There are so many books out there these days that sometimes — even with every media outlet doing their own Best-Of list this month — it’s hard to decide what to read. To combat the deluge of recommendations, we generally lean towards taking advice from those we consider to be most in the know: our favorite authors themselves. After all, if they can write prose that delights us so much, they must surely be able to recognize it in the work of others, right? Right. And as Henry David Thoreau said, “read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” With that in mind, we’ve collected a few of our favorite authors’ year-end recommendations from around the web. Now, authors are flighty creatures, and many of their 2011 book lists include books published in other years. But we’re confident that you’ll still manage to glean some holiday vacation reading suggestions or last-minute gifts from their choices. Click through to check out our favorite authors’ favorite books from the past year, and if your to-read stack isn’t monumental enough by the end of this list (or even if it is), we highly recommend that you check out the sources for each list for many more recommendations from many more great writers.
As told to Salon:
My favorite book of 2011 is Colm Toibin’s latest collection of stories, The Empty Family. I attended a reading of Toibin’s in Princeton, and when I mentioned that I was going to give the stories to my mother, he warned me not to: too much explicit gay sex, apparently. Well, that’s true about a couple of stories here, but I think my mother could have handled it, if only because she’s a good reader, knows what art is, and would have enjoyed the range of subjects and lives treated here. Toibin doesn’t make the mistake of yoking his groundbreaking material to an outlandish style. He works in a more traditional Irish mode, or traditional-seeming, so that what you get is the best of both worlds: the embrace of an old-fashioned storyteller telling the newest of tales.