Saturday, December 10, 2011

Best of the Month - December 2011

Even though I recently released my Best Books of 2011, it is necessary to make a smallish amendment to that list. Why? Because in the last couple of weeks I read two of the best books of the year - and both were written in 2011. Eat your heart out!

The Whore of Akron by Scott Raab - I desperately did not want to love this book. I like LeBron James and want to see him win the NBA Championship. Raab shattered any illusions I had, but then he did something else: he shattered any illusions I had about his book as well. The main reason this book is so great? Raab is an amazing writer. This entire text plays out like a primal, existential scream about the slow death of Cleveland (personified through the villainous LeBron) and Raab's own tortured history. The man lives for Cleveland sports but it is passages like the following that will keep me rereading this book for years to come:
"Was it easy LeBron? Did it go down smooth and sweet as peach cobbler? I almost feel bad for you, son. You're not a grown man. You're a kid and you're afraid. What are you so afraid of LeBron, the losing or the winning? Do you finally understand that it's not easy? That it's not meant to be easy. Hard is the only thing that makes it worth anything, the only thing that makes losing or winning worth the pain of trying, the only thing that makes living and dying worth the suffering". I dare you to attempt to find a better written passage that came out this year. When all is said and done with the Miami Heat and dozens of books have been written I have no doubt that this will withstand the test of time as the best.

Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr (Only released in the UK!) - How did I manage to get my hands on the best mystery of the year when I do not live in the UK? An amazing girlfriend who figured out how to get it shipped over. The last Bernie Gunther outing (Field Gray) had its moments, but was mostly disappointing. I wondered, briefly if Kerr was finally going to run out of steam and end the series. Instead, Kerr reinvents his formula again and absolutely crushes a hell of a book. After the opening scenes set in Berling in 1942, Kerr rips into a 2 chapter, 200 page mini-book within a book that features one of the twistiest whodunits since Agatha Christie. The book is a slow burning, gut wrenching roller coaster that is impossible to put down. Trust me. I tried and failed. All I will say about the plot is that is set during Heydrich's reign in Czechslovakia and near the time of his assassination. This is also the first Kerr book to be set exclusively during WW2. Just when I had written him off, Kerr pulls out a taut, staggering novel that easily ranks among the best of the year (and the best he has written). How would I rank his books now (using only the titles):
1) The One from the Other (#4) - After a 17 year break, Kerr reached back and brought a tormented Bernie Gunther out of the war and straight into the most complex plot this side of James Ellroy. The end is so twisty and the rug pulled out so expertly that there is no way to prepare for the astounding finish.
2) A Quiet Flame (#5) - Set in Argentina, this novel featured Bernie's shot at redemption and a new life...which he promptly destroyed.
3) A Pale Criminal (#2) - This book, set during Kristalnacht is still the only book that I woke up early in the morning to read before work. The ending also made me feel sick to my is that visceral.
4) Prague Fatale (#8) - See above.
5)If the Dead Rise Not (#6) - Kerr's Bernie Gunther schtick was beginning to get a little thin around this point, but the theme of good and evil (not to mention just how bad Bernie had to be to survive the Nazi years) push this to another level. Originally planned as the final book, I am sure glad Kerr kept writing.
6) A German Requiem (#3) - Originally intended to be the conclusion of the series, this book deals with the direct aftermath of the war and Nazi war criminals. Bernie has to flee to Vienna where he gets caught up in Soviet / American spy games. This book touches on the Cold War more than WW2, and is very informative. The final twist is jaw dropping.
7) March Violets (#1) - The series opener was a great book, but Bernie took some time to develop as a character. A complex, literary thriller, this book is a dark meditation on the excesses of power.
8) Field Grey (#7) - This book is good, but not quite up to the usual Kerr standards. The main reason is all the jumping around: no other book in the series moves around quite as much.
I believe it may be time that Kerr enter the Mystery Writers Mount Rushmore and the Pantheon, 8 great books - more than Pelecanos, more than Lehane, inching up on Lee Burke.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

2011 Best Books of the Year

Once again, this "weekly" (sorry now, Monthly) blog is behind the eight-ball as nearly every other major publication has already released their Best Books of 2011. You can check out Amazon's fractured list here...or, you can read a list that require no books actually be written in 2011!

