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Best Books 2011

What was the County of Los Angeles Public Library reading this year? Here are some suggestions from our staff of the best books we read. Some are newcomers, some are classics, but all are great!

>>Jump to Non-Fiction Books

Fiction

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Ready Player One: a novel by Ernest Cline

In the near future an eccentric billionaire creator of a virtual reality dies, and leaves his entire fortune to whichever player can decipher a series of clues. The fast-paced story and many classic video game references make this a very fun read.

Genre: Fantasy

recommended by Chase at Topanga Library

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The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Kvothe, masquerading as a mild-mannered innkeeper, continues the story of how he became “the hero and villain of a thousand tales.” Kvothe’s tale is beautifully told, full of magic, adventure, and the search for answers to a dark, deadly question.

Genre: Fantasy

recommended by Karen at Hawaiian Gardens Library

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Ready Player One: a novel by Ernest Cline

An original, wildly entertaining story that will appeal to the inner geek in everyone. A hero you can root for a genuinely sweet love story, and more 80s pop culture references than you can shake a joystick at, you'll fall in love with this book.

Genre: Fantasy

recommended by Jennifer at Library Headquarters

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Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner

Wonderful protagonists (especially Rasia), evocative prose, and a good story...loses a bit of steam in the second half, but you will care so much about the characters that you will finish the book and still enjoy it!

Genre: General Fiction

recommended by Amy at San Dimas Library

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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

I was not prepared for how much I would like Major Pettigrew, a wonderful character written with true wit. I found myself rooting for him almost immediately, and he just got better the more time I spent with him. This book made me laugh - and cry.

Genre: General Fiction

recommended by Paula at Sorensen Library

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The Call by Yannick Murphy

The narrator is a veterinarian and the whole work is written in the form of "calls," or log sheets from his vet practice, in Vermont. The voice is compelling, characters interesting, style very clean, dry, funny and poignant.

Genre: General Fiction

recommended by David at Library Headquarters

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Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

This is the sequel to Shanghai Girls. Our main character leaves the comforts of the U.S. and heads for Mao's communist China. Her dreams and ideals are challenged, and her mom must face her past to get them both to safety.

Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

recommended by Hilda at Chet Holifield Library

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Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

One of the best books I've read about 1930's New York City. Pick up this book if you like reading about pre-WWII upper crust society of NYC and the daily comings and goings of select social circles.

Genre: Historical Fiction

recommended by Leticia at Sorensen Library

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Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth

Just before WWI a British archeologist desperate for fame, worries his new discovery, an ancient tomb, will be compromised by the construction--funded by Germany--of a new railway line. Weaves several distinct narratives into a beautiful whole.

Genre: Historical Fiction

recommended by Richard at Rosemead Library

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The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

History, politics, coming-of-age, ethnic migrations & gentrification: L.A. condensed. The sense of place, and knowing it since it's local, was especially strong; it was very easy to envision the characters and the action in this book.

Genre: Historical Fiction

recommended by Greg at Culver City Julian Dixon Library

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India Black and the Widow of Windsor by Carol K. Carr

Feisty, disrespectful India Black goes undercover as a lady's maid to quell an assassination attempt of Queen Victoria at Balmoral. Author Carr pulls out the stops creating quirky characters and fast paced, action packed derring do! An absolute hoot!

Genre: Historical Fiction

recommended by Barbara at Rowland Heights Library

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Jerusalem by Cecelia Holland

Masterful layering of subplots, historical detail and multiple perspectives. This book really puts you there, from glorious start to bitter end, with all the deceit, valour, and ambition the Christians exhibited during the 3rd Crusade.

Genre: Historical Fiction

recommended by Richard at Rosemead Library

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Alice wakes up on the gym floor after knocking herself unconscious during a spin class. Ten years of her memory are erased and she's shocked at her current life. It's fast paced, humorous and emotional. Recommended it to four others who loved it!

Genre: Romance

recommended by Theresa at Los Nietos Library

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Star Wars : Millennium Falcon by James Lucenro

This book traces, in a non-linear format, the construction and owners of the Millennium Falcon. It includes many classic Star Wars characters plus many new ones.

Genre: Sci-Fi

recommended by Michael at Hermosa Beach Library

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The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

In the future, corporations use biological warfare and bioengineered food to control a humanity teetering on the brink of destruction. Windup Girl explores issues currently facing our society, genetic modification, and global warming.

