Please indulge me while I channel my inner Rob Fleming, the list makers’ list maker. While Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity protagonist might chide me for my lack of brevity and keeping the list to an essential five, that just wouldn’t be fair to omit five extraordinary books. So here we go; my personal favorites I’ve read this year.
1. Our Burden’s Light by Patrick Thomas Casey
Casey manages to be moving without being sentimental; emotional without being maudlin. Extraordinary and deftly written, all the more remarkable that it’s Casey’s debut. This novel absolutely transfixed me. I cannot sing its praises loud enough.
2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Say what you will about Franzen, that he comes across as elitist and may or may not have misogynistic tendencies, but the man can craft a novel. Superbly fluid, much less plodding and over written than The Corrections .
3. The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake by Breece D’J Pancake
Don’t let the author’s name fool you; these are heavy, meaty stories. Pancake is the best American short story writer you’ve never heard of. Part Flannery O’Connor, part Raymond Carver, these rural stories of loss and isolation haunted me.
4. Waterborne by Bruce Murkoff
Murkoff’s remarkably skilled prose gives life to an otherwise standard historical novel. The characters are rich, nuanced, and marvelously developed.
5. Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne
Another terrific debut. Wayne manages to create a novel that simultaneously captures the collective anxiety of a nation on an economic precipice and the personal anxiety of an immigrant traversing New York’s controlled chaos.
6. Citrus County by John Brandon
Brandon is unlike any writer you’ve ever read. His writing is unflinching and bold and his subversion of expectations is controlled and not gimmicky in the least, unlike other writers (cough, Palahniuk, cough).
7. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
An all around fun read about zombies inheriting and the human will to endure.
8. The Affinity Bridge by George Mann
My first experience with contemporary steampunk, this is a thrilling Sherlock Holmes-esque caper with the bonus of zombies and steam powered gadgetry.
9. Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam
In this collection of linked short stories, Amsterdam creates a world on the brink of collapse seen through the prism of man who must overcome his own shortcomings in order to survive.
10. The Big Machine by Victor Lavelle
A gripping novel about the power of redemption, this book is for anyone who has ever found himself on the fringes of society and/or can’t seem to make things work. I suppose it’s for people who enjoy powerful storytelling, too.