In both 2012 and 2013 I read over 100 books. For 2013 I was on the road and via lots of long bus and train rides it wasn’t that tough to read so many. 2012 though I was working almost the entire year and writing my first novel and I’m not sure how I did it.
In a fit of hubris, I chose a higher amount than ever this year. 110 was my goal. Though I didn’t start working, I lost my Kindle in march and that made all the difference. (I still prefer paper books, but many places I was in didn’t have English language bookstores.)
I ended up at just over 70, which isn’t bad but is less than I had hoped. Worse, I feel like I didn’t enjoy many of the books I read this year. (I’m in the camp that always finishes a book once I’ve started it.)
That aside, there were several awesome books I read for the first time this year. It’s hard to narrow it down, and entirely arbitrary to choose a certain number but that aside here are the five best books I read this year.
5. Widow’s House
Daniel Abraham doesn’t get the props that Martin and Rothfuss do, but I think his series is just as good as theirs. He is the master of characterization and it’s clear by now–Book 4 of the Dagger and Coin series–that he knows exactly what he’s doing. This is traditional high fantasy, with dragons and everything, but there is a level of insight and craftsmanship imbued throughout the series. Abraham is the balm to the current crop of plot heavy, write-by-numbers writers saturating the fantasy field today.
4. A Pretty Mouth
This collection of short stories is chock full of cosmic horror ladened with Stuart Gordon squick and Gloom-like settings. One of those things that couldn’t have been written by anyone else. Any Lovecraftian fan would of course love these, but I think this would make a good “gate-way” book for lit majors and fans of classic literature.
3.Stranger Things Happen
Another short story collection, this one harkens back a few years but I only just got around to reading it this October. It’s really hard to characterize these stories. On a venn diagram between spec fic and transgressive fiction, Kelly Link is exactly in the middle. I’ve never read anyone as disturbing as her, and I mean that as the highest compliment.
2. Red Country
The cover is awkward and I actually don’t enjoy many of Joe Abercrombie’s books. He’s like the literary equivalent of Tarantino to me–so desperate to demonstrate how damn clever he is that everything that is actually nifty loses luster from all the self-acclaim. I also haven’t even ever read a western. Thus I can’t explain why I enjoyed this book so very much but I sure did. Probably the most pure fun thing I read all year.
I became a big fan of Lauren Beukes this year and I think Moxyland (which I won from Angry Robot for a bad christmas pun) is my favorite. The comparisons to Gibson are valid, I think. The near-future extrapolation of the present is terrifying precisely because of how plausible it is, and the characters are a likeable group of unlikable antiheroes.