The end of the year is almost upon us, and with it comes the usual slew of best-of lists for you to base your gift-giving decisions around. This year, instead of coming up with another top-ten list, (there are plenty of those), we decided to let the experts (aka the staff at our favorite bookstores) do the dirty work instead. So without further ado, we present the best books of 2011, according to the people who know best.

McNally Jackson's Picks:

New York:
Rules of Civility, Amor Towles: Perfect for those who need a page turner that won't insult their intelligence. 
Life on Sandpaper, Yoram Kaniuk: A portrait of the artist as a young man in the jazzy Greenwich Village of the 1950s. 
By Nightfall, Michael Cunningham: For readers brave enough to look beneath the surface of a successful New York life. 

Short stories:
The Angel Esmeralda, Don DeLillo: A great gift for New Yorkers whose city is wet, full of jungle and nuns and satellites and cars.
While the Women are Sleeping, Javier Marias: Wonderful for voyeurs and exhibitionists, those lovers of fiction for what it hides, what it reveals.

Humor:
House of Holes, Nicholson Baker: For the lover of sex and puns in equal measure—by the houseful. 
Pym, Mat Johnson: For those willing to find humor—lots and lots of humor—in the long, sad history of race in America. 
Great Frustration, Seth Fried: Because you and your loved ones know there is nothing sadder or more hilarious than science and sex and explosions.

Monsters:
Zone One, Colson Whitehead: For those who’ve survived.
Orange Eats Creeps, Grace Krilanovich: For all the teenage hobo vampires and their enthusiasts.
Literary Conference, Cesar Aira: For your favorite mad scientist, whether in fact or only in dreams.

100% Great Reads:
Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach: For lovers of baseball and novels—baseball optional.
Upright Piano Player, David Abbott: Perfect for fans of Ishiguro. Suspenseful, beautifully crafted, and quietly devastating. A slim yet substantial novel.
Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer: For those who love grand, sweeping, historical tales to keep them up all night.

Powerhouse Arena's Picks:

Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War, Deb Olin Unferth: Deb Olin Unferth’s memoir about running away with her boyfriend to Nicaragua to join the Sandinistas brought me back to a time in my life when doing things like that didn’t seem so outrageous. While it was fun to read about her zany adventures in Central America, it was Deb’s singular voice that madeRevolution so memorable. 

The Great Night, Chris Adrian: Adrian has a troupe of deranged homeless thespians rehearsing a musical adaptation of Soylent Green—this in a novel based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Given the premise, it's amazing how the author manages to pack so much weirdness into the book. I wanted to be dismissive; I ended up charmed.

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer by Vivian Maier, edited by John Maloof:  There are plenty of accolades and huzzahs surrounding the puzzling story of Vivian Maier's life. Her photos, however, tell a completely different story. Now in its 2nd printing, Vivian Maier's book shows that she took street photography on a completely different level. Highly recommended!

Shakespeare & Co.'s Picks:

Per staffer James: Not an exhaustive list, but a selection of books that have been both greatly enjoyed by staffers and sold like hotcakes with customers.

Fiction: 11/22/63 by Steven King; The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides; Cain by Jose Saramago; The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes; Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Non-Fiction: Arguably by (the just-deceased) Christopher Hitchens; Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable; Pulphead: Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan; Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman; Bossypants by Tina Fey; Hemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson; Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson