Reading is one of the essential activities of being a fiction writer. We need to read in our chosen genre to understand its conventions and trends. We explore other genres to widen our palette and find unique inspiration. We read the non-fiction to acquire research for our work and to stay in touch with the reality that we avoid while we craft our artful lies. Stephen King said it well in his book On Writing "If you don't have time to read, then you don't have time to write."
I've been able to read about thirty five books this year through the magic of e-books, audio books and the Comixology app. Most of what I've read has been decent, a few I had to abandon before finishing (See How Often Do You Give Up On A Book?). The following ten books comprise the most outstanding writing that I've been exposed to this year.
Keep in mind that this is not a list of books that were released in 2013. This is a list of books that I have read this year. This list also excludes books that I read in the past and went back to during the past twelve months. It’s not limited by genre or format, it is as well rounded (or scattershot depending on how you look at it) as I am. I've provided links to my longer reviews if I wrote one. Otherwise I just provide a link to the Amazon page where the book can be purchased.
- Secret Pilgrim (thriller): John Le Carre closes the George Smiley series with an anthology of stories told during a dinner party for the next generation of British spies. Le Carre takes you through the Cold War and into the war on terror with emotional dexterity, dry humor, somber introspection and great insight into the mind of his fictional spies. This book might be just as good as Tinker, Tailor even if it isn't as well known.
- On Writing (non-fiction): This is a classic in the pantheon of how to write books. It reveals not only King’s insight on the craft, but his gift of storytelling as well.
- Delta of Venus (erotica): An anthology of short stories that explore various aspects of sexual expression with a delicate sensibility that doesn’t shy away from darker impulses
- Batman and Psychology: (non-fiction) This book perfectly balances fiction and non-fiction by using eighty years of Batman’s postindustrial mythology as case studies for various psychological conditions.
- The Court of Owls (crime GN): This book blends a manipulation of the Batman mythology with some fanciful zoology about the animosity between bats and owls. The result is a fresh and enjoyable take on an icon that manages to retain all the things that make Batman interesting.
- London Twist (thriller): A novella that marks a slight departure from Eisler’s established conventions and an expansion of his creativity with very pleasant results.
- Grendel Tales (crime GN): This book takes two minor incidents in the mythology of the assassin Grendel and unpacks them from the perspective of their doomed protagonists. Fans of Hunter Rose will appreciate the alternate resonance that these stories provide. New readers will be confused by who or what Grendel is, but that enigma will enhance rather than detract from the story.
- Merrick (horror): Anne Rice brings her Vampire Chronicles and her Mayfair Witch series together in this book that also includes ghosts, voodoo and magic from the Incas, Egyptians and Christian mysticism. The glut of supernatural forces can be too much at times, and the long flash backs were sometimes difficult to get through, but this was still an excellent Halloween read.
- The Killer (crime GN): This is a French book about a lone assassin who has to eliminate his targets, avoid being double crossed by his allies and battle the demons in his own mind in order to survive. It doesn’t push the genre into new territory, but it brings a minimalist flair to established conventions that recall excellent films like La Femme Nikita (See Bloody Inspiration Part 1: My Top 21 Films)
- Hawkeye (GN): In the wake of the blockbuster Avengers film, this is a light hearted take on the groups least powerful member. If you ever wondered what a superhero does when he's not saving the world or hanging out with billionaires and thunder gods, then you will enjoy this book.
So what are your favorite books of 2013 (besides the one you wrote, obviously)? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know. I’m always looking for new books to read in 2014.