The Clive Cussler Award (Best Page Turner) - Redeemer / Redbreast / Snowman / Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo. Pretty much take your pick and then attempt to put any of them down before submitting to an epic fail. Nesbo is a great writer who brings a sublime depth to the mystery genre that too often barely scratches the surface. Prepare to lose a significant amount of time delving into the twisty and dark world of Detective Harry Hole, the only character this year who made me literally shout at him as I read the novel.

The Bill Bryson Award (Best Science Book) - The Tiger by John Vaillant. A staggering, cerebral look at a great and dying beast in the frozen wasteland of Russia. This magnificent animal has been poached and tormented to near extinction: yet somehow still thrives. Tigers are very intelligent animals and this tale of revenge (yes tigers will seek revenge...) is both thrilling and informative. A must read.

James Patterson Award (Most Disappointing Books)
3) The Rocket that Fell to Earth by Jeff Pearlman - I have really enjoyed the three other Pearlman books but this one was a bit of a stretch. A long reach and not an enjoyable one. No real connection with the subject (Roger Clemens) and nothing particularly interesting.
2) Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane - Hurts, very deeply as Lehane is one of my all-time favorite authors but he pulled his punches here and provided a real let down. Do not get me wrong, this was still a 7/10 but for Lehane that is simply not good enough. Compared to his previous works such as Gone, Baby, Gone or the incomparable Darkness Take My Hand this book just cannot compete. We have come to expect more from Lehane and in this instance he did not deliver.
1) I'd Know Her Anywhere by Laura Lippman - I expected a good read considering this was nominated for an Edgar Award, perhaps my expectations were too lofty. This had the potential to be a good book...had annnnnnnnnyyyyyyyything happened. It did not. Completely turned me off Lippman, possibly forever.

Bill Simmons Award (Best Sports Book) - Net Worth by David Cruise and Allison Griffiths.
Take everything you know about the NHL...then throw it out the window and prepare to become incensed. The authors dig deeply into the history of the game and provide deep and vivid portraits of the legends of the game. Stunning, insightful and a real vivisection of the game all Canadians love.

James Ellroy Award (Best Crime Book) - Desperados by Elaine Shannon. A cutting, explosive and fantastically researched look into the world of Drug Trafficking, this book sets a gold standard that may not be easily reached. Absolutely staggering in content, and surprisingly readable - this is a marathon read, not a sprint. At the end the reward is evident.

Robert Kurson Award (Best Adventure Book) - Diving into Darkness by Phillip Finch / Blind Descent by James Tabor. These two books are about the most extreme of men (and women!) and the edges of human experience. In Finch's book (Shadow-divers-lite) he expertly weaves the tale of two men who cave dive. His lucid prose makes the abyss so powerfully close that the reader is forced to shake themself several times during the reading. Tabor looks at the Bird / Magic of Caving and their exhaustive search for the final frontier of exploration on our planet - the deepest spot on Earth. Both are harrowing, claustrophobic reads that strap the reader to the chair and refuse to allow them to look away despite the horror.

Top 5 Books of 2011

5) Saturday Night by Doug Hill and Jeffery Weingrad - A view into the first ten years of Saturday Night Live seems like a strange choice for one of the best books of the year but this tome is anything but weighty. The portraits the authors provide are deeply moving and their commentary is spot on. A great look into one of the biggest television phenomenons of all-time with all your favorite characters present - Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Jim Belushi, Eddie Murphy...
4) In the Woods by Tana French - I very much did not want to include this book...and yet, it stuck with me so much that I have to. Elegantly written, spare and haunting, this bleak novel about two Irish detectives grappling with the past and a vicious killer features one of the most jaw dropping twists I have ever read. French builds you up to a logical conclusion and then yanks it away as if she were collapsing a JENGA tower. Pitch perfect.
3) The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo - My favorite of the Nesbo novels featuring Detective Harry Hole, this book takes place in a short period of time in which the main character chases an assassin who has killed the wrong man. Pulse pounding, intense and absolutely unputdownable.
2) Loose Balls by Terry Pluto - Probably the funniest book about sports (other than one written by Bill Simmons) this is a laugh out loud reading experience. Covering the ABA years, teams, players, coaches, scouts, GMs and announcers is a job best done in oral history style! The author also provides the single funniest quote ever by a wayward soul named Marvin "Bad News" Barnes who hated morning flights, and as such, upon being informed his flight left at 8am and arrived at 7:59am (due to time change) famously remarked: "I ain't flying on no time machine. I ain't taking no plane that goes back in time."
1) A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin - No series of books has ever captured the attention of my brother, mother, at least twenty people besides me around the pool in Hawaii and myself so expertly. Swords, knights, intrigue, twists aplenty all abound - but it is Martin's knack for thematic prose that pulls these novels out of the muck. He is writing about a dark, gritty world and he never shies away from this simple fact: "In the game of thrones you win or you die".

