Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012 Best of the Year...So Far

Yes, it is mid-late July and only now am I releasing my Best of the Year...So Far.  My apologies for the delay but European Vacations tend to get in the way of things like, say, reading or writing about reading. 
In 2012 I have read a large amount of non-fiction; and a shocking (for me) amount of female authors.  Here are the best books I have read in 2012 thus far (keep in mind once again that not all of these books were written in 2012 but this is the year in which I have read them):

Clive Cussler Award (Best Page Turner)
Fiction: The Way it Was by George Pelecanos - Pelecanos really made a bit of a mini comeback for me after a series of disappointing novels in which he seemed to lose his way.  This was a gut punch of a novel; hard, fast and brutal.  Maybe writing it over the course of three blistering hot summer weeks contributed to that.  In any event this is simply impossible not to read in one sitting and flashes the immense talent of Pelecanos to us all once again.
Non-Fiction: American Lightening by Howard Blum - The exhaustive and well written account of the 1910 LA Times bombing is great.  Blum weaves the birth of Hollywood and modern cinema in with a domestic terrorist attack and class warfare in the early years of Los Angeles.  This is a detailed and rich story filled with riveting characters, simply try putting it down.

Harper Lee Award (Best Female Fiction / Non-Fiction)
Fiction: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia / Margaret Stohl - Comparing books is frequent and something all readers do as seeking connections allows us to understand what we read on a different level.  Never have I compared a book to the classic To Kill a Mockingbird until now.  Keep in mind I am not stating this book is on the level of a timeless classic because it is not.  However the themes the authors touch are similiar, as is the small town Southern injustice (and setting).  Detailed analysis would be wrought with spoilers so all I will say is this: give this book a shot.  It is beautifully written and lushly imagined. 
Non-Fiction: Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman - Writing a history of the controversial "religon" (Editor's Note: It is a CULT) takes some serious guts but the best thing about this book is that there are no judgements made by the author.  She simply presents the facts - horrifying as they are - and allows the reader to draw their own conclusion.  At the end she gives little doubt the twisted purpose of Scientology and the taut, frighteningly sad section on the brutal death of one of the members is one of the scariest things you will read all year.  Bravo to Reitman for exposing and rightfully airing all the dirty laundry of what amounts to little more than a criminal organization.

Bill Simmons Award (Best Sports Books)
Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby - A delightful read about the nature of obsession and love for our teams, Hornby's book is a masterpiece.  Long before he moved on to novels, this was his magnum opus.  Hilarious and heartwrenching he shows exactly what it means to support your team. 
Among the Thugs by Bill Buford - The scariest book I have read all year does not rest anywhere near the confines of the "Horror" Section at any bookstore.  Rather, it sits, awaiting its next victim in the Sports Shelf.  Buford's book is horrifying and shows the depths and depravity that arise from disenfranchisement and our growing lack of a moral center, especially among the working class.  He follows English soccer hooligans through their remarkably organized chaos, death and destruction.  Absolutely terrifying. 
Unfinished Business by Jack McCallum - Going inside one of the last years of Boston's Big Three (as in Bird / McHale / Parish) allowed McCallum to get a true understanding of the cost of winning as well as what it takes.  This is a hilarious book which serves to humanize some of the gods of the 80's basketball. 

James Patterson Award (Most Disappointing Books)
Lords of the Line by David Cruise and Allison Griffiths - After reading the duo's amazing Net Worth I eagerly dug into this stinker.  It was okay...but apparently Canadian Railway History is just nowhere near as interesting as the financial history of the NHL. 
The Accountant's Story by Roberto Escobar - After spending most of the book arguing that he was not going to defend his brother (Pablo)'s actions...Roberto does just that.  He puts the blame on everyone but Pablo...all the while reminding you that he will not do so.  Frustrating, but somewhat interesting insider view of the life of the World's largest Cocaine trafickers.
Gone by Michael Grant - I read this one with high expectations and it simply let me down.  So much little execution.

Other Great Books I read this 1/2 Year:
Wild Thing by Josh Bazell - Highly entertaining and surprisingly deep.  Also check out his earlier book Beat the Reaper.
Wilt by Wilt Chamberlain - Hilarious, larger than life and, well, just like Wilt himself.  This book proves how self-centred the man was and how little he understood true greatness.  Still a great read.
Kings of Cocaine by Guy Gugliotta and Jeff Leen - A detailed look at the world of Cocaine and the men who revolutionized it.  A dark portrait of some of the most powerful criminals of our time.
A Feast for Crows / A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin - Not as good as the third book but still quite good!  I understand the frustration of many of his readers but these were solid books. 
Collusion by Stewart Neville - Dark and twisty, this book continues the story Neville began in Ghosts of Belfast.  While this novel is not anywhere near as original as his first it is still a haunting tale of a country struggling to get over decades of strife. 

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