Books of the year 2011

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This year, excited bookworms queued all night for a copy of Haruki Murakami's IQ84, Caitlin Moran's funny feminist manual told us How to be a Woman and Rob Ryan charmed us with his stunning adult fairytale A Sky Full of Kindness.

Take a look at Stylist's 30 most impressive reads of 2011, from wonderful literary gems to impressive non-fiction works.

Click an image below to open the gallery, then let us know which book you like best on Twitter.

Words: Anna Pollitt

  • The Sense of an Ending

    by Julian Barnes

    Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize, Barnes' compelling tale of a middle-aged man coming to terms with his past, is described by the head judge Stella Rimington as "exquisitely written, subtly plotted and reveals new depths with each reading."

  • Charles Dickens: A Life

    By Claire Tomalin

    In the year of Dickens' 200th Birthday, multi-award winning biographer Tomalin captures the great writer's complex character and reveals his darkest secrets.

  • A Visit from the Goon Squad

    by Jennifer Egan

    "Time's a goon, right?"

    Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Egan's unusually structured novel on the passage of time, relationships and memory contains a chapter entirely formatted as a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation.

  • IQ84

    by Haruki Murakami

    "The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo."

    Described by The Guardian as "among the world's greatest living novelists," Murakami's powerful 932-page work sold a million copies within its first month of release - affording its publishers the right to describe the work as "a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s."

  • The Tiger's Wife

    by Tea Obreht

    Awarded the 2011 Orange prize for fiction, this is the story of a young doctor in the war-torn Balkans searching for the truth behind her grandfather's death.

    Obreht, 25, is the youngest person to win the honour.

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature

    by Steven Pinker

    Have humans become progressively less violent?

    Harvard psychology professor Pinker thinks so, and makes a convincing argument that modernity is making us better people in this ambitious and statistically impressive work.

  • Night Waking

    by Sarah Moss

    Moss' dark and comical second novel brings us Anna, a historian and young mother struggling to adjust to life on a remote Scottish island, when her life is shook by the discovery of a baby skeleton in her family's back garden and the history of the island's inhabitants unravels.

  • A Sky Full of Kindness

    by Rob Ryan

    "It's a tale of a fearful mother about to bring a child into the world in this age of anxiety."

    This delicate and moving adult fairytale is a beautifully written and visually stunning tale of two birds about to become parents for the first time.

  • Moonwalking With Einstein

    by Joshua Foer

    From forgetful journalist to Memory Championship contender - Foer reveals how a good memory can be a skill as well as a gift thanks to the ancient techniques of mnemonics.

  • Down the Rabbit Hole

    by Juan Pablo Villalobos

    "I know maybe thirteen or fourteen people and four of them say I'm precocious."

    This brilliantly funny and dark debut novel is narrated by the child of a wealthy Mexican drugs baron, who, isolated from society, builds his own private zoo and becomes obsessed with adding a pygmy hippopotamus to his collection.

  • Mulberry: The Book

    photographs by Venetia Dearden

    The label that wowed the world with the iconic Alexa and Bayswater bags celebrates 40 years of luxury leather-making with a glossy 480-page coffee table treat, lovingly shot by renowned photographer Venetia Dearden.

  • There but for the

    by Ali Smith

    This playful and clever tale of a dinner party guest who outstays his welcome is rich with symbolism, satire and insight.

  • The 9/11 Wars

    by Jason Burke

    On the 10th anniversary of the Twin Towers destruction, Guardian war correspondent Burke released his “grubby view from below” - an authoritative 700-plus analysis of a decade of Islamic terrorism, exploring the myths and providing accounts of the wars from the ordinary people involved.

  • King of the Badgers

    by Philip Hensher

    The disappearance of an eight-year-old girl from a small town near Bristol propels a small community into the glare of the media, exposing its factions and revealing the shocking secrets of some of its residents. Both funny and heart wrenching, Hensher's latest masterpiece explores themes of privacy - and how much of its invasion is acceptable.

