First time favourites that you might be sick of hearing me rave about*:
Nicolas Dickner’s Nikolski (2005) Trans. Lazer Lederhendler, French (2008)
Michael Crummey’s Galore (2009)
Marina Endicott’s Good to a Fault (2008)
Monique Roffey’s The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (2009)
Cynthia Flood’s The English Stories (2009)

*These aren’t necessarily debut novels/collections, but they are the first work of an author’s to have caught my reader’s attention. If I’d heard of them before, I had only a vague idea, that maybe I would someday, on an off-chance, if the literary stars were in perfect alignment, read something of theirs, but okay, now I’m on board for the whole shebang.

Favourites that I already loved a little in advance*:
Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger (2009)
Winifred Holtby’s South Riding (1936)
Ethel Wilson’s The Innocent Traveller (1949)
* Emerging from the pen/keyboard of an author who’d already earned my reader’s trust.

Completely unexpected terrific-ness*:
Sam Savage’s Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife (2006)
David Bergen’s The Matter with Morris (2010)
Doug Harris’ You comma Idiot (2010)
* Meaning that I had a specific reason for thinking that I wouldn’t enjoy it, but had my expectations turned upside-down in the most amazing and humbling ways.

Would also recommend to young adult readers*:
Hiromi Goto’s Half World (2009)
Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (2007)|
Illus. Ellen Forney
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu’s The Shadow Speaker (2007)
* Because the stories would also be amazing if discovered then, but I really hope this doesn’t put off adult readers who think that all fiction for kids is about vampires or mice, or vampire mice.

Almost-unbearably, disturbingly good*:
Ninni Holmqvist’s The Unit (2006) Trans. Marlaine Delargy, Swedish (2008)
M.J. Hyland’s This is How (2009)
Pat Barker’s Regeneration [Regeneration (1991); The Eye in the Door(1993); and The Ghost Road (1995)]
* And I’m kinda sorry to recommend these because you’ll probably have nightmares about them, but sheesh, they are just waaaay too good to miss out on.

Re-reads that already had my reader’s heart*:
L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle (1926)
Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel (1964)
Ethel Wilson’s Swamp Angel (1954)
Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1963)
* And so it’s too late to decipher whether they’re actually any good; I think they are, but I also think that I would love them anyway even if someone could somehow prove objectively that they are completely dreckish.

Re-reads that won my heart this time around*:
Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony (1995)
Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees (1996)
Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy (1964)
Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead (2002)
* Meaning that I enjoyed them well enough the first time to re-read them, but I don’t remember inhaling every single word quite the same way that I did this time.

Fresh Starts, Kidlit*:
Diana Wynne Jones’ Charmed Life Chrestomanci Book 1 (1977)
Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking (1945)
Trans. Florence Lamborn Illus. Louis S. Glanzman (1950)
Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants (2009)
* Which made me think that, if I keep on reading in these series/author’s oeuvres, I will find new favourites here.

Fresh starts, Series*:
Maureen Jennings’ Except the Dying (1997)
Louise Penny’s Still Life (2005)
Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore (2005; 2008)
* Ditto the above comment on Fresh Starts in Kidlit. (What is it about saying ‘ditto’ that makes me feel like I’m 12 years old, every single time?)

Austin Clarke MoreBooks from New-to-Me authors that urged me to their backlists*:
Austin Clarke’s More (2008)
Keith Oatley’s Therefore Choose (2010)
Joshua Ferris’ The Unnamed (2009)
*Meaning not just that this is the first book of theirs that seriously caught my reader’s attention, but that I’d been meaning to read something of theirs for ages, but kept putting it off because of one reason or another, but then realized that I had actually been missing something pretty cool.

Etty Hillesum’s An Interrupted Life (1941-43)
Donez Xiques’ Margaret Laurence: The Making of a Writer (2005)
Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel (1997)
* Which is a ridiculously broad category, and, so, this is likely a meaningless selection, but. hey, these really stood out for me in a year of predominantly fiction.

Other formats*:
Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (2009)
Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead (12 volumes, 2005-2010)
Dionne Brand’s Ossuaries (2010)
* And I could almost use the Ditto here again, copying the note above, except that I’m not just talking about a single category, but have an audiobook, a graphic novel series, and verse. Still, these were highlights of my reading year nonetheless.

Were any of these on your favourites list for this year? Are any of them on your reading horizon for 2011?