EDITOR’S NOTE:

Another year has come and gone, and it’s time once again to present The Nobbies, the official book awards of The Nervous Breakdown.

Below you’ll find this year’s winners, our picks for the best books of 2011.

Congrats to the victors, and their publishers.

And thanks, as always, for reading.

-BL

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
—Karl Marx

One of the first books released by Red Lemonade, the visionary new press brought to life by ex-Soft Skull patriarch Richard Nash, Zazen by Vanessa Veselka is a powerful, political, sometimes humorous, often frightening portrait of a parallel world that lurks in the near future in all of its dystopian glory. Della is caught in an emotional battle, deciding whether or not she should leave the country that is dissolving around her, or help to bring it down faster. Bombs are going off, but capitalism continues unabated. Unsure of what to do, Della starts calling in bomb threats of her own, targeting the companies and locations that offend her the most. When the threats start turning into actual destruction, she questions the her role in these events, the universe wrapping around her, burning martyrs and rat queens shimmering at the edge of her vision.

This is a partial list of everyone I met, hung out with, exchanged cards with, worked with, or stalked during the various events at last week’s Book Expo America. This is not an exhaustive list; I’m sure there are people I’m omitting, and I already feel bad about it.

With that disclaimer, here is the list, in alphabetical order:

 

ADAM WILSON

Editor at The Faster Times, and author of the forthcoming Flatscreen, which sounds fantastic. Hung out with him at the swankier-than-swank Authors Guild cocktail party.

 

ALISON SKAPINETZ

Blogs at Alison’s Book Marks. Met her at the Harper blogger party at Bill’s Gay Nineties. Like me, is from Jersey. Like me, is half Italian. Like my wife, had just taken her kids on a field trip to the Crayola Factory.

 

ANDY SHAFFER

AKA Evil Wylie. Author of Great Philosophers Who Failed At Love, which, unlike The Financial Lives of the Poets, really is about philosophers who failed at love. His line of “Evil” Christmas cards was featured on Colbert. Wore heart-shaped Disney glasses on his head. Is from Iowa. Does not seem like he’s from Iowa. Very funny.

 

BETH FISH

Nom de plume of [real name redacted]. Blogs at Beth Fish Reads.

 

CAROLINE KENNEDY

The biggest name on the docket, it says here, but she was a no-show. The official reason is that a family matter compelled her to bow out, but I think it was a conspiracy involving the Mafia, the CIA, and Fidel Castro.

 

COLLEEN GORMAN

Blogs at Books in the City, which is one of the best-designed book blog sites out there. Spends the holidays in Dallas, so maybe she’s also in on the aforementioned conspiracy.

 

DAWN RENNERT

Is too fond of books. Has four kids, whom she left home with her husband for BEA. In a related story, she looked very relaxed whenever I saw her.

 

DAVID GUTOWSKI

AKA Largehearted Boy. Wanted to meet him, but our paths, alas, did not cross.

 

DIANE LaRUE

Blogs at BookChickDi. At the party at Bill’s Gay Nineties, I mistakenly called her blog BookLadyDi, which would not be nearly as interesting, unless you’re into royal gossip and “Goodbye English Rose.”

 

DIANA SPECHLER

One of the featured authors at Monday’s Harper blogger event (the day after her TNB chat). Author of Skinny. Just a super nice person (real-person nice, not car-salesman nice). Wish we could have spent more time talking shop.

 

ELISSA SCHAPPELL

Author of the forthcoming Blueprints for Building Better Girls, a collection of inter-related stories that has one of the best titles going. Has more literary bona fides than you can shake a stick at, were you moved to shake a stick at literary bona fides. Met her at the Authors Guild party.

 

ERICA BARMASH

Perennial marketeer extraordinaire. Taker of vitamins.

 

JASON CHAMBERS

Managing editor at the increasingly-misnomered Three Guys One Book. Is launching a new venture called LitBreaker, a literary and pop culture ad network. Can totally pull off a white hat.

 

JASON RICE

He’s tall, and he has cool glasses.

 

JEN SCHULKIND

My excellent editor and companion-in-wandering around Javits. Waited with me to meet Russell Banks. Texted me showtimes for Bridesmaids.

 

JENNIFER HART

AKA Book Club Girl. Harper’s marketing director and associate publisher. New Jersey apologist.

