I wasn’t really sure which books to list today. If I were to list the best books I’ve read this year, most of them would be books I read last year also – Pride and Prejudice, Witness by Whittaker Chambers, Count of Monte Cristo, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I’ve read them all before. Some numerous times.

So I decided to just list the best books I read for the first time. Remember this is the best of my 2011 and not the best books of 2011. Though many try, that would be an impossible list according to logic.

So, below are my ten favorite books I read for the first time in 2011. In no particular order.

1. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. Merton’s memoir of his journey to becoming a monk is one the most well-written and memorable stories I’ve ever encountered. The fact that he is not always very likable and he is the one telling the story make it all the more enjoyable.

2. The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser. Oh man, I loved this book. Couldn’t put it down. But I’m addicted to books about art theft.

3. Winter Light: a Christian’s search for humility by Bruce Ray Smith. The first release by my publisher has been shooting through my mind and heart like stars in the winter night ever since I began. Though I read this for the first time this year, I’ve now gone through it 3 times. Part Brother Lawrence and part casual poetry.

4. Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Michael Ward. Imagine reading a book unlocking the code to help you understand your favorite childhood books…

5. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. This was a hard read for me. But I couldn’t put it down. It made me ashamed of all the character traits I saw and admired but lacked.

6. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. The only book since Dracula to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Hard to stop reading even when you know you have to sleep and get up for work in the morning. Can’t wait for the second one.

7. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. I can’t stop think about this story of the architectural renaissance of Chicago, the 1893 World’s Fair and a serial killer. A crazy story that would be unbelievable if it were not true.

8. Lit by Mary Karr. I’ve always thought poets were the best writers and Karr is no exception. I got so enthralled in this memoir I began to take it everywhere I went. Gritty. Raw. And absolutely beautiful.

9. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. i may be cheating on this one. I don’t remember ever reading it but I might have when much younger. Regardless, it isn’t till you actually read the story that you realize that neither Romeo or Juliet are heroic in any fashion. They are teenage fools with nothing to really admire about them. I always thought they were to be applauded. They are to be heeded.

10. Phantastes by George MacDonald. I’m not even sure what the book was about but I cannot stop thinking about it. And it has been almost a year since I read the thing. It gave me weird dreams but I’m still enraptured by the scenes. A book liberally full of wonder that left me wanting more.

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