2011 wasn’t just a good year for books, it was an AMAZING year, just an embarrassment of riches as far as reading is concerned. And unless something else ridiculously wonderful comes along, I’m fairly sure that I’ve nailed down my top three books of the year. One of them is SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jone, which I’ve already reviewed HERE.

Before I get into my other two picks, let me urge you to vote for SILVER SPARROW, which is a semi-finalist for Best Fiction Book of 2011 over at GoodReads. In fact all of my top three picks are (non-competing — TTL) Goodreads Semifinalists, so while you’re there, put in votes for READY PLAYER ONE in Sci-Fi, and THE MAGICIAN KING in Fantasy.

Okay, that all promoted, let’s actually talk about my other two favorite books of the year.

READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline

What I Loved: READY PLAYER ONE made me proud to be a nerd, and it also made me feel that I wasn’t quite nerdy enough — that’s how ridiculously awesome this book swings. If you are a nerd and you’ve spoken to me in the last three months, I have probably recommended this book to you. In fact, I feel like I am┬áproselytizing for this book, because it is so much better than its premise — which is a bit hard to state: it’s basically a love story, a cyber quest story, and a high-stakes adventure story all rolled into one. I really don’t want to give even one nugget of READY PLAYER ONE’s goodness away, but I will say this: READY PLAYER ONE is the novel that sent me into the intense bout of book grief that inspired this post. I loved it. I love it so much that I made my husband listen to the audiobook. He loved it, too. In fact, every person I’ve recommended it to who has actually read it has loved it.

What I Didn’t Like: I had to overcome my knee-jerk dislike of Wil Wheaton in order to listen to him narrate the audiobook. And let me warn you that you almost don’t want to listen to this on audiobook as by the last third it sends you into such a terrible book thrall that you’re having to find extra excuses to abandon your real-life duties and turn your audiobook back on — which can make your real life hard. I wished that I had read this as an electronic or physical book, so that I could have turned the pages even faster. Also, I found it hard to believe that any book majorly concerned with the 80s would reference GROWING PAINS but not THE COSBY SHOW.

Writing Lessons Learned: Write to your talents, even if their super-dubious. Imagine a world where the ability to do all those things that make nerds somewhat irritating — memorization of trivial knowledge, video game obsession, over quoting certain movies, collector mentality, reclusive tendencies, etc — actually comes in handy … then you’ve got READY PLAYER ONE. It made me think about all of the random talents we don’t often see celebrated in literature.

Click HERE to buy the book at Amazon!


What I Liked: Well, you know how much I loved the MAGICIANS, which I reviewed HERE — it ended up being my second favorite book of 2010. However, it also caused me some controversy, b/c a few of my friends tried to read it, but didn’t love it like I loved it. THE MAGICIAN KING, however, feels like a redemption. Whatever was wrong with the first book has been fixed here. The ideas are way bigger — to the point of total mind blow at times. The stakes are way, way, way higher. And Quentin, our main character, is so much more relatable, he’s actually likeable at times. And perhaps even more importantly, we get long breaks from him in the form of tracing the magical education of his high school mate, Julia, who didn’t get into a “good college” and had to learn a dirty form of magic on the proverbial streets. Though THE MAGICIAN KING is ostensibly a fantasy novel, I’ve rarely encountered books that “get” the real world of grown-ups the way this one does.

What I Didn’t Like: When it ended I keened, I wanted it to keep going so bad. Also, if you’re feeling in any way down about your own writing, the brilliance on display here will only make you feel worse.

Writing Lessons Learned: Use every thing you’ve learned both in school and in the real world. Eschew neither as the results could be rapturous.

Click HERE to buy it at Amazon!