The Ones That Got Away

Jeff O'Neal

CEO and co-founder

Jeff O'Neal is the executive editor of Book Riot and Panels. He also co-hosts The Book Riot Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @thejeffoneal.

Year-end Best Of lists tend to inspire five reactions from me:

1. “I loved that book, so glad it’s on this list!”

2. “God, that book was terrible. Who is this idiot?”

3. “Never heard of it.”

4. “You couldn’t pay me to read that book.”

5. “Damn, I meant to read that one.”

The first two reactions are narcissistic, the third ignorant, and the fourth merely prejudiced. The only one that does me any good is the fifth, as it spurs me to take action on books that, for whatever reason, I didn’t get around to.

Here are a few book that came out in 2011 that I’m mad I didn’t read (yet)


The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

I’ve enjoyed all of the Perrotta I’ve read so far, but for some reason I don’t get too excited about a new one. I think Perrotta isn’t usually ambitious enough to zing my higher-reasoning, but neither does he write page-turners that scratch my plot itch. The Leftovers, though, does seem more daring and imaginative than his others, so this is going to the top of my get-to-it-before-the-deluge-of-2012 list.


Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

This is so in my wheelhouse. Aquatic “road trip” through the heart of America? So, so in. The reason I didn’t get to this one is that I didn’t get to Campbell’s last novel, American Salvage, though I really want to read it. In the weird world of my reading ethics, I can’t read this one before reading that one. Why? I have no idea. Just can’t do it. Someday I’ll fry up a bunch of hushpuppies and knock both of these out.


11/22/63 by Stephen King

I’m not one of those people that snaps up every new King, but this one sounds like a lot of fun. Time travel and JFK conspiracy together seems like a bit of a narrative Mad Lib, but reports have been positive. Only problem? Came out at the end of the year and weighs in at 849 pages. I had just come off 1Q84 when this came out and it’s going to be awhile before I can get myself in a place to commit to another extremely long novel.


The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

I know I am going to like this. Read a sample, have been told directly by people that know me that I will like it, and I love neo-westerns. Again we have a victim of “read something like that already” syndrome. I read and loved Doc by Maria Dora Russell this summer and that sucked up all my appetite for westerns. Looks like I am a one-new-western a year kinda guy.


Say Her Name by Franciso Goldman

I am getting soft in my old age. Time was I wouldn’t blanche at reading a book for neither violence nor grief. I don’t know if it’s having a kid, or losing my hair, or cutting carbs, but I don’t have the stomach for sadness and pain that I used to. Now, I’m not in the sweetness and light only camp, but I do find myself shying away from things that have the potential to swing the melancholy hammer.