So a few weeks ago, the arts editor at City Paper asked me to put together a list of the ten best books of 2011. What the heck? Who – aside from professional book reviewers, and publishing house employees – actually reads ten new books in a year? Me, apparently. Once I sat down and started really looking at the publishing dates for the books I had in mind, I realized it wasn’t that hard to put such a list together. The problem was ranking everything. Ugh.

Either way, this is what I came up with:

1 Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding (Little, Brown, and Co.)
Tea Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife (Random House)
Haruki Murakami, 1Q84 (Knopf)
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Greg Olear, Fathermucker (HarperCollins)
Ron Tanner, Kiss Me, Stranger (Ig Press)
Lawrence Douglas, The Vices (Other Press)
Jessica Anya Blau, Drinking Closer to Home (HarperCollins)
Donald Ray Pollock, The Devil All the Time (Doubleday)
Ben Tanzer, You Can Make Him Like You (Artistically Declined Press)

Now, all y’all Cobalt lovers out there probably recognize a pantload of these authors. I interviewed Jessica Blau for the first issue, Ben Tanzer in September, Greg Olear in November; and (pointless drumroll) Chad Harbach… in December. I will freely admit that some of these names are probably only on here because of Cobalt. However, the other side to that coin is that, without Cobalt, I might not have ever read some of these fantastic, well written novels. Therefore, I wholly stand by my judgment.

It’s a pretty cool list, when I look back on it. I wrote this in the first couple days of December, submitted the final list on December 6th, and it appeared last week. You’ve got Murakami’s book, which is weird and twisted and awesome, even though it’s 950 pages. Douglas’ book is about a guy who just vanishes from a cruise after finding out that his entire family history was fabricated. Tanzer and Olear have championed “dick-lit” in the past year. My list is somewhat filled with the “expected,” but what I can guarantee is that no matter who you are, you will take away something good from each of these books.

Comment below, tell me what you think of the list, and if there are other books that you might have liked to see on here.

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