The critics had their say. Now Jeffrey Eugenides, Ann Patchett and 50 more authors share their top reads with Salon.
By Emma Mustich
All month, the critics will have their say on 2011′s best books. Our Laura Miller selected her top fiction and nonfiction earlier this week.
But every year we also poll some of our favorite writers of the year and ask them to play critic. They have to answer the simple but agonizing question: What was the best book published this year?
The more than 50 responses we received — from Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners as well as big-time bestsellers — chronicle a thriving, eventful year in the life of the literary culture, and will likely point you toward more than a few titles you haven’t read (or maybe haven’t even heard of). Some of the most popular selections on our list haven’t shown up on many others, including Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams” and Alan Heathcock’s story collection “Volt.” (Another book popular with critics, Chad Harbach’s “The Art of Fielding,” was surprising in its absence here.)
But whether it’s the reissue of an obscure Hungarian tale (recommended by Arthur Phillips) or one of the year’s major, blockbuster releases (e.g., George R.R. Martin’s “A Dance With Dragons”), we hope you’ll find something here to enjoy over the holidays and through the coming year.