 

JIM LEYRITZ

Former New York Yankee playoff hero who has written a book about the financial meltdown in Iceland. Just kidding! He wrote a book about his time with the Bronx Bombers. Spotted him on the NJ Transit platform in Madison.

 

JOHN LITHGOW

Keynote speaker at the Authors Guild dinner. Saw him at the cocktail party. Tried to play New York cool, but when I held the door for him, felt it would be rude to not say hello. Told him he was great on Colbert. Kept bumping into him for the rest of the party—when I went to the men’s room, for one thing—and again at BEA. Got to be sort of funny. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was stalking me.

 

JOSEPH PAPA

My publicist and handler for the autograph table. Thought an event was open bar; ordered two Champagne cocktails. It wasn’t; cost him $38. Was a bit shaken when the insane person came by the table (I used to recruit at job fairs, so I’m used to insane people).

 

JULIANNE MOORE

Walked by her on the way to my table; saw the back of her more-brown-than-red head. She’s small, and was folded up under the table like she was trying to vanish.

 

KIT STEINKELLNER

Blogs at Books Are My Boyfriends. Big fan of TNB. Was wearing a really cool dress.

 

LAUREN CERAND

Invited me to the Authors Guild cocktail party, which was awesome, and then did one better by introducing me to people when I showed up by myself, parched, early, and feeling quite out of place. As art deco swanky as the Edison Ballroom is, her outfit was even swankier.

 

LORI HETTLER

Longtime supporter of Yours Truly. Blogs at The Next Best Book Blog. Mastermind of The Next Best Book Club at Goodreads. First in line at the Fathermucker signing session. Introduced me to a lot of cool bloggers. Even nicer in person than she is online.

 

MARY SASSO

Harper’s marketing coordinator, which means she does the dirty work. Did a great job putting my stuff together. The lollipops turned out great!

 

MATTHEW NORMAN

Author of the very funny Domestic Violets, which drops in August. Lives in Baltimore. Is very tall.

 

MEGAN ABBOTT

One of the few American writers at the Quais du Polar festival I attended in March, in Lyon, France—and we were both at BEA, on the same day, at almost the same time slot, promoting two different books. Unlike in Lyon, the book she signed(The End of Everything) is in English, and is next in my stack.

 

MICHAEL FUSCO

Art director who designed the invitations for the Authors Guild event. Emma Straub’s husband, and the designer of the awesome book jacket for Other People We Married. Hung out with me at the Authors Guild party.

 

MOLLIE GLICK

My intrepid agent, who went with me to the Harpers party at The Park (her dog we left at the office).

 

RACHEL MANWILL

Blogs at Home Between Pages. Distinguishing mark: tattoo on her neck.

 

REBECCA COLEMAN

Author of The Kingdom of Childhood. Waited in line for a signed copy of Fathermucker; seemed surprised when I waited in line for a signed copy of her book.

 

ROB SPILLMAN

Editor of Tin House. Wearer of the coolest shirt-and-tie combo at the Authors Guild party.

 

RUSSELL BANKS

One of my favorite authors. I waited in line for a signed galley of his new one, Lost Memory of Skin. I actually said, “Hi, Russell; big fan,” like I was calling a sports radio talk show or something.

 

T. OLMSTED

BookSexy. Huge Colbert fan. Has tastes very similar to mine (guess how she feels about Franzen?).

 

TALIA CARNER

Author of Jerusalem Maiden, which sounds terrific…and releases today. Very elegant.

 

VANESSA VESELKA

Author of Zazen, which I’m reading now, and which is as superb as advertised. Has a tattoo of the New York Public Library lion on her arm. Met her at Javits, and again at Bill’s Gay Nineties. Inspired my wife and I to eat dinner at Veselka, our favorite restaurant in the East Village, after the party.

 

Vanessa Veselka’s Zazen is destined to be an auspicious debut. When my former editor, Richard Nash, asked me to read Zazen in manuscript and told me it would be his first debut at Red Lemonade, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew it would be good. I quickly devoured it, and this is what I had to say (I love quoting myself!): “At turns hilarious, unsettling, and improbably sweet, Veselka’s debut is, above all, a highly engaging, and totally unique experience, which will have you re-reading passages and dog-earing pages. But best of all, in the end, Zazen is that rare novel which dares to be hopeful in the face of despair, and succeeds.”