 67 pages, Farrar Straus & Giroux, list price: $23

Groundwork, by Amanda Jernigan and John Haney, paperback, 61 pages, Consortium Book Sales & Dist, list price: $14.95


Indulge Yourself: 2011's Best Celebrity Tell-Alls
by Susan Jane Gilman

Does The Noise In My Head Bother You? A Rock 'N' Roll Memoir, by Steven Tyler and David Dalton, paperback, 593 pages, HarperCollins, list price: $27.99

Concierge Confidential, by Michael Fazio and Michael Malice, hardcover, 271 pages, St Martins Press, list price: $24.99

Happy Accidents, by Jane Lynch, hardcover, 304 pages, Hyperion Books, list price: $25.99

Stuntman! My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life, by Hal Needham, hardcover, 307 pages, Little Brown & Company, list price: $25.99

Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography, by Rob Lowe, hardcover, 308 pages, Henry Holt & Company, list price: $26


Six Graphic Novels That Will Draw You In
Recommended by Dan Kois

Habibi, by Craig Thompson, hardcover, 655 pages, Random House, list price: $35

Pinocchio, by Winshluss, hardcover, 187 pages, Scb Distributors, list price: $29.95

Who Is Jake Ellis? 1, by Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic, paperback, 136 pages, Diamond Comic Distributors, list price: $16.99

Of Lamb, by Matthea Harvey and Amy Jean Porter, hardcover, 1 v. (unpaged), McSweeney's, list price: $22

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki and Jocelyne Allen, paperback, 368 pages, Drawn and Quarterly, list price: $24.95

Troop 142, by Mike Dawson, paperback, 268 pages, Secret Acres, list price: $20


The Lives Of Geniuses: Five Brilliant Biographies
Recommended by Michael Schaub

James Madison, by Richard Brookhiser, hardcover, 287 pages, Perseus Books Group, list price: $26.99

Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, hardcover, 953 pages, Random House, list price: $40

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale Of Love & Fallout, by Lauren Redniss, hardcover, 208 pages, Harpercollins, list price: $29.99

And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, by Charles J. Shields, hardcover, 513 pages, Henry Holt & Company, list price: $30

Steve Jobs: A Biography, by Walter Isaacson, hardcover, 630 pages, Simon & Schuster, list price: $35


The Teens Are All Right: 2011's Top 5 YA Novels
Recommended by Marissa Meyer

Anna Dressed In Blood, by Kendare Blake, hardcover, 316 pages, St. Martins Press, list price: $17.99

Divergent, by Veronica Roth, hardcover, 487 pages, Harpercollins Children's Books, list price: $17.99

So Silver Bright, by Lisa Mantchev, paperback, 384 pages, Feiwel & Friends, list price: $9.99

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, hardcover, 409 pages, Scholastic, list price: $17.99

Ashfall, by Mike Mullin, hardcover, 466 pages, Tanglewood Press, list price: $16.95


Fired Up: The Year's Best Science Fiction, Fantasy
Recommended by Lev Grossman

A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, hardcover, 1016 pages, Random House, list price: $35

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente, paperback, 272 pages, Feiwel & Friends, list price: $6.99

Rule 34, by Charles Stross, hardcover, 358 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $25.95

The Heroes, by Joe Abercrombie, paperback, 559 pages, Little, Brown & Co, list price: $14.99

Delirium, by Lauren Oliver, hardcover, 480 pages, HarperCollins Childrens Books, list price: $17.99


A Passion For The Past: 2011's Best Historical Fiction
Recommended by Sharon Penman

Elizabeth I, by Margaret George, hardcover, 671 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $30

The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman, hardcover, 504 pages, Simon & Schuster, list price: $27.99

Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks, hardcover, 306 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $26.95

Death Of Kings, by Bernard Cornwell, hardcover, 336 pages, HarperCollins, list price: $27.99

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, hardcover, 320 pages, Random House, list price: $25


Year-End Wrap-Up: The 10 Best Novels Of 2011
Recommended by Maureen Corrigan

Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell, paperback, 400 pages, Random House, list price: $14.95

Open City, by Teju Cole, hardcover, 259 pages, Random House, list price: $25

The Submission, by Amy Waldman, hardcover, 299 pages, Farrar Straus & Giroux, list price: $26

The Art Of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, hardcover, 512 pages, Little Brown & Co, list price: $25.99

The Illumination, by Kevin Brockmeier, hardcover, 257 pages, Random House, list price: $24.95

The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta, hardcover, 355 pages, St Martins Press, list price: $25.99

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides, hardcover, 406 pages, Farrar Straus & Giroux, list price: $28

State Of Wonder, by Ann Patchett, hardcover, 353 pages, HarperCollins, list price: $26.99

Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson, hardcover, 116 pages, Farrar Straus & Giroux, list price: $18

The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel, by David Foster Wallace, hardcover, 548 pages, Little Brown & Co, list price: $27.99

