I decided to make a list of my favorite books this year. Lots of these were not published this year, but I read them this year. I am always behind on books, mostly because I am always finding new books I want to read or re-reading books that I love. So instead, I am just listing the books I loved and read this year.
10. The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie continues to impress me with his books. They are all so fully realized and just plain interesting that I always have a great time reading them. Many people have called his books: Gritty, Grim, Dark(or grim-dark), and unendingly depressing. I would agree but only to a point. I would say that these books may not be for everyone, as they are a darker more grim look at the fantasy genre.
This book is ultimately the story of a war. The Union forces and the Northmen have been at it for a while and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. The council, annoyed at how long it is taking and needing the troops elsewhere command an end to the war. As quickly as possible please. Abercrombie writes about the “heroes” of he war but also spends time telling about the not-so-heroic.
I like that there is an equal balance between the action set pieces and humor. The humor might be black humor in most cases but it is still a welcome break from the action. I enjoyed this book a lot and am looking forward the reading the next book on my list Red Country.
9. Star Wars: Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover
An amazing book. This book deals with the hard realities of war and what it can do to the people and the planets involved. It has very strong allusions to the Book Heart of Darkness, in that it involves looking deeper into what happens to people at war. This isn’t exactly breaking new ground for a review of this book, but it is so good I struggle to put into words what grabbed me about it.
Shatterpoint is set after Attack of the Clones. Mace Windu receives a troubling message from his former Padawan Depa Billaba. Now Mace must travel to the jungle world of Haruun Kal to find Depa and either save her or destroy her. Mace Windu is a fascinating character. He left almost no impression on from watching the movies, maybe because they are so boring and poorly realized. But you can’t help but picture Sam Jackson in this book, and he makes it awesome.
Maybe one of the best Star Wars books I’ve read in my short time catching up with the EU. They usually run from cheesy to melodramatic, to fun and interesting to dull and plodding. I love the Star Wars universe and look forward to continuing to find gems like this in the haystack.
8. Redshirts by John Scalzi
This was just a super fun book to read. I don’t think I’ve ever not liked any John Scalzi book. I haven’t read them all but he has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Redshirts was fun. It was geeky and ridiculous. I loved every second of it.
I think this book is one that you really need to experience without too much info going in, it makes it much more fun, so I won’t say much here. An awesome book from a great author I only started reading this year.
7. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
This is a very swashbuckling adventure with tons of twists and turns mixed with an Ocean’s 11 heist. There is of course a lot more to it than that, but I hate spoilers.
In basic terms, Locke Lamora is (with his small group of friends/co-thieves) a master thief and actor setting up elaborate cons to steal money from the richest people in town without getting caught. Needless to say things get complicated and the schemes get more and more insane as they struggle to stay one step ahead of the game.
This book is just a ton of fun, which is a theme of my favorite books I read this year.
6. Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
I really liked this book. This is the election that really got me interested in politics and how the whole process works, not only on a national level but at my own local level as well.
This is basically the story of the 2008 election. The book uses behind the scenes information from a bunch of sources to put together the bigger then life personalities running for president. It starts out with Obama and Clinton and their race through the primaries and switches to McCain around the halfway mark to tell his story and in the end smashes the stories together to relate the end of the election in November.
It is written in a very layman’s, friendly way that means anyone will be able to follow along without being bogged down in insider political terms
5. Looking For Alaska by John Green
This is a really interesting book. It is a story of cliches that I could see going into the book, yet I still found a lot to like here. The cliches include: A) and mysterious, pixie-ish, adventurous girl that is infuriating and yet changes the main characters life forever. B) the aforementioned main character who is a moody teenage boy who goes off to a boarding school and really learns about life, man. C) A group a kids that love to learn and read and have adventures that pull them together.
I say all of that and yet I did like the book in the end. The book itself is definitely written for a teenage audience and can be simplistic at times. The structure of the book is also really interesting with a count up/countdown structure. I liked it a lot, but not a ton which is why it falls in the center of my list this year.
4. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
This was probably the most interesting book I’ve read in a while. I read a LOT of Urban Fantasy (and regular fantasy, and Sci-fi), and they are as a rule OK, not great not amazing, just OK. (It is entirely possible I just can’t find the best books, and this is totally anecdotal.) I love finding new worlds and situations to read about, and this might be the most interesting one in a while.
Myfanwy Thomas wakes up surrounded by dead bodies with a letter in her pocket explaining that she better run and hide because people are looking to kill her just like they did to the last person in this body. From there the plot is all about learning how to deal in a “new” bodies in a world that is terrifying and strange. I loved every second of it!
3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I can’t really express how much I loved this book without sounding like I just copied out the quotes from the book cover. This is a fascinating book, and one that I think I’ll re-read constantly.
This book is about a few things:
1) Hannah Baker’s suicide. I don’t think I need a spoiler tag there since you can read it on the back cover and The first few pages. Suicide is a hard subject to get right in literature. Often it can go into the melodramatic and cheesy, with platitudes about life sprinkled all over the place. This isn’t that book. Oh sure you are meant to think about life and hope in general, but they are never pounded into your head.
2) Clay’s reactions to the tapes. This was my favorite part of this book. The framing device of Hanna’s tapes explaining her story. 13 tales recorded on tape. I loved it. You really feel for Clay while he listens to these tapes, to the stories that led someone he really liked to kill herself.
3) the horrible stuff that happens to Hannah, and the idea of the destructiveness of rumors in general. Ugh. the kids on those tapes are assholes. I can honestly say that my high school life was not that horrifying, but I know for a lot of people it is and that is terrible. You really get sad and desperate for Hannah and you wish you could go back in time to help her. The thirteenth tape is the saddest for me, although the others make me sad and rage as well.
Seriously, I think everyone should read this book. There are so many great things that I am leaving out, and every story is worth reading. It was so good I read it in a day.
2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A man returns to his hometown of Sussex, England for a funeral. On impulse he walks down the road to an old farm where 40 years earlier something extraordinary happened to him, darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. With the help of Lettie Hempstock (and her mother and Grandmother), the darkness is battled and the strangest, most terrifying time of his life is over.
I finished this book a week or so ago but I wasn’t sure what I would write for a review. See the book is fantastic, Neil Gaiman at his magical realism best, but how could I review it properly? This book is dreamlike in its writing. All the characters are otherworldly and yet feel familiar. The narrator, the boy is childlike in a believable way. He is only seven after all. Bookish and different from his sister, he feels alone and separate from his family. HE feels unconnected from his life in a way, at least until he meets Lettie Hempstock and her family.
They meet in a strange way, the suicide of a renter that had stolen his dads car, and the story only gets stranger from then on. Lettie and her family are down-home and simple and yet ethereal in that particular Gaiman way. They are nice and welcoming and protect the boy from harm many times throughout the book.
I find it hard to put into words how this book made me feel at the end. It was scary and funny, but with a melancholy air to it. I loved it thoroughly.
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I know that I am VERY far behind the hype for this book. People have been recommending it to me forever now, and I just got around to checking it out this year. In fact I didn’t finish it very long ago in fact.
This is an amazing book that pulled me in instantly and with every twist i was pulled in further. It is the story of and unhappy wife who goes missing and the super shady, suspicious husband she leaves behind….and then its not. I can barely talk about this book because i think you should really go into this without knowing too much. Half of the fun is getting pulled around by the plot twists. I know most people are spoiled about this book by now, but if you aren’t KEEP IT THAT WAY. It will make the book so much more interesting.