Author of the Year: Jo a whisker! George RR Martin contributed a highly entertaining television show in addition to his five books, but Nesbo's complex novels were enjoyed by everyone I know. They were books my beautiful girlfriend and I could both enjoy...and discuss. At one point we even considered a book club. They are page turning awesomeness and at the end of the year that is exactly what I want in a book. That Nesbo raises the stakes with a complex and literary twist to the genre just makes them all the more enjoyable.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Best of the Month - August, September, October

In a new feature on this blog, I will now be writing about my Best Books of the Month each and every month...except June / November where the Best Books of the Year (Thus Far / Overall) will be covered. Since I am way behind, this post will cover the months of August, September and October.

1) Loose Balls by Terry Pluto - An oral history about the ABA, Pluto expertly tells the tale of the doomed professional basketball league through the eyes of its owners, players, coaches and broadcasters. Along the way the legends of various characters (like Marvin Barnes and Connie Hawkins) are told for the first time. Why is this book so great? It is absolutely hilarious. My favorite anecdote ever: Marvin "Bad News" Barnes is told he has to be on an 8am flight that lands (due to time change) at 7:59am. His quote: "I ain't flying on no time machine. I ain't taking no plane that goes back in time."

2) Saturday Night by Doug Hill / Jeffery Weingard - Saturday Night was a groundbreaking television show that redefined late night. This is the best book on the formation and first ten years, complete with: drug addiction, fame, Jim Belushi, backstabbing and the up and downs of working on a network television show.

3) Net Worth by David Cruise and Alison Griffiths - Probably the second best hockey book ever, Net Worth is a damning expose of the forces who have run the NHL since its inception. I have never been as angry reading a book as I have this one. The portraits of players are so startlingly vivid that the legends of the past jump off the pages.


1) The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo - The Scandanavian's twisty thrillers featuring embattled Detective Harry Hole are "read them in one day" good. The Redeemer is the best one I have read thus far. Expertly weaving a brutal attack in the past with current events, Nesbo's skillfully plotted novel demands reading in one sitting. Attempting to put this book down will result in quickly returning to the labrinth-like plot where the twists do not stop until the final sentence.

2) A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George RR Martin - A quick tangent about this one: during the summer, my brother tore through the HBO television series: A Game of Thrones and then went on to tear through the books. Along the way he got my Mom hooked. I was reluctant to follow them down the rabbit hole (and several thousand pages) but wondered about a series that could grip both of them so completely. During a trip to Portland my brother was finishing the third book and shouting things like "What the..." as he read. I started reading right after that. I have never had such a visceral reaction to a series of books as I did to these. The first, second and third are stunning works of fiction. The intricate world Martin has created is staggeringly complex and deep...and literally anything can happen. He has no hesitation about killing characters or completely redefining them for the reader. When I was recently reading them on vacation I counted twenty people reading the third novel - A Storm of Swords - around the pool and on the plane. If you dare to begin these books, prepare yourself to get sucked into a medievil world for a few months.

Monday, June 20, 2011

2011 Books of the Year...So Far

June is nearly complete, which means the time is right to reveal the Best Books I Have Read in far.

Clive Cussler Award (Best Page Turner):
Fiction: Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville - Brtual, gritty, twisted and with ample characterization, this debut novel set in Ireland was a thing of beauty. Taking on the troubled backstory of an IRA Hitman literally haunted by his mideeds, Neville weaves a twisted morality tale with no good or evil characters.
Non-Fiction: When the Game Was Ours by Jackie MacMullin - The story of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, this book does not always break new ground. Yet, it manages to bring the two larger than life 80's Rivals to life for a new generation. Covering all their Championship years, The Dream Team and their eventual abrieviated retirements this book is a quick, but informative read.

