June is nearly complete, which means the time is right to reveal the Best Books I Have Read in 2011...so 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 happened...at 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.