It's award season. Not the ones you're thinking of - the Emmys, the Oscars - but the Nobel, the Booker and the National Book Awards. Awards offer us, as readers, a focused, curated list of the best books of the year. While there are plenty of gems out there that don't make it onto the long and short lists; those lists are a convenient starting point for anyone daunted by the "too many books/too little time" dilemma. Not only do I find that there are too many books I want to read and too little time in which to read them, there are also too many books that I start and don't finish. It's not always easy to be sure what you're reading is what you really want to be reading. Also complicating matters is that I'm not always the same kind of reader. Sometimes I want something esoteric, and other times I'm in the mood for a fun, fast read. That's where booksellers come in: a good bookseller can recommend books for just about any taste and mood, using not the wisdom of crowds but the wisdom of a book expert. But it's not always possible to get to the bookstore to take advantage of that expertise, and that's where our Just the Right Book quizzes come in. I love the idea of taking a fun online quiz to help me decide what to read next. Our quizzes recommend books for any mood, drawn from a carefully curated pool of titles picked by our book experts. Because while To Kill a Mockingbird and Blindness are two of my all-time favorites, sometimes I'm in the mood to read Invisible Man instead (all recommended to me by our Contemporary Classics quiz).
When I do find a book that engages me and engrosses me, I become a die-hard fanatic for it, recommending it to anyone who will listen. So each year by the time the National Book Awards roll around, I have my own personal list of must-reads from the year. Some happen to be award finalists (and, I hope, winners), and others are books that landed in my happy hands by other means. While my Best of 2011 list is, of course, far from finished, now seems like a good time to share a teaser list of what might end up being some of the great books of the year.
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