Bill Simmons Award (Best Sports)
1) The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith - Widely considered the "best book about Michael Jordan" this one lives up to the title. Smith spent the entire 1991 season with the Bulls and perfectly captures MJ, and the team's transition from a one man show to Champion.
2) The Wave by Susan Casey - Following a group of Big, big, big Wave Surfers like Laird Hamilton, Casey gets inside the "wave" itself and examines it thoroughly from all angles.

James Patterson Award (Most Disappointing Books)
3) Dispatches by Michael Herr - Supposedly "the best" book on Vietnam, this one ended up being a lot repetetive and pretty confusing. Perhaps I was not smart enough to "get it".
2) The Rocket that Fell to Earth by Jeff Pearlman - I have really enjoyed Pearlman's 3 other books. This one was too much of a stretch. Straight up just not as good as his others.
1) I'd Know her Anywhere by Laura Lippman - Nominated for an Edgar (really not sure how...) this was a book where not much all. Period. A flashback sort of explained things but not really. I would expect the wife of Wire scribe David Simon to have written a much better Edgar nominated book.

James Ellroy Award (Best Crime)
4) The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton - This one was interesting and very unique. The reigning Edgar Award Winner was not your usual crime novel. About a boxman who lost the ability to speak due to a childhood trauma, this is a well-written, well-plotted story that has everything you could want in a crime novel.
3) In the Woods / The Likeness by Tana French - One has a jaw-dropping twist, among the best I have ever read. The other detonates like a slow bomb, twisting and worming its way through your gut. Written in beautiful prose, French is an author well deserving of the hype.
2) The City and the City by China Mieville - A mystery unlike any you have ever read before, the closest comparison I can make is "Inception" crossed with a Conspiracy thriller crossed with James Ellroy. Give it a try, you will not be disappointed.
1) The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo - Nesbo, "the Norweigan Stieg Larsson" in actuality defies that simplified convention. He is, for one thing, a much better writer than Ol'Stieg (cue gasps). Rebreast proves it. Examing Norway's Nazi past (and present) this is a white knuckle ride the entire way through. Not only is there a "who done it" aspect, but it is a rip-roaring conspiracy thriller. Try putting it down.

Jon Krakauer Award (Best Adventure)
2) Blind Descent by James Tabor - Quick! Name the deepest cave on Earth. I'll wait. Pretty sure it is on Google. Tabor takes you inside the world of two of the planet's deepest points. He explores the last great terrestrial accomplishment, in discovering the deepest cave on Earth. Along the way he talks about how awful spelunking is (try climbing Mt. Everest in reverse...and then the right way, just to get out). Awesome.
1) Diving into Darkness by Philip Finch - The most descriptive book on diving I have ever read, this one was like one long nightmare. If you liked Shadow Divers, this is sort of "Shadow Divers Lite". All about Cave Diving, it features some of the most extreme scenes I have ever read.

TJ English Award (Best Non-Fiction Crime)
The Cocaine Wars by Paul Eddy - A font of information about the 1980's, Miami, the Medellin Cartel and the USA's failed attempts to stem the flow of illegal drugs - this book packs a powerful punch. Beautifully descriptive and insightful there are no punches pulled. Vital for understanding what is happening currently in the failing war on Drugs.

Looking Ahead to the rest of the Year:

1) Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr - Another October, another Bernie Gunther novel. This one set during the Heydrich assassination.
2) The Scar by China Mieville - Outside my regular reading rotation, but the "moby-dick-esque" plot hooked me.
3) The Tiger by John Valient - A tiger, hunting people in Russia? Have not got to this one yet, but definitely have to this summer.
4) The Devil's Star / The Snowman / The Leopard by Jo Nesbo - Cannot wait to tear into the rest of Nesbo's Harry Hole series over the summer. Perfect beach reads.
5) Faithful Place by Tana French - The third French book has been called the best. Cannot wait.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Book / Authors

There are few joys as great as discovering a new author and then discovering they have three or four books you can make your way through. In the past couple of weeks - I have discovered two new authors.

The first, Tana French, came about because I realized that I had not read her acclaimed Edgar-nominated mystery In the Woods. Correcting that mistake was fantastic: French writes with a dark complexity that gives her book real depth. The story, about a haunted detective who must confront his past in order to solve a brutal slaying, is pitch perfect. Yes, it drags slightly in the middle but, then I hit the ending.

