I probably should have done this for past years, but I read a seven outstanding books this year and I want to give them as much of a signal boost as I can muster. There were a lot of good and even great books in the absurdly massive number of books I read last year, but these stand out–even months after having read them.
Here are my favorites from the List I posted on August 31, from the best to the next best and so on. The links point to my reviews of these books, for a bit more information about plot and style.
1. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra. This moving novel of Chechnya’s civil wars was beautifully written and deeply affecting. It tells the linked stories of villagers caught between Russian and Chechnian soldiers and informants and their daily struggles to survive.
2. Redshirts: A Novel With Three Codas, by John Scalzi. This novel has already won the Locus and Hugo awards, so it’s not just me that thinks this novel is brilliant. I love books that play around with convention. I would have enjoyed this story of a man becoming a hero anyway, but Scalzi plays around with the relationship between characters and their writer.
3. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. I’ve written about this book twice. My review was first, but then I wrote about it in a list of my favorite funny books. The protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly, is hilarious to watch as he causes chaos throughout his neighborhood in New Orleans. The only overarching plot link is Reilly’s attempts to get a job that suits him. Everything else that happens is a reaction.
4. The Raven’s Seal, by Andrei Baltakmens. I disappeared into the atmosphere Baltakmens created in this book. He seems to channel Dickens as he creates a mid-nineteenth century English town, with shades of Alexandre Dumas thrown in for good measure to create a tale of false imprisonment and revenge.
5. She Rises, by Kate Worsley. This novel fooled me. I love books that can fool me–except that when I tell people about them, I have to work hard not to ruin the twist. She Rises is an unusual love story in which a young impressed sailor tries to find a way back to the girl in port. It’s an incredible adventure.
6. Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson. This book is full of amazingly drawn flights of fancy, blending myth and legend with technology and revolution into magic. I’m always on the hunt for something original in fiction and this book has it in spades.
7. Doughnut, by Tom Holt. My friends on Facebook already know about my penchant for posting physics, biology, and other science jokes. I can’t resist them. Holt builds a dementedly funny version of quantum physics in this book, further warping my knowledge of the subject. It’s the best book I’ve read by this talented author.
You should read this book, immediately if not sooner.