... And Two Nonfiction Titles You Shouldn't Miss

In the on-air version of her year-end list, Maureen Corrigan also included two nonfiction recommendations:

To End All Wars: A Story Of Loyalty And Rebellion, 1914-1918, by Adam Hochschild, hardcover, 480 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, list price: $28

The Swerve: How The World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt, hardcover, 320 pages, W.W. Norton & Company, list price: $26.95


7 Books With Personality: Nancy Pearl's 2011 Picks
Recommended by Nancy Pearl

In Zanesville: A Novel, by Jo Ann Beard, hardcover, 289 pages, Little, Brown & Co., list price: $23.99

A World On Fire: Britain's Crucial Role In The American Civil War, by Amanda Foreman, hardcover, 958 pages, Random House, list price: $35

Blind Sight, by Meg Howrey, hardcover, 289 pages, Random House, list price: $24.95

The Summer Of The Bear, by Bella Pollen, hardcover, 448 pages, PGW, list price: $24

By George: A Novel, by Wesley Stace, paperback, 383 pages, Little, Brown & Co., list price: $14.99

Vaclav & Lena, by Haley Tanner, hardcover, 292 pages, Random House, list price: $25

Down The Mysterly River, by Bill Willingham, hardcover, 336 pages, Starscape, list price: $15.99


Booksellers' Picks: Catch The Year's Freshest Reads
Recommended by Lucia Silva, Portrait of a Bookstore

A Christmas Tree For Pyn, by Olivier Dunrea, hardcover, 32 pages, Philomel, list price: $16.99

The Toaster Project: Or A Heroic Attempt To Build A Simple Electric Appliance From Scratch, by Thomas Thwaites, paperback, 191 pages, Chronicle Books LLC., list price: $19.95

Unpacking My Library: Writers And Their Books, by Leah Price, hardcover, 201 pages, Yale University Press, list price: $20

Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection Of Odd Things Lost Between The Pages, by Michael Popek, hardcover, 182 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $18.95

How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, by Christopher Boucher, paperback, 239 pages, Random House, list price: $15

Recommended by Rona Brinlee, The Book Mark

Birds Of Paradise, by Diana Abu-Jaber, paperback, 368 pages, WW Norton & Co., list price: $15.95

The Girl Who Would Speak For The Dead, by Paul Elwork, hardcover, 308 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $24.95

A Good Hard Look, by Ann Napolitano, hardcover, 326 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $25.95

On Canaan's Side, by Sebastian Barry, hardcover, 256 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $25.95

Pasta By Design, by George L. Legendre, hardcover, 208 pages, WW Norton & Co., list price: $29.95

Rules Of Civility, by Amor Towles, hardcover, 335 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $26.95

Recommended by Daniel Goldin, Boswell Books

American Boy, by Larry Watson, hardcover, 251 pages, Milkweed Editions, list price: $24

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann, hardcover, 390 pages, Simon & Schuster, list price: $16.99

Gimbels Has It!, by Michael J. Lisicky, paperback, 157 pages, History Press, list price: $19.99

The White Woman On The Green Bicycle, by Monique Roffey, paperback, 439 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $16

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, by Simon Garfield, hardcover, 356 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $27.50

This Burns My Heart, by Samuel Park, hardcover, 310 pages, Simon & Schuster, list price: $25


Top 5 Books For Backseat Readers (Age 9 And Up)
Recommended by Michele Norris

Heart And Soul:The Story Of America And African Americans, by Kadir Nelson, hardcover, 108 pages, Harpercollins Childrens Books, list price: $19.99

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente, paperback, 272 pages, Feiwel & Friends, list price: $6.99

The Secret History Of Balls: The Stories Behind The Things We Love To Catch, Whack, Throw, Kick, Bounce, And Bat, by Josh Chetwynd and Emily Stackhouse, paperback, 221 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $13.95

Drawing From Memory, by Allen Say, hardcover, 63 pages, Scholastic, list price: $17.99

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, by Brenda Woods, hardcover, 137 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $16.99

Honorable Mentions:

Tall Story, by Candy Gourlay, hardcover, 293 pages, Random House Childrens Books, list price: $16.99

Jefferson's Sons: A Founding Father's Secret Children, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, hardcover, 360, [4] p., Penguin Group USA, list price: $17.99

Inside Out & Back Again, hardcover, 262 pages, Harpercollins Childrens Books, list price: $15.99

The Unforgotten Coat, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, hardcover, 112 pages, Gardners Books, list price: $17

The Romeo And Juliet Code, by Phoebe Stone, paperback, 304 pages, Scholastic Paperbacks, list price: $6.99


Conversation Starters: 2011's Top 5 Book Club Picks
Recommended by Lynn Neary

State Of Wonder, by Ann Patchett, hardcover, 353 pages, HarperCollins, list price: $26.99

The Sense Of An Ending, by Julian Barnes, hardcover, 150 pages, Random House, list price: $23.95