At one point I thought I had figured some of it out. Then French dropped a twist that tore the bottom completely out from under me. Staggering is the appropriate word. I eagerly await my chance to read the next two in her series: The Likeness / Faithful Places.

Additionally...I had the chance to check out a brilliant new TV series, AMC's The Killing. While reading a recap, a writer suggested trying out some of the nordic mysteries on which the show is based. His suggestion? Jo Nesbo, arguably the greatest Norweigan crime writer of all time. I picked up his first Harry Hole mystery Redbreast. Not only does this book tie together the dark past of Norway during WW2, but it has a rip-roaring, cannot put it down mystery. I look forward to tearing through the next several in Nesbo's award winning series.

Summer cannot come fast enough - I need beach reading time, ASAP.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Mount Rushmore of Mystery

Four authors - each a titan in their collective genre. Who makes the Mount Rushmore of Crime Fiction authors? First, a few criteria to establish: 1) The author must write books set in a specific location - If they write books about multiple locations, that can also be okay. However, in order to make this list they have to be "the" mystery writer about their city (ie. Boston / NYC / LA). 2) The author must have written multiple great books in order to qualify - No, "one great book" authors need apply. 3) The author can write series fiction - Just because they write about a character multiple times does not disqualify them. 4) Character, plot, twists, and writing style all count - No generic thriller writers allowed, these must be gritty, realistic and thematic books (Step aside Michael Connelly / James Patterson / Jeffery Deaver). Without further ado - The Mount Rushmore of Crime Fiction: James Lee Burke Why: His books set in New Orleans, featuring his long suffering protagonist Dave Robicheaux are among the most complex and haunting the genre has to offer. They are not often twisty whodunnits (though he can write twists) but rather slow burning affairs that rip his characters to shreds. Best Books: 1) The Tin Roof Blowdown - Probably the best book about Hurricane Katerina. 2) Purple Cane Road - A book that perfectly sums up everything great about Lee Burke's writing, a complex, at times stomach churning ride through the dark side of humanity. 3) Dixie City Jam - One of the best antagonists in recent memory. Dennis Lehane Why: Lehane has written amazing standalone novels in addition to one of the best crime series going. His books, set in Boston, examine brutal lives of violence and the cost of living in that world. The Kenzie / Gennaro series is one of the best there is at providing incredible writing and jaw dropping twists. His standalone books such as Mystic River are wrenching and powerful. Best Books: 1) Darkness Take My Hand - As I have written many times, this is arguably the best serial killer book ever. The level of plotting and slow burning revelation of the darkness lurking at the core of the story makes it one hell of a ride. 2) Mystic River - Dark, complex and character driven. This book was a departure for Lehane - and a very welcome one. George Pelecanos Why: His DC set novels include multiple series and several stellar standalone novels. Pelecanos, like Lee Burke, does not rely on twists - you know who the bad guys are - but his level of characterization brings genuine depths to the darkest hearts in society. Brutal and relentless his novels are often like a punch to the gut. Best Books: 1) The Night Gardener - Like Mystic River, this one is a standalone story that set Pelecanos apart from rest of the mystery crowd and sticks with you long after you read the final pages. 2) The Sweet Forever - My all-time favorite Pelecanos, this book takes you inside the crack epidemic through several active participants. A spector of death looms over the entire story as the tragic tale of Len Bias is told throughout. Philip Kerr Why: A year ago Kerr would have been left off this list. Now? He headlines, thanks to his outstanding Bernie Gunther series (originally written as a trilogy, now 7 books strong). Bernie, a detective from Nazi Germany, weaves his way through history and the depths of Nazi corruption. He is a cynical voice of clarity from within a vault of injustice and pure evil. No saint himself, Bernie participates in acts that are brutal but ultimately proves himself the moral voice of reason (a dark knight) in an insane time. Best Books: 1) The One From the Other - After a 17 year absense from the character, Kerr returned with what is arguably his best book. Bernie tracks down a brutal SS killer in Munich after the war. The ramifications of his actions during the war are examined as is the morality of what he has done. The twists are jaw dropping and the ending completely bittersweet. 2) A Quiet Flame - Arguably his best book as well... (its a crazy argument!) This one takes Bernie to Argentina and brings a new level of depravity to the Peron regime that harboured Nazi fugitives. A stunning story.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Pantheon

