That said, let's move to number One (out of 111 books read this year):
The Paladin Prophecy, by Mark Frost
Why did this stay with me? First, although there are quite a few characters, they're introduced very slowly. This is one of the few books with numerous characters where I still felt like I had a handle on all of them by the middle of the book (in fact, I had a handle on each character practically before the next one is introduced). At the same time, tension is still high -- it's very well done in that way. Second, the plot also unfolds slowly, and yet I never felt like I was waiting for the next thing to happen. I think it takes special skill to accomplish this as a writer, and Frost does it quite well in this book. Third, I *liked* the characters, especially Will. He's bright, quick-thinking, and yet vulnerable. His reaction to his parents' changes is something I think most people can sympathize with, for instance. Fourth, the plot is complex and exciting -- it's a definite thriller. And although there's room for a sequel (and needs a sequel), I didn't feel like I was left hanging, either. Enough was resolved that I was satisfied -- yay! Fifth, a minor but sweet romance (pretty mild, so far). So yes, this is the last of the top eleven -- all of which are highly recommended.
I think I've seen the types of books I most enjoy -- those with solid and relate-able characters, those with exciting and complex plots, those with sweet and thoughtful romances, and those whose endings satisfy (rather than ending with a cliff-hanger). What about you? What common characteristics do your top books of the year share?