Genre: Sci-Fi

recommended by Chase at Topanga Library

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East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Allegory of the Cain and Abel story. The characters were deep and interesting. Tells the story of two families in the Salinas Valley. One was poor but strongly bonded and the other well off but not as close. Time covered is about 1870 to 1920.

Genre: Historical Fiction

recommended by Scott at Hawthorne Library

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Kahawa by Donald Westlake

A group of shady characters unite uneasily to make a big score. "Kahawa" is Swahilli for "coffee" and this novel, set in late 1970s Uganda, is how a group of rogues attempts to steal an entire trainload of coffee from Idi Amin. It's marvelous fun.

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

recommended by David at Library Headquarters

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New York to Dallas by J. D. Robb

One of the latest releases of the "IN DEATH" series, this title covers the heroine's struggle to face down her traumatic past, all the while with a hardened criminal eager to hurt and kill her.

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

recommended by Hilda at Chet Holifield Library

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Iron House by John Hart

One of two orphaned brothers with very different lives, Michael has been an enforcer in the world of organized crime. When he wants to leave to start a new life with Elena, he knows it will bring trouble. Fabulous writing, couldn't put the book down!

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

recommended by Shelley at Library Headquarters

Non-fiction

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The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie  by Wendy McClure

McClure always wanted to have Laura Ingalls as a childhood friend. She revisits the series as an adult with a pilgrimage to the historic sites, exploring the contrast between the fictional places, and historic places. Little House fans - read this!

Genre: Armchair Travel

recommended by Heather at Library Headquarters

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Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

The history and road-to-statehood of Hawaii, told from a urbane, 21st-Century perspective, with wit, humor, and historical context to help one understand and appreciate the truly multicultural place that Hawaii is today.

Genre: Armchair Travel, Popular Culture, History & Current Events

recommended by Greg at Culver City Julian Dixon Library

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One Day It'll All Make Sense by Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. "Common"

One Day It'll All Make Sense is a good read for those that thought hip hop, rappers and poets aren't intellectual. Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr or better known as "Common'; defies the odds and becomes a true artist and more. A must read- 5 stars.

Genre: Biography & Memoir

recommended by Shonita at Library Headquarters

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It's Hard Not to Hate You by Valerie Frankel

It was actually enjoyable to read about someone ruminating on the petty grievances and deep betrayals she had experienced over her lifetime. Like Festivus in a book!

Genre: Biography & Memoir

recommended by Susan at West Hollywood Library

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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

A fascinating and fast-paced study of Americans in Paris during the 1800s from one of America's great historians. From artist John Singer Sargent to statesman Elihu Washburne, McCullough illustrates how their stays in France influenced US history.

Genre: History & Current Events

recommended by Marta at La Crescenta Library

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10 Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President by Eli Saslow

President Obama personally reads 10 letters a day sent in by Americans. The book humanizes the job of being President and shows just how involved and hard it is. Plus, its a really good snapshot of the state of the country.

Genre: History & Current Events

recommended by Sue at Norwalk Library

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In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

Reads like a novel. Absorbing view into the mind-set of Nazis, Socialists and American politicians in 1933 as the Chancellor grabs power and anti-Semitism rises to unimaginable levels. Valuable lessons into how this happened and can happen again.

Genre: History & Current Events

recommended by Pat at Library Headquarters

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Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The story of former Olympian and World War II pilot Louis Zamperini, who survived his plane crashing over the Pacific, floating on a raft for over 40 days, and cruel, inhumane treatment in Japanese POW camps, will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Genre: History & Current Events

recommended by Roberta at South El Monte Library

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And Still We Rise by Miles Corwin

I was mesmerized by this in-depth look at life in an inner city classroom from the point of view of an outsider (a journalist), and the enormous challenges faced by the students he chronicled in their attempts to graduate from high school.

Genre: History & Current Events

recommended by Jennifer at Gardena Mayme Dear Library

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Unlimited by Jillian Michaels

Great book full of insightful and blatantly honest (sometimes very raw) advice on moving forward in life towards your own individual success. Jillian includes her own personal account dealing with her issues of weight, anger, and self-esteem.

Genre: Memoir & Biography

recommended by Lisabeth at Montebello Library

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Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman

It's always good to know what the Operating Thetans are up to.

Genre: Spirituality & Religion

recommended by Susan at West Hollywood Library

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