Sean McDonald is the executive editor and director of paperback publishing at FSG.
To be clear, I agree with everyone else: The three best books of 2011 are Frank Bill’s Crimes in Southern Indiana, John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead, and Héctor Tobar’s Barbarian Nurseries.
But you want me to think beyond the walls of FSG. That makes my head hurt, but here goes.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
I’m obsessed with Tokyo and a bit of a Murakami nut, so maybe I’m not to be trusted on this one. It’s a crazier book than most are letting on, but I like that about it. It may have its problems, but they mostly reflect falling short while taking impossible risks. Maybe because Murakami seems to keep having so much fun, the failings never (for me) got in the way of enjoying the reading and admiring the fireworks.
Reamde by Neal Stephenson
It’s a giant, pulpy techno-thriller, and as entertaining and implausible as that suggests. But it’s an extremely smart and insightful giant, pulpy techno-thriller in which the implausible characters doing implausible things feel whole and human, engaged with a world that’s undeniably ours, just presented in a way that reveals a series of new, exhilarating perspectives.
The Information by James Gleick
As if my fiction choices weren’t nerdy (and impossibly long) enough . . . This, for me, was probably the book of the year—erudite, urgent, definitive, beautiful. (more…)