Friends:

With this post, a goal of mine is fulfilled. You know I do a tremendous amount of reading, but I have never, in all my years of reading, put together an end of the year list. You see them everywhere; everyone has their Top 10 List of the year and now I get to join the ranks… yes, this is my soon-to-be annual list of the Top 10 Books in 2011.

First, the statistics. When I finish the book I am currently reading, that will make 50 books finished in 2011, which does not take into consideration the two books I did not finish. In all fairness, they were not 50 books by 50 different authors. They were:

Six books by Dennis Lehane; Five books by Lee Child; Three books by Tom Clancy; Two books by Michael Connelly

With that being said, here goes, from 10 to 1:

10) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. This book was the basis for the board game (and movie) “Clue.” 10 strangers, summoned to an island by an unknown host, are killed one by one. Which one of them is the murderer and who will be next? Written in 1939, it still holds up today. The suspense, the “creepiness” factor, the twist at the end. It holds its own against any of the current mysteries and thrillers.

9) Nuremberg by Joseph Persico. A non-fiction treatise on the Nuremburg War Crimes trial, this thought-provoking and suspenseful book showed not only the attempts made by the Allies to create fairness, but it also humanized the monsters who created such atrocities. An important book to ensure that such genocide does not happen again. I blogged about the book and my thoughts from the lawyer’s perspective in August and you can find it here:

http://robcohen13.com/2011/08/08/justice-justice-shall-you-pursue-that-you-may-live-and-inherit-the-land-which-the-lord-your-god-gives-you-deut-1618-20/

8) The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. Earlier in the year my interest in Sherlock Holmes was renewed and I found this first-book by Graham Moore to be a pleasant addition to the Holmesian library. A Sherlock Holmes scholar comes upon a murder seemingly perpetrated by another Holmes devotee. A good twist at the end and a wonderful use of the jumping between present and past kept the book moving and thoroughly enjoyable.

7) Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. Not just a murder mystery but also a commentary on race relations and the pain that can be caused by childhood antics. Two kids who were best friends take divergent paths to adulthood, only to meet yet again on opposite sides of a crime. While not a lengthy book, a haunting book, one in which both characters are sympathetic, but is one of them a murderer? I’m not telling, but I guarantee it will shock you.

6) The School of Night by Louis Bayard. I am a sucker for historical fiction especially those which weave famous historical figures with crimes and intrigue and Louis Bayard has never failed. This novel ably weaved a mystery taking place in the present day with a storyline from the past. Louis Bayard receives special recognition because this is his fourth novel and each one has been spectacular. Check out “The Pale Blue Eye” for a mystery involving Edgar Allan Poe…

5) Tripwire by Lee Child. A suggestion from a colleague led me to the books of Lee Child and his literary hero Jack Reacher (soon to be played by Tom Cruise). I read the first 5 books in the Reacher series this year and by far the best of the five was this one, Book 3. A missing Vietnam veteran, a villain with unknown motives, and Jack Reacher right in the middle. What made this one so good is how bad the villain was. How do you make a story really good? Make your villain really bad… This one succeeded on all levels.

4) In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Another non-fiction, this one about the United States Ambassador to Germany in 1933 just as Hitler is coming to power. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. 1933 Germany just didn’t seem to be the hotbed of excitement as, say, 1939-1945. But this book had it all. Mystery, intrigue, suspense, and best of all, it was all true. Amazing how even in 1933, the US was aware of Hitler and his capabilities, but it took nearly a decade to do anything about it. Look for the movie starring Tom Hanks to debut in the next couple of years.

3) Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane. In 2011 I read the entire series of books by Dennis Lehane featuring private investigators Kenzie and Gennaro. This book, while not the best of the series, was second best and also second in the series. The best book in the series was book number 4 called “Gone Baby Gone” but since I had already seen the movie, the suspense of whodunit was absent so this one gets the prized spot as Number 3 of the year. What makes this book so good? The darkness. You can feel the darkness closing around you as the pages flip by. It was one of those books where you don’t want to put it down because you can’t wait to see what happens next, but the eeriness of it begs for sleep as an escape from the suspense. Truly spine-tingling and fantastic.

2) The Drop by Michael Connelly. Michael Connelly, my favorite author. Harry Bosch, my favorite literary character. ‘Nuff said. This one still resonates with me, weeks after I finished it. If you haven’t read a Harry Bosch novel before, don’t start with this one. Go back to the beginning and read them all in order. It will make this book that much more powerful. Very few characters are as introspective and affected as Harry Bosch. Here is the blog I wrote about it just a few weeks ago:

http://robcohen13.com/2011/12/05/looking-good-billy-ray-feeling-good-louis/

And, drum roll please…

1) Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy. First, understand that this book was not written solely by Tom Clancy. He had a co-writer and it is obvious that the co-writer had significant control. This clearly is not on the same level as some of Clancy’s previous modern-day classics like “The Hunt For Red October” or “Without Remorse.” But it gets the number one position on my list for two reasons. First, no one knows how to layer a story the way Clancy does. Like peeling an onion, there are multiple story-lines, numerous characters, good good guys and bad bad guys, and Jack Ryan and team there to save the day. Second, and perhaps foremost, it was a welcome return to the characters who populated some of the best reading experiences of my life. Everything I know about the Cold War, the Middle East, and American politics I learned from Tom Clancy. This felt like old home, the warmth and comfort of my literary heroes and friends, and a welcome change back to the way a modern action and adventure can still be complex and intricate.

So there you have it, my Top 10 of 2011. If you want to see all of the books I read, they are up on my LinkedIn profile, check it out.

Now on to 2012 and more fun with reading!

Have a great New Year to all of you!!

Rob

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