I am seeing a lot of Year's Best lists and some of them are WRONG IN THE FACE so here's mine.Fiction
* The Last Policeman
and Countdown City
by Ben H. Winters. An asteroid will be hitting Earth in just a few months. The world is falling apart in the face of this, in some really excellently-extrapolated-by-the-author ways. At this point the cops are like "fuck everything", but detective Hank Palace is stubborn; he remains on the job to solve some of the unique crimes of the situation. I don't know why everyone is not talking about this series; best near-future SF in some time.
* Three Parts Dead
and Two Serpents Rise
by Max Gladstone are really cool urban secondary-world fantasy that's more about the machinations than the magic, but also has some nifty and unique styles of magic. Gladstone's doing really interesting stuff. Get on this.
* Sara Gran is reinventing the detective novel with Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead
and Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway
. Pick those up even if you think you don't like detective novels. They are weird little metatextual explorations of the genre itself, with a soupçon of speculative elements.
* The Human Division
by John Scalzi is a nifty what-happens-then? following up on stuff you thought would never get followed up on. ICYMI, Scalzi released the short stories and novellas that comprise The Human Division once a week in ebook form over a period of 13 weeks last year. Innovative, and really worked well with this particular work of linked shorter fiction.
* Visitation Street
by Ivy Pochoda, one of the first books in the Lehane imprint, is a tight-focus mystery exploring the effects of a missing girl on a Brooklyn neighborhood. Great review here
* It's a 2012 book but I read it in 2013 and loved it: The Human Soul as a Rube Goldberg Device
, by Kevin Brockmeier, is a small choose-your-own-adventure book about the last day of a man's life, with Brockmeier's usual graceful touch allowing space for small miracles and everyday magic.
* Everyone is already talking about Ancillary Justice
by Ann Leckie and they are right to do so and if it is not on the Hugo ballot, deservedly so, I'll eat my hat. Space opera with intense multilayered worldbuilding and a unique protagonist well-handled.
* Rachel Swirsky is one of the best short-story writers in our field, full stop. And in 2013, a collection of her work was released! Get How the World Became Quiet
. Don't burn through it; savor a story a day.
* I enjoyed Ian Tregillis's Something More Than Night
. I mean. It is, per its blurb, "a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler inspired murder mystery set in Thomas Aquinas’s vision of Heaven. It’s a noir detective story starring fallen angels, the heavenly choir, nightclub stigmatics, a priest with a dirty secret, a femme fatale, and the Voice of God." Some reviewers, and Adam, find the noir pastiche overwhelming; to them, I say you really have to read this book to the end and then we'll talk. He does a cool thing. Trust me.
* Sofia Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria
is multifaceted, multilayered, lapidary, lush. It has intense beauty and intense heart. You can tell it was written by a poet. Best debut novel of the year.
* In YA, I loved The Summer Prince
by Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green (I know I'm late to that parade), When We Wake
by Karen Healey, and The Dream Thieves
by Maggie Stiefvater.
* In anthologies, I loved Clockwork Phoenix 4
(but I'm biased) and Glitter and Mayhem
(special attention to Rachel Swirsky, Chris Barzak, and Amal El-Mohtar's stories; set aside time after reading Amal's to have your heart do the thing).Poetry
You need to read Warsan Shire's Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth
and Nayyirah Waheed's salt.
* My top rec of the year is How Music Works
by David Byrne. The one critical review of it cited on Wikipedia says "a textbook for a survey course you didn’t mean to sign up for." I think of it as the textbook for a class you always wished existed. Byrne's been analyzing music all his life - the construction, the tropes, the decisions, the fusions. And here he tells us everything.
* Perfumes: The A-Z Guide
by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez is not a 2013 book, but holy crap, it's one of my new favorites. Starts off with a bit of nitty-gritty about the history and making of perfumes, and then the bulk of the book is reviews of hundreds of perfumes, at turns witty, transcendent, and bitchy. I texted snippets to Michael a *lot*. :)
* Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction
by Annalee Newitz. I learned new things about mass extinctions! If this sounds like fun to you you want this book. If this doesn't sound fun to you, why are we friends again?
* The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese
by Michael Paterniti. When a journalist tells a story, he runs the risk of inserting himself into it. (Unless he's Hunter S. Thompson, in which case he dives right in.) Paterniti found himself consumed by this one. This is his view from within the story.
* Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
by Sheri Fink is a real-life horror story. During and after Hurricane Katrina, Memorial Hospital was on its own, with insufficient resources and low-priority rescue. Decisions were made. I reading this book breathing "oh no" through much of it. Fink's research is astounding, and her presentation was riveting.
* The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling
by David Shoemaker is a spinoff of his Dead Wrestler of the Week columns at Grantland, and my only quibble with it is that that shows; there are some repetitions an editor should have smoothed out. Shoemaker tells the history of professional wrestling, rotating each phase and transition around the story of the life and death of a particular wrestler. I would recommend this even to those who don't care at all about pro wrestling - it's excellent recent-history explored through some fascinating lives. For those who do care about wrestling, it's absolutely essential.
There'll be a later post, I hope, about books that everyone loved but I hated! But that's enough typing for now, and I want this post all-positive. :)