Here’s the rules: my lists include book I’ve read this year. I tried to favor recently published works over older works, but some old books crept in. The first book in every list is my favorite, but the rest aren’t in any particular order. Finally, my lists are merely opinion and not some objective standard of measure.
Without further ado…
Top 5 Personal favorite Fantasy books of the Year
WHY DID IT WIN: I knew going in that this book was going to be weird, but I had no idea just how weird it was going to be. This book’s plot and characterization hit me like a lightning bolt in a clear day, a perverse and persuasive tale completely unlike any I’ve seen before and thoroughly unsettling. Warning: only for experienced readers of the genre, and people who have a firm constitution!
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: This book is the real deal. It’s got spectacular characters, thriller-quality suspense, romance, devastating plotting and a star-studded setting. In the glamorous city Amberlough, the neon lights can’t hide the seedy underbelly of libertine locals and conservative politicians. If you want to feel the depths of love and heartache, and the feeling of being a deer in the headlights of a vast coup-de-tat, the book Amberlough has you covered.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Mayor Stoker thought that a swarm of genetically engineered dik-diks were going to be the only thing standing between him in the Prime Ministership of South Africa. That was before a robot uprising, a hairdresser-turned-murderous demigoddess and several dozen meteors wipe out a large ghetto in Port Elizabeth South Africa. This is Sci-Fi meets Fantasy meets mythology meets hilarity.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Because you’re a fan of the original series. Otherwise don’t.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: The Song of the Shattered Sands series is a mystic blockbuster on the sands of a fictitious Arabia-esque land where demons and gods and immortal kings have ruled the lands for thousands of years. But times are changing, and Cheda is scratching off the names of the immortal kings of her ‘To Be Murdered List’ one at a time. (Start with ‘Twelve Kings of Sharhakai’)
Top 5 Kickass Female Protagonists
WHY IT WON: ‘Kill Bill’ with magic. Cheda is Beatrix Kiddo, and she’s got a bone to pick with EVERYONE in the City Sharhakhai. With only her swords as trusted friends, she carves a bloody swath across the very face of Sharhakhai despite the will of the gods and the rule of the immortal kings. (Start with ‘Twelve Kings of Sharhakai’)
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: A diverse cast of female characters, captured in various points important throughout their lives.
Nomvula is a little girl struggling with devastating power and the impulse to kill.
Riya is a drug-addled woman trying to overcome her genetic diseases long enough to complete one final world tour.
Stoker’s got the worst case of helicopter mother EVER- and he’s beginning to suspect that there’s something mystically more to his mother than she seems.
Sydney has grown fed up being a hairdresser, so she decides found a worldwide religion starring herself as the Godhead-in-Chief. Everyone who refuses to worship her has a one way trip to her stomach.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: It’s a fun romp around a steampunk and magic alternate Victorian London where book collecting is deadly serious, faeries are seriously deadly and dragons have a very good sense of timing. Irene has a secret history she doesn’t understand to discover, but first she has to get lost in a good book.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Because you want to read a book where the good guys lose, the Evil Empire grows stronger and banking is used as the boot with which nations are crushed. Baru Cormorant hates the Masquerade Empire, but sees no possible way to defeat the Masquerade save from within. So she swallows her pride and joins them, learns their predatory mercantilism and climbs the hierarchy of the Empire, intending to betray them and collapse the Empire’s economy using their own predatory mercantilistic tactis. Just beware you can’t buy love when you sell your dignity…
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Psychic Dreams for Everybody! Terra Viridian is a dream-entranced mass murderer, the Queen of Heart’s origin and motivations are as mysterious as the face behind her gold makeup, but both are set to collide in the mysterious space station called the Underworld.
Top 5 Technical Skill in Prose
WHY IT WON: McKillip is good. Really, really good.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: You want to read a book where the themes and the prose are as beautiful as dawn after a long night. Last Song Before Night is a beautiful book. The prose itself is a joy to read. I suspect that Ilana C. Myer is going to join Patricia A. McKillip and Guy Gavriel Kay under the category of ‘literary fantasy’ writers, for which I am very grateful.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: A book of short stories told by the same characters in a relaxed, over-the-coffee-table format about one man’s adventures across space and time.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: If you’re in the mood for a memoir of a man’s journey across the world about a man’s quest for adventure and, if he’s lucky, immortal life at the end of the trail.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: If you want your heart broken. Read the Shakespearean play ‘The Tempest’ first so you’re familiar with the details. Carey makes you pray that she’ll violate the narrative Shakespeare wrote and write a happily-ever-after. Unfortunately…
Top 5 Best Audio Quality Audiobooks
WHY IT WON: Stellar narration, music backing and sound effects. A good story for a child of 8 or so.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: The narrator’s pronunciation is fantastic.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: The audiobook has a great performance. Kowal did an excellent job differentiating each and every character, and making you care individually for each one.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: John Hodgman, the comedian and author, breathed life and joy into this already vibrant and happy tale of alien media piracy. The destruction of earth has never been so cheerful!
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Because jazz is awesome to listen to, and history is fun to listen to.
5 Debut books to check out
WHY IT WON: Cause it’s good and utterly unique.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Bards and magic and music and journeys to the underworld and disease and death and rebirth and song. This book succeeds in encapsulating the mythic tradition of the Fantasy Genre in a small package.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: It’s good! I’ve nominated it in two other categories, go read it already!
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: This book is good, as I’ve said two times before.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: A short book about algorithms, in a noir fantasy setting about an attempted escape attempt of a convicted evil wizard. This book was funny AND educational!
Top 5 Personal favorite Nonfiction books of the year
WHY IT WON: Written in a combination of a personal style while providing factual notes of events, The Price of Glory is a heartbreaking history book about the senselessness of war and the meaninglessness of manufactured death. This is a text book in that it’s purpose is education, but it transcends that and becomes so much more.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: The quintessential war novel, describing the effects of war and PTSD on the very psyche of a human soul. Simultaneously enlightening and depressing.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Because you want to learn something new. Before this I knew nothing of the Mohist tradition, or Ahura Mazda and Zoroastrianism, and very little about Hinduism and Buddhism. Now I know enough to be want to learn more.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: FDR goverened the USA during a turning point in it’s history. If he did a poor job there was a great chance that our nation would have broken apart under the strain of the Depression of 1930’s. But with his cheerful guidance our nation endured. FDR was not a strong man despite his handicaps; he was strong because of his handicaps.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: The USA has changed a lot since this was written 40 years ago. This is a time capsule of yesteryear, telling us a story of a man, his dog and their adventures in the ever-changing USA.