  • Chavs

    by Owen Jones

    Think you know what a Chav is? In the year riots spread across England, Jones' provocative text explores how the changes in Britain's class system bore the 'Chav' and how politics, race and media play a part in a 'them' vs. 'us' phenomenon.

  • How to be a Woman

    by Caitlin Moran

    “Moran's writing sparkles with wit and warmth. Like the confidences of your smartest friend” - Simon Pegg.

    The Times columnist's snappy manual-come-memoir tells readers to proudly declare "I AM A FEMINIST." Endov.

  • The Cat's Table

    by Michael Ondaatje

    This charming coming of age tale from the author of The English Patient tells of a young boy's life-altering three-week journey from 1950s Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to England and, as Ondaatje informs the reader, has "the colouring and locations of memoir and autobiography."

  • The Horseman's Word

    by Roger Garfitt

    Garfitt's beautifully written memoir chronicles his childhood in post-war Norfolk, coming of age as a narcissistic, drug-taking Oxford poet, and his shocking decline into madness.

  • Harper's Bazaar: Greatest Hits

    by Glenda Bailey

    The style bible's editor-in-chief shares her favourite shoots -from the glamorous and gorgeous to the downright outrageous. A glossy coffee table must-have for any fashion fan.

  • Jamrach's Menagerie

    by Carol Birch

    This 2011 Man Booker Prize nominee has been lauded for its originality - mixing real life figures with colourful and vivid characters, exotic animals with monstrous dragons, and the tough streets of 19th century London with an exciting sea journey.

  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

    by Jeanette Winterson

    "As if the best of Gabriel Garcia Marquez was combined with the best of Alan Bennett..." Cressida Connolly, the Spectator

    Veering seamlessly from moving and funny to heart-breaking, the Oranges are Not the Only Fruit author's autobiography reveals her turbulent childhood at the hands of a tyrannical adoptive mother.

  • Nile Rodgers Le Freak

    by Nile Rodgers

    "This is truly one of the best books ever written about art, music, life, and the way we grow to be exactly who we are. Actually, one of the best books period." - Cameron Crowe.

    Enough said.

  • The Stranger's Child

    by Alan Hollinghurst

    The prestigious author follows up his classic The Line of Beauty with a compelling and clever tale of two English families, spanning an entire century.

  • Death Comes to Pemberley

    by P.D. James

    A must-read for Jane Austen fans, the venerable crime writer creates a sequel to Pride and Prejudice - and throws in a murder.

  • The Emperor of All Maladies

    by Siddhartha Mukherjee

    Winner of the 2011Pultizer Prize for non-fiction and the Guardian First Book Award, this “simple but not simplistic” biography of cancer examines the disease from a historical and scientific perspective and glances at future battles to overcome it.

  • Delicacy

    by David Foenkinos

    The hit French author's latest work lives up to its title, with the sensitive tragi-comic tale of a beautiful widow who begins an unexpected relationship with her co-worker.

  • A Life Too Short

    by Ronald Reng

    The biography of Robert Enke, the popular German goalkeeper who committed suicide, won the 2011 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

    "Absolutely superb. Incredibly harrowing." - Sunday Times.

  • November

    by Sean O'Brien

    A stunning collection of poems from O'Brien, whose first work The Drowned Book, is the only book of poetry to have won both the Forward and T. S. Eliot prizes.

  • Do It For Your Mum

    by Roy Wilkinson

    British Sea Power, a band described by The Independent on Sunday as “The greatest British rock group you’ve never heard,” are the subject of a hilarious rock biography-come-family memoir by the duo's older brother and manager.

  • Londoners

    by Craig Taylor

    A snapshot of life in modern London from the perspectives of the ordinary people who live there, Taylor's five-year project reveals some of the most beautiful and dark secrets of the city.


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Stylist Team