What is the Pantheon? The best ever. Period.
In Basketball the Pantheon is probably five men: Jordan, Russell, Wilt, Magic, Bird.
Hockey has even less: Gretzky, Lemieux, Howe, Orr.
There is no set number for any given Pantheon - greatness dicates who or what belongs. If something is Pantheon worthy, you will definitely know it.
How then, does one go about putting together The Pantheon for books? Not just any good book can get in, there has to be no doubt whatsoever of pantheon-worthiness. Additionally, the Pantheon is never a large group - but, things can enter or exit depending on the emergence of new worthy additions (think Lebron to the NBA pantheon one day, or Crosby to the NHL one). There must is a strict criteria each book must meet and exceed in order to be considered Pantheon worthy.
1) Incredible from start to finish - A book in the pantheon must be able to draw you in from the opening page and keep you wanting more when you conclude. Upon finishing a Pantheon worthy book, you may feel an incredible desire to open it again and skim through the best parts in the following days.
2) Re-readability - Pantheon books can be read and re-read at least a dozen times and yet must never be boring at any time. Each time you read the book, you must discover something new - or simply marvel at the author's accomplishment.
3) Big Ideas - The books must be more than just the words on the page. They need to be thought provoking but, have to balance the line between "too much info" and "not enough".
4) The "I have to tell everyone I know" conundrum - This happens when the book is so good that you tell everyone you know about it and insist they read it. However, you loved this book so much you are loath to loan them your copy for fear of any damage to the book.
5) An Impact on your reading habits - A pantheon level book will leave you desperate for more - either from the author or on the same subject. Each successive book will be more and more disappointing, eventually leading to the re-reading of the original and the declaration that it is "The Book on that particular subject / genre".
6) Could easily have been longer - Have you ever finished a really good book, and even if it is already a thousand pages felt like you would have kept reading even if it was longer? Or, perhaps you wished that it could continue to go on? Some books are like that. You enjoy every single page and would read 10,000 pages by the author if it was necessary.
Therefore, without further ado, here is my Pantheon:
The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons - This book reignited a dormant love of Sports books. Simmon's outrageous history of the NBA is a well-written, incredibly detailed dive into the world of professional basketball and everything (literally) that goes along with it. I have re-read sections frequently and counted the days until the paperback was released with "new material". The most comprehensive and illuminating sports book I have ever read. Can he do one for every sport?
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty - The best western novel ever written. Despite being 900 pages, could easily have been another, oh, 10,000.
Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson - The Dwight Gooden 1985 of Non-Fiction books. What do I mean? Gooden's 1985 campaign was the most dominant statistical season in the history of professional baseball...but it came out of nowhere. Yes, he was a good player before and after the season, but never again reached the same level as '85. Kurson came out of magazine journalism to write what may be the best non-fiction account of all time - he will never top his first effort as long as he writes.
American Tabloid by James Ellroy - Everything about this book is Pantheon-worthy. From the signature style to the gripping, conspiracy filled ride through the history of the Kennedy years - this whole package is a tantalizing read.
Monster by Sanyika Shakur - This book changed my life. It made me want to read better books and to better myself. The story is horrifying, violent and downright naueseating at times but shows the flip side of a world few of us understand. The first real account of gang life in Los Angeles.
That's it. Five books. I debated again and again as to the worthiness of other books but decided, for now, to keep it small. What books just missed out?
The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow - Great but not Pantheon-worthy.
Darkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane - Powerful, dark and the best serial killer novel ever, but...the awesome twist at the end takes away the re-readability.
A Quiet Flame / The One From the Other by Philip Kerr - Again, either could be Pantheon worthy...but just miss.
The Stand by Stephen King - A worldwide pandemic? Makes for great story-telling, and this is probably the closest of all books to entering the pantheon - maybe after a re-read.
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer - Fantastic book, great re-read but just not quite as good as Shadow Divers / Monster.
The Winds of War / War and Rememberance by Herman Wouk - Pantheon-worthy for sure, maybe on the next pass (Are you getting the fact that the pantheon is ridiculously tough to crack?!).
Sahara by Clive Cussler - The best Cussler is still a book by Clive Cussler. Sure it has more depth than a lot of novels but it does not reach the same scope as other books. Very high on the re-readability scale however.