Happy New Year! A lot happened last year, good and bad. (Let’s not even talk about 2016 getting its last shots in as December was winding down.) There’s a lot I could talk about, but I think I’ll celebrate this new year by discussing my top 10 favorite books that I read. I’m not exactly special here, as everyone is doing this, but I’ll add my list to the pile all the same.
10. Indignities of the Flesh by Bentley Little. Let’s start with the choices that made this list for pure fun factor. If you love horror and short stories (which I do), then this one’s for you. Some books you fall in love with because of their message or the beautiful prose. And some are just wildly entertaining. Like this was. I love that horror can be a vehicle for so many varied messages, but sometimes I only want to read nasty stuff and grin about it. This provided that quite nicely.
9. The Merciless by Danielle Vega. Very similar to the above. It was very fun. Even more than that, when you think of YA horror, you don’t think of the chances this book took or pushing the envelope. It goes beyond a frivolous good time. The writing was downright cinematic. Even just the aesthetic of the book itself, a bright pink cover with a gold pentagram making it look like a twisted, teenage study bible, really suits me.
8. The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan. Sometimes stories lodge in your head and won’t leave. You find yourself thinking of scenes again or remembering strange events and trying to align them sensibly. When someone asks you what the weirdest thing you’ve ever read was, it pops into your head without even a second thought. This book won’t leave me. It’s there now, existing as a part of me. That must mean it deserves a spot on this list.
7. A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick. It seems inevitable that every year, a PKD novel ends up on my best of list. When we’re talking about books that are entertaining, like we were above, there’s no contest. If we’re talking about great satire, he wins there, too. How about truly prophetic science fiction? He’s your man. Genuinely unsettling horrors? He has you covered. He razzles and dazzles, it can’t be denied. Honestly, I’ve yet to find one of his books that is absolutely not worth reading at all, so pick this one, pick any of them. Just read him please.
6. Jazz by Toni Morrison. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Morrison is perfect in every capacity. Her writing is so breathtaking it makes me wildly jealous. Her stories, no matter what time they’re set in, remain timeless and universal. Her characters are profoundly shaped and unforgettable. This book with its weird, winding narrative embodies the very soul of jazz itself. I never could’ve dreamed of a book like this existing, and yet it does, because she had the unbelievable skill to create it.
5. The Well by Catherine Chanter. This one came totally out of left field for me. It was an impulse buy. It sounded like it might be a fun thriller. Then it turned out to be one of the most well-written, gut-wrenching books I’ve ever come across. The pages just kept turning, and I found myself getting more and more tense, but that makes it sound like something you buy at an airport. It’s beyond that. It grabbed me and shook me. Go find this and get shook, too.
4. Reasons She Goes To The Woods by Deborah Kay Davies. In the tradition of books like American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and Child of God by Cormac McCarthy, we have this gem. The tale of a young girl who finds it a little too hard to be good. So she’s bad. She’s that part of the rhyme “and when she was bad, she was horrid” personified, and in the weirdest, most pathological ways. I urge you to follow her dark path, because you’ll never forget it.
3. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. This book moved me in ways a book never has before. To put it simply, which isn’t doing it justice but I have to summarize for the benefit of all reading this, it’s about bullying. Specifically it’s about the way that little girls bully one another. The hardness between words, the quiet cruelty, the passive aggressiveness that builds and builds. How that kind of treatment echoes through the rest of your life if you’re made to endure it. I found that it rang completely true, to the point that it hit me where I live in the most intense way.
2. Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. I’m very much established as a fierce fan of Link at this point, but this is her best in my opinion. Her stories are wild and bizarre, kicking aside magical realism and running full tilt into genre-bending glory. She takes on any mythology with ease. In such a short space, she can make you feel so much. She’s able to round out characters and conjure fierce emotions as if you’d just read an entire novel. I see people say that they can’t get into short stories. That they’ve tried, and it just isn’t for them. I implore you to try Kelly Link. She’ll change your mind.
1. Swan Song by Robert McCammon. I’ve talked about this book on this blog many times. Does this surprise anyone? When people use the word epic, unless they’re applying it to this book, they don’t know what they’re talking about. A picture of the cover of this novel is under the definition of that very word in the dictionary, I promise you. Within these pages, we experience nuclear war and man’s slow crawl back into the sunlight, and the scope and passion of the story and its character entirely does that concept justice. Easily deserves the number one spot.
Thank you for reading, and as always, happy geeking! Here’s to a great reading year ahead.
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