Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Best Books of the Year 2013

Here are the best books I read in 2013 - please remember not all of these books were written in 2013 this is just the year I read them.  I know I am behind the ball as Amazon and other outlets have long since released theirs, but I just kept reading good books and did not want to fail to include them.

Clive Cussler Award (Best Page Turner)
Fiction: Michael Connelly books - This was the year I discovered that Connelly's books are sometimes well written, very engaging,  and ultimately pretty impossible to put down.  I tore through two of his Mickey Haller books, five Harry Bosch novels and the serial killer classic Blood Work.  Not all of the books are great, but many are very good and all of them are page turners.
Non Fiction: The System by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian - This was not necessarily a page turner, but I simply could not stop reading it.  The way it was organized; each chapter almost a self contained article, lent itself to struggling to put it down.  It was a fascinating look inside college football and the world around it.  An incredible, investigative journey.

David Simons Award (Smartest Book)
Difficult Men by Brett Martin - The new golden era of television demanded a comprehensive study, and this look at the creators of The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Mad Men and others was an in depth and very intelligent look at the men who changed television forever as well as how the medium grew from cheap entertainment to true art form.

Topic of the Year
College Football -  One of the hot button topics of the year was the corruption of the college game, and I managed to read several books that were quite illuminating, and at times, downright terrifying.  Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls by Stewart Mandel was a witty and funny look at the craziness of how champions and Heisman trophy winners are chosen.  The System was indelible and momentous, a panoramic shot of the whole rotten apple.  If the Benedict book was an all encompassing look at the system, the brilliant Scoreboard, Baby is a microcosm of all that is wrong with College Football.  That the book was not only one of the best sports books of the year, but also won an Edgar Award for Best Crime Fact tells you a whole lot about the subject matter.  A horrifying look at the abuses and criminal activities committed by the 2000 Washington Huskies.

James Patterson Award (Most Disappointing Books)
1. Ancients by David Golemon - Once in awhile you read a book that is not very good, and once in a while you may read something that is downright terrible...and then you might read something on the level of Golemon's truly horrible book.  This one might be in contention for worst book I have ever read. 
2.LA Noir by John Buntin -   Too grand for its own designs, this is a book that managed to make the story of the first police commissioner and Mickey Cohen into a drab and wholly uninteresting story.
3. The Big White Lie by Michael Levine - Horribly boring and pretty hard to do when you are writing about drug lords and the DEA.

Bill Simmons Award (Best Sports Books)
Muck City by Bryan Mealer - Cross Friday Night Lights with the Wire and you end up with this book, all about football in the Florida Everglades (one of the poorest areas in the United States).  One poor, crime ridden area has sent a shocking amount of players to the NFL.  This is a heart breaking book, full of tragedy, pain and ultimately deliverance.
Sweetness by Jeff Pearlman - There are two types of sports biographies; those that completely glorify their subjects and gloss over anything slightly real, and those that seek to take the full measure of a man and provide a full portrait.  No need to guess which one this is.

Best Crime Books
A Man without Breath by Philip Kerr - Once again Kerr manages to write a stunning thriller that transcends its genre and looks deep into the heart of evil.
Countdown City by Ben Winters - The sequel to last years Best Book of the Year, this one picks up the story with 77 days to go.  The best part about these books is the sense of melancholy that seeps into every part of the story.  Hope fades and dies as the world falls apart, but in the end, the smallest gestures end up the most meaningful.  Counting the days until the third book arrives.

Harper Lee Award (Best Female YA)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - Prepare to have your heart broken by this wonderful historical novel, full of character, life, love and death.  Two girls in World War Two must show their courage amidst insurmountable odds.  Well written and very poignant.

Twist of the Year
Alliegent by Veronica Roth - She went for it, she really, really went for it.  This is a writer with some serious cojones.

The Five Best Books of the Year
5. One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard - An inspiring, life altering book about a coach and a baseball team that nearly went all the way against all the odds.
4. 11/22/63 by Stephen King - What if you could go back in time and change the past?  What if the past did not want to be changed?  King has created a world that lives and breathes and makes nearly a thousand pages fly by. 
3. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser - A classic and rightfully so.  This book is staggering, teeming with facts and an indictment of the way we eat. 
2. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight - A child dies, and then, suddenly, the book spins back to tell both the story of the child and that of the mother desperate for answers.  A worst nightmare that tells a powerful story of how disconnected youth are from our lives, and we, from theirs.
1. The Monstrumologist Series by Rick Yancey - As Yancey writes in his introduction to the fourth and final book, he set out to write a series about chasing monsters: those that terrify us and haunt us, and those that are more difficult to see.  Yancey is ultimately more concerned with the darkness that wells up and grows inside each of us.  Of course, he says, if you spend long enough looking into the abyss, eventually the abyss will look back.  The achievement of these books is monumental.  They are marketed as YA fiction but are much more than that.  These are simply great books, among the most complex and beautifully written as you will ever find.  They are horrifying, gory and at times difficult to read (bleak is a word that could be used) but the challenge is well worthwhile.  Rarely has an author dared to seek the monsters inside all of us; the ones we try hardest to hide from.  Right down from the smallest character, to the two main ones, Yancey has succeeded brilliantly in creating a series of four novels (The Monstrumologist, The Curse of the Wendigo, The Isle of Blood and The Final Descent) that will withstand the test of time.  As a bonus he wrote another great book this year: The Fifth Wave that was also among the best of the year.  Pick up these books and prepare to settle in for what might be the best horror series, well, ever.

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