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I’ve been planning a year-end favorite books list, and that happens to be YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday topic this week. I’m separating my list into two sections, because I haven’t read and loved that many books that were published in 2011. I’m including favorite non-2011 books I’ve read this year too. These are in no particular order, they’re not just young adult, and I’ve probably forgotten a ton. Anyway, here we go:

Published in 2011:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor. This was a Forever Young Adult book club selection, and man am I glad they chose it! This book had exotic locales, intricate world-building, a badass heroine, and a new book boyfriend for me. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, because she ended the book with a huge cliffhanger.

Divergent – Veronica Roth. I was so impressed by this debut novel. Most of the things I said about Daughter of Smoke and Bone apply here as well. Great characters and world-building, fast-paced, plot-driven, and just all-around fantastic.

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What Happened to Goodbye – Sarah Dessen. I love Sarah Dessen’s writing, and this book did not disappoint. Her characters are always so real, and that’s refreshing in a genre full of dystopias, impossibly rich girls, supernatural beings, etc.


The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson. Speaking of supernatural beings, Maureen Johnson’s latest is a thriller set in a present-day London gripped by copycat Jack the Ripper murders. Maureen Johnson’s books always start a little slow for me, but I’m totally hooked by the end.

New to me:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green and David Levithan. Good Lord. This book made me laugh and cry and insist that everyone I know read it. It made me go on a John Green-reading spree. It eventually made me a nerdfighter. Read. This. Book!

Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta. This book is super confusing at first, and as the mystery unravels, you find yourself never wanting it to end. I gobbled up a bunch of Melina Marchetta’s books after I read this. It’s a shame she isn’t more widely-known here in the US.

Little Bee – Chris Cleave. This came highly recommended by several of my friends. Chris Cleave writes in two distinct female voices here, and his prose is beautiful. A fantastic novel with numerous plot twists, this book really stuck with me long after I finished it.

Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins. I read this while in Paris over Thanksgiving (how fitting!). I was struggling through writing my NaNo novel for adults, and this delightful book reminded me why I love the YA genre so much.

This is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Topper. Hilarious and heartbreaking. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys funny, contemporary family drama. Also, one of the best covers I’ve seen this year (which is the reason I picked this up in the first place).

The Likeness – Tana French. I enjoyed In the Woods, but this sequel seemed much stronger to me. It has been compared to another of my favorites, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and like that novel, I wanted to inhabit French’s book.

Flowers from the Storm – Laura Kinsale. So, my mother suggested I read this, and as an equal-opportunity reader, I did. This is one of the most unconventional romance novels I’ve ever read. A couple of my friends have also read and loved it. Give it a chance… you will be surprised.

What did you love reading this year?

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Top Ten Albums of 2011

You know what December means, besides reading schmaltzy Christmas books?  It’s Top Ten time!  Without further ado…

Yuck

10.  Yuck – Yuck
It’s 1993 again, you guys, except no homework!
Favorite songs: “Georgia,” “The Wall,” “Sunday”

Bobby Long

9. A Winter Tale – Bobby Long
Whatever – I’m not ashamed.
Favorite songs: “In the Frost,” “Two Years Old,” “Being a Mockingbird”

Bright Eyes

8. The People’s Key – Bright Eyes
Conor Oberst goes mainstream (with the my favorite crazy ramblings – paaaahmagranate).
Favorite Songs: “Jejune Stars,” “Shell Games,” “Triple Spiral”

Explosions in the Sky

7.  Take Care, Take Care, Take Care – Explosions in the Sky
I think this may be my favorite work of theirs so far; it feels the most warm to me.
Favorite songs: “Trembling Hands,” “Postcard from 1952,” “Last Known Surroundings”

Bon Iver

6.  Bon Iver – Bon Iver
I can even forgive the song that sounds like bad* Phil Collins, because the rest is so good.
Favorite songs: “Holocene,” “Towers,” “Calgary”

The Decemberists

5.  The King is Dead – The Decemberists
The Decemberists are back on form, and thank God.  Best ballad-writing of the year!
Favorite Songs: “January Hymn,” “Calamity Song,” “June Hymn”

Mates of State

4.  Mountaintops – Mates of State
Because everyone needs a little glee in their lives, and I’m not talking about the TV show.  Best singalong of the year!
Favorite songs: “Maracas,” “Palomino,” “Change,” “Desire”

Fleet Foxes

3.  Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
I want to curl up in front of a fire with Robin Pecknold’s voice.  Best harmonies of the year!
Favorite songs: “Helplessness Blues,” “Battery Kinzie,” “Grown Ocean,” “Montezuma,” “Lorelai”

Gruff Rhys

2.  Hotel Shampoo – Gruff Rhys
Gruff’s most sophisticated solo album yet, and its inclusion here is hardly surprising.  Best lounge rock of the year!
Favorite Songs: “Vitamin K,” “Honey All Over,” “Christopher Columbus,” “At the Heart of Love,” “Follow the Sunflower Trail (Theme Tune for a National Strike) [bonus track]”

The Vaccines

1.  What Did You Expect from the Vaccines – The Vaccines
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!  Album of the year!
Favorite songs:  Pretty much all of them, but especially “Post Break-Up Sex,” “Wetsuit,” “If You Wanna,” “A Lack of Understanding,” “All in White”

And here is a bit more:

Best songs from albums on the cusp:
“Weekend” from Dye it Blonde by Smith Westerns
“Heart in your Heartbreak” from Belong by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
“Dig a Little Deeper” from Gimme Some by Peter Bjorn & John

Biggest disappointments:
Burst Apart – The Antlers
Kaputt – Destroyer

Embarrassingly Small List of Concerts I Attended (or, as my husband puts it, Wow, We Were Lame This Year)
(this may be the strangest list ever)
The Antlers
Bobby Long
Usher
Journey
Lil Wayne
Morrissey

Please feel free to share your top tens or favorites from this year in the comments.  I’d love to see what you thought of this year’s music!

*Not all Phil Collins is bad… you do know this, right?  Don’t make me break out “Take Me Home” on you.

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