Saturday, June 22, 2013

2013's Best Books of the Year - So Far

With 2013 half over and summer here tomorrow, it seems an appropriate time to look back at some of the best books I have read thus far this year.  Once again, these are books I have read this year...not necessarily that have been published this year. 


Area 51 by Annie Jacobson - Instead of delving into a huge amount of conspiracy theories, Jacobson instead chooses to focus on the facts and Area 51's history as a military base.  What she digs up is almost better than any theory.  Area 51 revolutionized the American Military and their testing.  This book is well written, doggedly researched and excellently argued. 

Ballad of the Whisky Robber by Julian Rubenstein - A madcap adventure through post-communism Eastern Europe, this book features semi-pro hockey, bank robbery, pelt smuggling and brutal alcoholism.  Prepare to turn the pages faster than a Grisham novel. 

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser - I tried to read this book a couple of times and was not successful because I simply was unable to get through the introduction.  So, it sat, unread on my kindle for more than a year, and then suddenly I was struck by an urge to read it.  Am I ever glad that I did: this was one of the better books I have read this year.  Well written and an in depth look at how fast food changed America and ultimately the world.  Disturbing, fascinating and at times completely horrifying (the slaughterhouse sections are among the most terrifying things I have ever read).  If you only read one book about the food industry ever, make it this classic.  One of the best books ever on the subject.

Sweetness by Jeff Pearlman - Sometimes it is important to get the full measure of someone, even when they have been deified by everyone around them.  Jeff Pearlman does this in his biography of Walter Payton.  Does he occasionally detail not so great aspects of the legendary running back?  Yes, he does, and does he also detail the incredible and good things?  Yes he does.  This is a well measured, and overall compelling book about an ultimately tragic figure.

One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard - Imagine a tiny school making the state championships in baseball thanks to a hippy coach who changed his small town forever.  One of the most inspiring books I have ever read, this is an instant classic of David vs. Multiple Goliaths.  Read and enjoy.


Reconstructing Amelia  by Kimberly McCreight - Imagine if Gone Girl and Gossip Girl had a baby, and now imagine this baby is the most taut and intense thriller of the year.  I did not care for Gone Girl but this was one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.  A stunning thriller that spins the reader in so many different directions and then actually has a logical ending.  Not a happy book, but a truly deep and resonant one.  The plot is twisty and engaging: a high priced lawyer gets a call from her daughter's private school.  The daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.  By the time her mother gets there her daughter is dead, the victim of an apparent suicide.  However, a text from a mysterious source states: she didn't jump.  Saying any more would spoil all the depth and incredible turns.  Maybe the best book of the year so far.

A Man Without Breath by Philip Kerr - Once again Kerr releases a book and once again it is a stunning literary achievement.  This one set deep in the second world war has antihero Bernie Gunther trying to figure out who is responsible for a mass grave in the Katyn Forest.  If the Russians were the killers, Germany has a huge PR coup - but if the Germans are responsible it needs to be hushed up quickly.  The most meditative of Kerr's works, this is a stunning book that is one of Kerr's better novels.  Deeply thematic and full of action, twists and turns, you cannot help but cheer for Bernie even as he sinks as low of the Nazi's he utterly despises.

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