As of today, 12/22/17, I’ve finished 50 books this year. I’m gonna be honest; a lot of what I read was a bit trashier than usual. I read a lot of escapist fiction, a lot of genre fiction, the sort of books that you’d buy at an airport before a long flight. I needed junk food, and I allowed myself to indulge, thoroughly.
And yet, you know what? When I look at the grades I handed out, I enjoyed pretty much everything. There were a few exceptions – one book I described as “one of the dumbest books I’ve read in a long, long time” – and there were a few books that I picked up and simply couldn’t get into, though I haven’t yet decided if I’m giving up on them for good or not.
In any event, because most of what I read was short, fast, and dirty, I’m not sure I have enough highlighted Kindle passages to do my “Favorite Sentences of 2017” post. It is what it is.
I suppose I should arrange this list in tiers. All lists are presented in the order in which I read them. You’ll notice some trilogies are staggered; for the most part, and this is weird, the second book usually dragged a bit but was necessary to get up the otherwise excellent finale. All italicized blurbs are directly from my GoogleDoc; I should probably admit up front that my memory is shit and next year I should write my blurbs in a bit more detail, because I barely recall reading some of these – especially some of the ones I loved.
- Dan Chaon, “Ill Will”
- Amor Towles, “A Gentleman in Moscow”
- Colson Whitehead, “The Underground Railroad”
- John Hodgman, “Vacationland”
These are the four best books I read all year. “Ill Will” took me by complete surprise and had me riveted from cover to cover; “Gentleman in Moscow” was a complete delight; “Underground Railroad” should be required reading for literally everyone in the USA; and “Vacationland” is the best thing Hodgman’s ever written, which is saying quite a lot.
- Ian McGuire, “The North Water” – riveting, bleak as fuck, very satisfying conclusion.
- Ben Winters, “Underground Airlines” – remarkable.
- George Saunders, “Lincoln in the Bardo” – stunning; only wish I hadn’t raced through the end.
- Liz Moore, “The Unseen World” – didn’t quite go where i thought it was, but it’s marvelous.
- Caitlin R. Kiernan, “Agents of Dreamland” – i loved this, and only wish it wasn’t so short. would love to see this fleshed out. MORE SIGNALMAN
- John Crowley, “Little, Big” – ethereal and dreamlike, massive and dense, gorgeous and weightless.
- Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland, “The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.” – very good. could be a good franchise starter, or not.
- David Grann, “Killers of the Flower Moon” – heartbreaking. a story that needs to be told, even if the writing is a bit dry.
- Christopher Boucher, “Golden Delicious” – (started at end of Dec ’16) a wonderfully whimsical hybrid of Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America and The Phantom Tollbooth. Full disclosure – CB is a friend of my wife’s from high school. But I’d give this book high marks anyway.
- Jeff VanderMeer, “Borne” – very interesting, didn’t quite live up to expectations but still engrossing
- Ben Winters, “The Last Policeman #1” – a standard-issue detective story but with a magnificent premise, and very well written.
- Ben Winters, “World of Trouble (Last Policeman #3)” – a very good finale to a very engrossing series.
- Leigh Bardugo, “Crooked Kingdom” – very satisfying conclusion to 6 of Crows.
- N.K. Jemisin, “The Stone Sky” – excellent ending to a brilliant trilogy.
- Ann Leckie, “Ancillary Justice (book 1)”
- Ann Leckie, “Ancillary Mercy (book 3)” – I didn’t write blurbs for each of the three books; this is an excellent trilogy and should be read in one go.
- Paul La Farge, “The Night Ocean” – beautiful, haunted love story.
- Michel Faber, “The Crimson Petal and the White” – very long, but very good; ending is very abrupt.
- Ottessa Moshfegh, “Homesick for Another World” – what a dark, fucked up group of stories.
- Federico Axat, “Kill the Next One” – pretty good, twisty pyschological thriller. every time i thought i knew where it was going, it swerved. the possum remains an enigma. (EDIT: I have no idea what I mean by that.)
- Anthony Horowitz, “Moriarity” – that’s a pretty good twist at the end, i’ll give it that.
- John Darnielle, “Universal Harvester” – really interesting premise, marvelous writing; the thread gets lost towards the end, but that’s ok.
- Andy Partridge, “Complicated Game: Inside the songs of XTC” – very wonky, probably only meant for hard-core XTC nerds.
- Sarah Pinborough, “Behind Her Eyes” – kind of a trashy novel at first, but it gets better and features a real-deal mindfuck of a twist ending.
- Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Lathe of Heaven” – yeah, it’s a classic.
- Dan Choan, “Await Your Reply” – covers a lot of the same ground as Ill Will, but still very interesting.
- Dexter Palmer, “Version Control” – meandered for a bit, but the ending was quite good.
- Sylvain Neuvel, “Waking Gods (Themis #2)” – very quick read, much like the last one. lots of surprising deaths. fun, if slight.
- Leigh Bardugo, “Six of Crows” – reminds me quite a bit of the Locke Lamorra books.
- Stephen King, “Mr. Mercedes” – if SK wants to start writing murder mysteries, this isn’t a bad way to start
- Stephen King, “End of Watch” – an above-average trilogy, with this final installment returning to SK’s supernatural roots… too bad the characters aren’t particularly interesting.
- Ann Leckie, “Ancillary Sword (book 2)”
- Matthew FitzSimmons, “The Short Drop (Gibson Vaughn #1)” – fun, somewhat Jason Bourne-ish. you can see this as a movie pretty easily.
- Matthew FitzSimmons, “Cold Harbor (Gibson Vaughn #3)” – a satisfying conclusion from the meandering of book 2
- Denise Mina, “The Long Drop”- very absorbing, quasi-true-crime account of a Glasglow serial killer from the 50s.
- Ben Winters, “Countdown City (The Last Policeman #2)” – a step back from #1, but still engaging.
- Patti Smith, “M Train” – The first few chapters were great… and then they basically repeated themselves for the rest of it.
- Christopher Fowler, “Bryant and May and the Burning Man” – standard-issue murder mystery.
- Stephen King, “Finders Keepers” – very loose connection with previous novel; not his best. interesting villain, though.
- Jac Jemc, “The Grip of It” – a spooky haunted house story that never quite resolves.
- Matthew FitzSimmons, “Poisonfeather (Gibson Vaughn #2)” – a step back from #1, but necessary to start the events of book 3.
- Jonathan Lethem, “A Gambler’s Anatomy” – he’s still a great writer, but this was boooooorrrrrrring
- Derek Taylor Kent, “Kubrick’s Game” – one of the dumbest books i’ve read in a long, long time. Dan Brown would throw this out.