Friday, December 2, 2011

Warwick's Staff Presents: The Best Books of 2011

It's once again that time of year for us to look back on all that we've read in 2011 and ponder our favorites. Booksellers love to revisit their year in books, debating with each other about their various merits, and which ones were the best. This year is no different. Our diverse group of readers has gotten together and named our favorite books of 2011 and here they are for your perusal.

Emily, bookseller: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. A truly fantastic read and easily my pick for this year. Julian Barnes delivers the most thought provoking book I have read in a long time.

John, bookseller/book buyer: Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James D. Hornfischer. 2011 has been a good year for World War II histories, among them Roberts' Storm of War, Hastings' Inferno, Toll's Pacific Crucible, and Symonds' Battle of Midway. Although I wholeheartedly recommend all of the aforementioned books, I would single out James Hornfischer's superb history of the naval actions at Guadalcanal, Neptune's Inferno. Hornfischer delivers a powerful and, at times, gut-wrenching account of the deadliest naval campaign of the War in the Pacific. He tacks perfectly among different perspectives -- from bluejackets to admirals -- and thereby offers a history that is at once sweeping and personal. Furthermore, Neptune's Inferno is, to the best of my knowledge, the first comprehensive history of the naval campaign at Guadalcanal since that offered by Samual Eliot Morison years ago. Not only was this book a great read, it also fundamentally transformed my understanding of the War in the Pacific.

Kim, Office Supply: Both my daughter and I poured over The Hugo Movie Companion by Brian Selznick, both before and after seeing the magical movie. It is a fascinating look at how the book (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) was transformed into a 3-D, sure to be family-favorite, film. A must read book and must see movie for children and adults.

Janet, bookseller: It's a hard choice, but I must say my favorite book of 2011 is The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. Dramatic and compelling, the story of 4 women during the siege of the Masada swept me away to the ancient past. I couldn't put it down!

Joe, General Manager: My favorite  book of 2011 was We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen. It dashed any hopes of me being seaworthy with a wondrous, brutal, and sometimes too real portrait of life in and by the sea. I loved how it went on from person to person and generation to generation.

Margie, Office Supply: With the many books I've read in 2011, The Vault by Boyd Morrison is still my #1 pick. Mr. Morrison's works never lack in the thrill and excitement departments. There is no disappointment in this gripping tale of King Midas' lost treasure and the consequences of it falling into the wrong hands. I honestly could not put this one down!

Jan, Children's Book Buyer: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. A story told through illustrations and another told with words are woven together in a masterful way in this incredible book. Children and adults both will be wrapped up in the magical, intriguing unfolding of the story and truly feel the "wonder" when finished.

Adriana, bookseller: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. Equal parts Capote & Fitzgerald, and just as brilliantly written, Rules of Civility will have you reading through the night but ultimately wishing you’d savored it just a little bit more. This is definitely my pick for book of the year.

Adrian, Book Buyer: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I loved this remarkable, thoroughly researched novel about Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife and possibly his greatest love. And despite the fact that we know how the story ends, what comes before is a fascinating, engrossing read. From the early penny-pinching heady days of first love, to their friendships with the literati of Jazz Age Paris--the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, the Pounds, the Murphys, and many more--this story reveals a Hemingway who, while uncertain of his writing ability, is fiercely determined to be a successful author. From the adrenaline driven days in Pamplona watching the famed bullfights to the snowy ski slopes of the Alps, the reader is drawn into their love story…one that begins so hopefully but ends in heartbreak. This novel would spark a great book group discussion.

... and one more (because she is our Head Book Buyer)...

Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer Holland. Opposites really do attract! You cannot look at this book without smiling! The perfect book for animal lovers.

Rob, bookseller, Office Supplies, Cheese Concierge: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. A novel that is beautifully written and to me to 1930's New York City.

The book The Night Circus by Erin Morgestern was without a doubt one of the staff's most talked about novels, and this year for the first time, several members of the staff were unable to name any other book as 2011's best.

James, bookseller: With it's truly unique imagery and blending of genres, my favorite book of the year is Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. You can truly tell I love a book if I take the chance to give my copy away. As of now, I have no idea where my dog-eared advanced reader's copy might be. Every time a friend or colleague would return the book to me, I would send it on its way again. By now, I am sure it is well read and well loved.

Julie, Director of Events: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I wish I could re-read this book for the first time again.

Heather, Marketing Coordinator: The Night Circus is quite simply, compelling. Unfurling itself layer by layer, it is a labyrinth of a tale that one must wander through, much like the characters must wander through the circus discovering new tents and delights with every turn—never fully capable of exploring every crook and cranny no matter how many times they visit. This is a novel whose secrets and hidden depths will never cease to amaze, no matter how many time it is read.

Phoebe, Office Supply: One of my favorite reads this year was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I was anxious to read it because of the enthusiasm of my co workers. Even the book jacket got my attention with it’s mysterious and whimsical artwork. Then you open the book and enter a magical world. The ego of two old magicians up against each other to prove themselves. The circus is the stage of the conflict, but it becomes more than that to the characters in the book. I wish to be a reveur and follow a magical circus around the world.

Jim, bookseller: A perfect combination of fantasy with memorable characters. Magicians conjour a circus in cities around the world with two magicians unknowingly in a contest.


  1. Thank you for this. I value these recommendations. Best wishes for the New Year.

  2. Well, thank you, John!

    --James Hornfischer

  3. I was unfamiliar with Julian Barnes' work when I sat down to read "The Sense of an Ending", and for the first couple of chapters I found myself thinking that the abbreviated, barely novella, length of the book might be a blessing. The rather slow stage-setting phase which opens the story - relating the school-days beginnings of protagonist Tony Webster's friendship with Adrian, a newcomer to his clique in school, drags on in rather lethargic fashion. This section then gives way to a much more intriguing section which drew me in quite thoroughly, and which was quite enjoyable, in which Tony's university days, including his first serious relationship with a young woman, are detailed.