Thursday, December 26, 2013

Books of Note 2013

The Son by Phillip Meyer — I was prepared not to like this book.  Structurally, it jumps around in time, and from character to character, and it really took a couple hundred pages, and a commitment to finish it, before I found my rhythm with it.  There were times when I thought there was too much research and not enough character development, and then there were times when I felt just the opposite.  This is a big, sweeping book about bigger-than-life characters in Texas that spans two centuries.  It succeeds on more levels than it fails. (HarperCollins, 592 pages, $16.99, available at all bookstores, physical and online)

Unbroke Horses by Dale B. Jackson — This book took a lot of the Western writing awards this year, and it’s easy see why.  Not as wide in scope as The Son, but just as emotional, if not more, and just as well-researched (but not overdone).  Violent, aggressive and tender, this can be a difficult read at times.  But I believed in the story all along, and it had me from the start to the end. The honors were well deserved.  (Goldminds Publishing, 314 pages, $19.99, available at all bookstores, physical and online)

A Place in Time by Wendell Berry — Spending time with Wendell Berry’s easy voice is always a pleasure.  But there’s nothing easy about the stories he has to tell.  If you sit on a porch and watch the landscape long enough, it will change without any recognition on your part.  That’s what Berry’s stories do.  They fall deep inside of you, stay for long time, and change slowly as you relive them in your mind--and heart. If you're not familiar will Wendell Berry, this collection of short stories is a good place to start. (Counterpoint, 256 pages, $15.95, available at all bookstores, physical and online)

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers — War novels are never easy.  There’s a Titanic element to them.  Somehow, the ship is going to sink at the end, and the survivors will be forever marred by the experience--and those that perish are gone forever--some forgotten, some not.  If you want to see, taste, hear, and feel the experience of our most recent war, then sit down with Powers and go to Afghanistan.  One the best war novels I’ve read since The Things They Carry by Tim O’Brien. (Back Bay Books, 256 pages, $14.99, available at all bookstores, physical and online)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman — I read this book in one sitting, on an airplane flight to Vegas.  It was a fantasy on the way to Fantasy Land.  It was easy to take this book in all at once, but reading it that quick forced me to read it again, and I'm glad I did.  Gaiman is one of my favorite writers in how he writes, and how he conducts himself as an author, and this fable didn’t disappoint either time.  A adult story about the loss of innocence told through the eyes of a child like only Neil Gaiman can tell it.   (William Morrow, 192 pages, $25.99, available in all bookstores, physical and online)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green  — I was hesitant about this novel.  I had read one of Green’s previous novels, Paper Towns, and came away feeling ambiguous about it.  Add in the subject matter, teenage terminal cancer, and I wasn’t really excited about going on that journey.  But I’m glad I did.  I liked this book, especially how Green handled the ending (another Titanic setup).  I think this novel will have a long shelf life, and touch a lot of people in an extremely positive way.  This book launched Green into the stratosphere, but he’d been working his way there for a while.  Don’t let the subject matter put you off.  This is a good story. (Sutton Books, 318 pages, $17.99, available in all bookstores, physical and online)

The Heart of Everything That Is by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin — This book, a biography about Red Cloud, is, very simply, amazing.  Red Cloud is the only Indian leader to ever defeat the United States Army in war, but the book goes much farther than that.  The authors delve into the horse culture and how it changed Indian life, politics of the time, and they have a wonderful sense of place and character.  One of the few non-fiction books I’ve read that has the feel and tone of a well-written novel.  Simply put, this is the best book I’ve had the pleasure of reading a long time.(Simon & Schuster, 432 pages, $30.00, available in all bookstores, physical and online)

No comments: