The end of the year is a good time for lists, right? I gave you one yesterday. Well, here’s another one. I’m sure in some cases you’ll look at these titles and be amazed I just now got around to them. But maybe that’ll help you understand why there’s nothing published in 2011 on the list. (Except After Obsession, of course, and I don’t know how many times I read that one before it was released!)
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman — By far the best read of this past year. It made me a fan of Gaiman, as you’ll see further down the list.
- Byzantium by Stephen R. Lawhead — It’s an historical fantasy, a sweeping epic about self discovery, with Vikings, Greeks, Arabs, and Irishmen. Just an excellent book.
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry — I hesitate putting this one so high because I’m still so mad about the ending, but up until those last few pages I was totally engrossed.
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman — Another brilliant, engaging modern fantasy about a boy raised in a graveyard by ghosts. One of those, “Why didn’t I think of that!” stories.
- Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman — This is the story of the sons of Anansi the spider. At least, the Anansi we met in American Gods. Not as great as the original, but very good.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling — Yeah, I know, I know, it’s been out forever. And I regretted putting it off so long. It was really much better than I expected it to be.
- The Dark Sacrament by David M. Kiley and Christina McKenna — A pretty down-to-earth, journalistic account of hauntings and possessions/exorcisms from modern Ireland.
- Carry the Wind by Terry C. Johnston — A very detailed, richly described tale about a young man who goes off to make a life for himself trapping beavers in the 1830s. Made me a fan of Johnston’s, though I didn’t like the sequel to this one as much.
- Crazy by William Peter Blatty — The newest book on this list, and I’m surprised to see Blatty come in so low, but in the end it was just, “Oh, that theme again.” Still, it was a nice story with some creepy moments and some emotional aches.
- In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck — The great John Steinbeck’s son does a very admirable job with this tale about discovered Chinese artifacts in California.
- First Blood by David Morrell — I love the movies and always meant to read this, then finally did. What do you know, John Rambo was much more complex than Stallone’s portrayal, and the ending is a lot different.
- The Rite by Matt Baglio — Technically, I have about 50 pages left to finish this one, so I’m speculating. Nothing at all like the film, really. There’s a lot of good info here, but the delivery is pretty choppy and it’s hard to really feel connected to Fr. Gary because of that.
- Borderlords by Terry C. Johnston — The sequel to Carry the Wind tended to really drag in the beginning, but picked up at the end. I’m sure I’ll pick up the third book pretty soon.
- The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner — Not the East of Eden-type book I was hoping for. In fact, I didn’t like it when I read it, but the story kept coming back to mind long after I’d finished.
- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers — This one was just kinda blah. It had potential, but didn’t seem to live up to it.
- My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult — This sucked. I hated it from beginning to end and wished I hadn’t wasted a grant buying copies for my AP Literature class. Picoult tries to play the reader’s emotions like a ham-fisted troll holding its first violin.
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley — My second read of this book wasn’t any better than the first. It can’t hold a candle to 1984. It’s basically a good idea with the barest threads of a story hung on it.
Alright, I was going to stop at 10, but since I apparently only read 17 books this year, I ranked them all. Only 17 books? That’s pathetic. Well, it doesn’t count skimming books I’ve read previously so I can lecture about them in class. Or the stacks and stacks of essays I read. Hopefully I’ll do better next year.