I confess that I love reading these recap posts in magazines and on other people’s blogs. So even though I usually feel as though I’ve copped out when I write one, I figure they’re fun to read and fun to write and and fun to disagree with. And with that prelude out of the way, I give you my personal Best of 2011.
I’ve made it through 119 books this year; while that number may seem as though I’m slacking, I assure you that fully 2/3rds of those were over 500 pages. At least 20% of them were over 800 pages. It was the Year Of The Doorstopper. Picking the absolute best from among a particularly crowded field isn’t easy. There were fun reads, cerebral reads and escapist reads. Books with wry wit and swashbuckling action.
As I pondered it, I realised there was one book which had all of those tied up in a Red Orm Bow. That’s why my Best Book of 2011 is
The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson.
I’ve read many series that started out as trilogies and are now into their fifth, sixth and seventh volumes. By the end of the year only three series which started as trilogies ended as the three-volume epics their author promised. Of those the best by far was
Acacia by David Anthony Durham.
Best Fantasy Novel (Tie)
If you were a fantasy reader this year there was a 90% chance that you were waiting eagerly for new books from Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin. There was a further 60% chance that you were bitterly disappointed.
I am not one of the disappointed ones. I found both A Dance With Dragonsand The Wise Man’s Fear to be excellent examples of what I look for in Speculative Fiction. Granted, what I look for seems to sometimes veer wildly from those things that others crave. I enjoy long and patient looks around a new world with such people in it, as long as the tour guide is a competent one. Both of these men–Rothfuss and Martin–are some of the most imaginative, tuned-in writers I’ve ever read.
Best Out-and-out Good Time
People mock Dan Brown and his ilk for writing fast-paced thrillers strewn with intriguing facts that are fun to read. Granted, Brown tended to get awfully proud of himself there, and once folks were wise to his schtick he tarnished pretty quickly. And he can’t write nuance any better than my dog Gob. But if you want to shut down large sections of your brain and still read–in the hospital, on the beach–his type of book is not a bad option.
Then along comes Ernest Cline with Ready Player One. All of a sudden we have a book that has all the zippy clue-hopping of Dan Brown without the snotty Freemason in-jokes. Anybody who grew up Geek in the 80s will soak this book up like Jolt Cola.
I’ll admit right now that I’m not naturally inclined to step out into trying new music. While that’s true, I promise that my best album of the year would have still been my top pick even if I were a DJ spinning all the hottest new stuff. Because even though it’s decades old, this record has always been a classic.
And now, with the new remasters, the 40th Anniversary Collectors Edition of Aqualung is an album to bathe in. It is the bronze colossus whose shadow lurks over so much of the lesser songlets released today. Nothing hitting the shelves for the first time this year can hope to compare.
Best New To Me Band
I first saw these guys at Music City Roots in early June, but my husband has been raving about them for a few years now. I can see and hear why. If you like a music that buoys you along and a live show that is as happy and danceable as the best Dead you ever went to, then Greensky Bluegrass are your men.
I’ve been obsessed with several foods this year, chiefly greek yogurt, sauerkraut and roasted vidalia onions. (Not all together and not without a lot of postprandial breath mints.) The foodie trend of the year seems to have been bacon, which leaves me meh. I love bacon butties and the occasional thick slab of fried bacon at Monell’s breakfast. Beyond that it’s too dense and dusky a food for me. My own new personal favourite would have to be plain greek yogurt frozen with a bit of added cane sugar.
The best new Nashville restaurant of my experience is Tazikis.
The restaurant whose untimely demise I mourn daily is, of course, the late lamented Bicyclette Cafe & Wine Bar. You can’t pass a grim countenance in the Hermitage/Donelson/Mt. Juliet area without knowing deep down they, too, are missing this great eatery. The owners have been posting to their Facebook pages with hopes of a relocation, but no news (yet) is bad news for this often-overlooked part of Tennessee.
Movies & TV
These are going to have to be in a sequel post next Monday, because what I have to say here could fill a book. But I’ll leave you with a preview:
Terriers was the best show you’ve never heard of. The first season–13 perfect episodes of awesome–are now on Netflix. Watch it, love it and mourn it all in a few days. And then you can join me in pestering FX to bring it back. Hey, if they can resurrect ‘Family Guy’, they can bring a GOOD show back too.