It varies year to year whether it is difficult to come up with the ten ‘best books’ read in one year, or whether you can limit it to ten. Some years, you keep a list as the year goes on and what you thought would be on the list ends up dropping off as it is measured against others you read afterward. Some years you can’t get to ten; some years you plead with your colleagues to do their fifteen or twenty so you don’t look as if you’re the only one who can’t whittle their list. And some years everyone else has a book you loved on their list but you don't and it takes a while to figure out that it was on your last list because you read it early (that's why the Urban Waite wasn't on my list, or Winslow's Satori - they was on my 2010 list)... CRIMINY! Who knew bookselling could be so arduous!
Here, then, is my list of Best of 2011 in the rough order in which they were read – with one exception at the end:
Mike Lawson, House Divided (Atlantic Monthly)
Lawrence Block, A Drop of the Hard Stuff (Mulholland)
Daniel Woodrell, The Outlaw Album (Little Brown)
Scott Phillips, The Adjustment (Counterpoint)
Carol O’Connell, The Chalk Girl (Putnam)
Garry Disher, Wyatt (Soho)
Jeff Guinn, The Last Gunfight (Simon & Schuster)
George Pelecanos, The Cut (LittleBrown)
Lee Child, The Affair (Delacorte)
Thomas H. Cook, The Quest for Anna Klein (HMH)
John Connolly – all of his Charlie Parker books (it was a great way to spend the Fall!)
I said back in June that this would be the best book of the year and I can now report that my claim then held true –
Best Book of 2011: Peter Spiegelman, Thick as Thieves (Knopf)
Book I am most looking forward to in 2012: Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, coming out next June.