Best of 2011

To mark the passing of another year, I’m going to present lists of the books and movies I most enjoyed this year. For now, the lists are without links and without (much) comment. The only eligibility criterion is that I read the book or saw the movie this year.

Favorite Books of 2011:

Angle of Repose
by Wallace Stegner

The Killer Inside Me
by Jim Thompson

Abbott Awaits: A Novel
by Chris Bachelder

Venus Drive: Stories
by Sam Lipsyte

Volt: Stories
by Alan Heathcock

A Visit from the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan

The Ask
by Sam Lipsyte

by William Kennedy

The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick DeWitt

Ablutions: Notes for a Novel
by Patrick DeWitt

The Line of Beauty
by Alan Hollinghurst

Born to Run
by Christopher McDougall

Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World
by Donald Antrim

As is true of the movie list, there are lots of good books I didn’t quite like enough at the time to annotate with a red star. I remember also really liking John Brandon’s Citrus County, The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, The Sea by John Banville, Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife, Richard Price’s The Wanderers, and, most recently, Denis Johnson’s novella Train Dreams. For me the notable thing this year is discovering one writer I’d never previously heard of—Patrick DeWitt—who’s now a favorite, and breaking through with another writer—Sam Lipsyte—who I’d previously dismissed (based, I think, on his being represented in an anthology of younger American writers by the story “I’m Slavering,” which even on re-reading in Venus Drive didn’t do much for me).

Favorite Movies of 2011:

Winter’s Bone

The Warriors


13 Assassins


Hobo With a Shotgun



A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Yikes! Not the most distinguished crop of films this year. I’m surprised, looking over the list, at the films I didn’t star (my notation for having liked a movie), especially compared to those that I did. I remember liking The Fighter, Cedar Rapids, Certified Copy, Hoosiers, Moonstruck, Paper Moon, Meek’s Cutoff, Submarine, The Town, and (since I saw it yesterday) War Horse
quite well. But I’m going to honor whatever I was thinking and feeling at the moment that I entered each of these titles into my list, and exclude top-10 fare like Submarine, War Horse, and Certified Copy even as Hobo with a Shotgun makes the list. What can I say? I’m large; I contain multitudes.

(This is the second year I’ve kept these lists and I’m somewhat pleased to note that this year saw fewer abandoned books. I don’t mind abandoning books I’m not enjoying (as mentioned here), but it’s nice to see that I liked most of these well enough to continue with.)