We The Animals, by Justin Torres, hardcover, 128 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, list price: $18

Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks, hardcover, 306 pages, Penguin Group USA, list price: $26.95

The Sojourn, by Andrew Krivak, paperback, 191 pages, Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, list price: $14.95


From Tiny To Tome, The Best Gift Books Of 2011
Recommended by John McAlley

The New York Times Magazine Photographs, by Kathy Ryan, hardcover, 448 pages, Aperture Foundation, list price: $75

Harry Potter Page To Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey, by Bob McCabe, hardcover, 540 pages, Harper Design International, list price: $75

Life Upon These Shores: Looking At African American History, 1513-2008, by Henry Louis Gates, hardcover, 512 pages, Knopf, list price: $50

The Art Museum, by Phaidon Press, hardcover, 992 pages, Phaidon Press, list price: $200

The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology Of Humor From Mark Twain To The Onion, by Andy Borowitz, hardcover, 461 pages, Penguin Group, list price: $27.95

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, by Andrew Bolton and Susannah Frankel, hardcover, 240 pages, Yale University Press, list price: $45

Pilgrimage, by Annie Leibovitz and Doris Kearns Goodwin, hardcover, 244 pages, Random House, list price: $50

Theodore Gray's Elements Vault: Treasures Of The Periodic Table With 20 Removable Archival Documents, A Model Pop-Up Atom, A Poster, Plus 10 Real Elements Including Pure Gold! by Theodore Gray and Nick Mann, hardcover, 128 pages, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, list price: $39.95

The Art Of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse To The Magic Kingdoms And Beyond, by Christopher Finch and John Lasseter, hardcover, 503 pages, Harry N Abrams Inc, list price: $85

The American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, hardcover, 2112 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, list price: $60


Plot Driven: Alan Cheuse's Top 5 Fiction Picks
Recommended by Alan Cheuse

The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht, paperback, 337 pages, Random House, list price: $15

The Art Of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, hardcover, 512 pages, Little, Brown & Co., list price: $25.99

Once Upon A River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell, hardcover, 348 pages, WW Norton & Co., list price: $25.95

1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, hardcover, 925 pages, Random House, list price: $30.50

The Night Eternal, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, hardcover, 384 pages, HarperCollins, list price: $26.99


Sherlockian Mysteries That Will Keep You Tied Up
Recommended by Maureen Corrigan

The House Of Silk, by Anthony Horowitz, hardcover, 294 pages, Little, Brown & Co., list price: $27.99

On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art Of Storytelling, by Michael Dirda, hardcover, 210 pages, Princeton University Press, list price: $19.95

Ghost Hero, by S.J. Rozan, hardcover, 325 pages, St. Martins Press, list price: $25.99

The End Of The Wasp Season, by Denise Mina, hardcover, 390 pages, Little, Brown & Co., list price: $25.99

A Drop Of The Hard Stuff, by Lawrence Block, hardcover, 319 pages, Little, Brown & Co., list price: $25.99


2011's Best Cookbooks: Revenge Of The Kitchen Nerds
Recommended by T. Susan Chang

Cook This Now, by Melissa Clark, hardcover, 396 pages, Hyperion Books, list price: $29.99

The Food Of Spain, by Claudia Roden, hardcover, 609 pages, HarperCollins, list price: $45

All About Roasting, by Molly Stevens, hardcover, 573 pages, WW Norton & Co., list price: $35

The Food52 Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, hardcover, 440 pages, HarperCollins, list price: $35

What Chefs Feed Their Kids, by Fanae Aaron, hardcover, 211 pages, Globe Pequot Press, list price: $24.95

The Country Cooking Of Italy, by Colman Andrews, hardcover, 392 pages, Chronicle Books LLC, list price: $50

Lidia's Italy In America, by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, hardcover, 359 pages, Random House, list price: $35

The Food Of Morocco, by Paula Wolfert, hardcover, 517 pages, HarperCollins, list price: $45

Ruhlman's Twenty, by Michael Ruhlman, hardcover, 367 pages, Chronicle Books LLC, list price: $40

American Flavor, by Andrew Carmellini, hardcover, 323 pages, HarperCollins, list price: $34.99

The Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book, by Judy Rosenberg, paperback, 418 pages, Workman Pub Co., list price: $15.95


What Sticks: Five 2011 Books That Stay With You
Recommended by Heller McAlpin

The Sense Of An Ending, by Julian Barnes, hardcover, 150 pages, Random House, list price: $23.95

There But For The, by Ali Smith, hardcover, 236 pages, Random House, list price: $25

Blue Nights, by Joan Didion, hardcover, 188 pages, Random House, list price: $25

The Art Of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, hardcover, 512 pages, Little, Brown & Co., list price: $25.99

Moby-Duck, by Donovan Hohn, hardcover, 402 pages, Penguin Group, list price: $27.95

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