Ah, it’s year-end best-of list time, when everyone is touting their favorite books from the previous 12 months. The New York Times just released its top 10 books of the year, and in the spirit of seeing how those books stacked up against our reviews, we thought we’d do a little side-by-side comparison. Ready? Let’s go.

Read more of the best books of 2011, including the Best Fiction and Best Nonfiction.


The Art of Fielding 

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Chad Harbach

What the NY Times said: “Harbach’s expansive, allusive first novel combines the pleasures of an old-fashioned baseball story with a stately, self-reflective meditation on talent and the limits of ambition…”

Kirkus (starred, also appears on our Best Fiction 2011): “An amiable, Middle American, baseball-centric coming-of-age tale…The tale takes turns reminiscent of The World According to Garp, though the influence is incidental; Harbach would seem to owe as much to Twain and Vonnegut as to anyone else. In the end, nothing ever quite turns out like anyone expects, which, as grown-ups know, is the nature of life…A promising debut.”

11 11/22/63 

Stephen King

NY Times: “His new novel imagines a time portal in a Maine diner that lets an English teacher go back to 1958 in an effort to stop Lee Harvey Oswald and—rewardingly for readers—also allows King to reflect on questions of memory, fate and free will as he richly evokes midcentury America.”

Kirkus (starred, also appears on our Best Fiction 2011): “King’s vision of one outcome of the Kennedy assassination plot reminds us of what might have been—that is, almost certainly a better present than the one in which we’re all actually living. ‘If you want to know what political extremism can lead to,’ warns King in an afterword, ‘look at the Zapruder film.’ Though his scenarios aren’t always plausible in strictest terms, King’s imagination, as always, yields a most satisfying yarn.”

swamp Swamplandia! 

Karen Russell

NY Times: “…exuberantly inventive language and her vivid portrait of a heroine who is wise beyond her years.” 

Kirkus: “Quirky, outlandish fiction: To say it’s offbeat is to seriously underestimate its weirdness.”


10 Ten Thousand Saints 

Eleanor Henderson

NY Times: “Henderson’s fierce, elegiac novel, her first, follows a group of friends, lovers, parents and children through the straight-edge music scene and the early days of the AIDS epidemic.”

Kirkus: “Screwed-up parents beget screwed-up kids. So it’s no surprise that an ill-omened teen pregnancy is the centerpiece of this bold debut, a heady witches’ brew… Henderson displays a powerful moral imagination; all that’s missing is discipline.”

tiger's wife The Tiger’s Wife 

Téa Obreht

NY Times: “As war returns to the Balkans, a young doctor inflects her grandfather’s folk tales with stories of her own coming of age, creating a vibrant collage of historical testimony that has neither date nor dateline.”

Kirkus: “Haunted as it is by the specter of civil war, this confident debut steers clear of specific blame for any particular group, concentrating instead on the stories people tell themselves to explain the unthinkable. While at times a bit too dense and confusing, Obreht’s remarkable story showcases a young talent with a bright future. A compassionate, mystical take on the real price of war.”


argue Arguably: Essays 

Christopher Hitchens

NY Times: “Our intellectual omnivore’s latest collection could be his last (he’s dying of esophageal cancer). The book is almost 800 pages, contains more than 100 essays and addresses a ridiculously wide range of topics…”

Kirkus (starred; also appeared on Best Nonfiction 2011): “Vintage Hitchens. Argumentative and sometimes just barely civil—another worthy collection from this most inquiring of inquirers.”

boy moon The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son

Ian Brown

NY Times: “A feature writer at The Globe and Mail in Toronto, Brown combines a reporter’s curiosity with a novelist’s instinctive feel for the unknowable in this exquisite book…”

Kirkus: “A father’s candid, heart-wrenching account of raising, loving and trying to connect with and gain insight into his severely disabled son…An absorbing, revealing work of startling frankness.”

malcolm Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Manning Marable

NY Times: “Marable, who worked for more than a decade on the book and died earlier this year, offers a more complete and unvarnished portrait of Malcolm X than the one found in his autobiography.”

Kirkus (starred): “A candid, corrective look at the Nation of Islam leader and renegade—and a deeply informed investigation of the evolution of his thinking on race and revolution.”

think Thinking, Fast and Slow 

Daniel Kahneman

NY Times: “In this comprehensive presentation of a life’s work, the world’s most influential psychologist demonstrates that irrationality is in our bones, and we are not necessarily the worse for it.”

Kirkus (starred): “A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking…Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.”

world A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War

Amanda Foreman

NY Times: “Foreman gives us an enormous cast of characters and a wealth of vivid description in her lavish examination of a second battle between North and South…”

Kirkus: “Exhaustive record of Britain’s growing alarm at the escalating American Civil War and outright sympathy and shelter for the Confederacy…A staggering work of research, occasionally toilsome to read.”