Best Books I Read in 2013 Part 2

Part 1 is here. These were not necessarily released in 2013, though some of them were. Comics have pictures, regular books have quotes. Any other questions?

17. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

“Yes! I’m me! I am careful and logical and I look up things I don’t understand! When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy! I am good with cheese. I read books fast! I think! And I always have a piece of string! That’s the kind of person I am!”

I’ve dabbled in and out of Pratchett’s Discword books and this is probably the best of the ones I’ve read. It’s another girl going into another world for adventuring and things but it’s done really well and with Pratchett’s typical humorous touch and twisted sensibility. It’s quite funny and an easy read.

16. East of West Vol 1 by Jonathan Hickman

A space opera with heavy western influences. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. But despite the somewhat old general milieu the details and art are what makes this story stand out. Firstly, the main character is Death of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The rest of his comrades have regenerated into child’s bodies but he’s stuck around to take care of unfinished business in a wild world of politics and giant buildings and weird animals. Totally strange and fascinating.

15. Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

“The world would be a better place if people stopped voting for folksy candidates they could have a beer with and started voting for people smarter than they are.”

A pretty fun book about superheroes and stuff. These aren’t guys in tights, though, they’re mental superheroes, with the ability to see intentions based on micro-muscle-movements, or slip into the open spaces in a crowd thanks to some high-powered pattern recognition. It’s a great time to be alive, except if you happen to not possess these abilities. Only a few do have them, in fact, and they scare the normal people. Why wouldn’t they, with their powers they could play the stock markets like a fiddle (and do), and where does that leave the rest of us? These are the questions the book asks in between some really fun action scenes. The rights have already been optioned for a movie and the right director could make it into a really fun series. There’s conspiracy theories and romance and everything. The only problem is that it’s just book one in a series. Where’s the next one?

14. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

“You don’t know how to talk to people you don’t like. Don’t love, really. You can’t live in the world with such strong likes and dislikes.”

This is basically just a series of discussions between a brother and his sister. Both are full of malaise and ill-will, which would get really annoying if Salinger weren’t such a great and clever writer. As is the characters become more an object of pity than annoyance. The ending is marvelous.

13. The Swamp Thing Vols 1 & 2 by Alan Moore

The Swamp Thing is a strange mixture of horror and metaphysical crises with some really great art and even better writing. This is the first Alan Moore book I’ve really loved (take that, Watchmen!) because it allows him to indulge every little idea he has. Trips to the netherworld and orgasmic fruits and monster-monkeys from dreams abound. I need to get back to this.

12. The Temple of Gold by William Goldman

“What’s the handle, Zock?”

My list wouldn’t be complete without at least one story about a young, literate boy coming of age. I wonder if I’ll ever grow out of that. Anyways, this is a fantastic example of the genre. Goldman takes great care to show off the bad side of his hero alongside the good qualities with a mixture of sadness and humor. It’s kind of everything you want in one of these.

11. Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb

One of the great Batman stories has all kinds of whodunnit stuff and a wide swath of his villains drop in for visits. It’s got a strong driving idea, murders occur on each holiday. This takes place early in Wayne’s tenure as Batman and it’s interesting to see him continuing to grow into his character. It’d be a fun movie to make.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.

And lo, another coming of age story! This one has even more things I like in it, namely thoughts on storytelling and evil monsters and maybe The Fates? Gaiman rarely lets me down and this is another outstanding book from him. I just wish he’d write some more things. Be more prolific!

9. The Astonishing X-Men Vols 1-4 by Joss Whedon

Had I read these books before seeing The Avengers I’d have been even more excited. They prove that Joss knows his stuff, especially his stuff when it comes to combining a pretty large cast of characters opposed to a giant evil. The Kitty Pryde/Colossus love story is super sweet, too. Damn, just make these into movies already.

8. Horns by Joe Hill

“I want you to remember what was good in me, not what was most awful. The people you love should be allowed to keep their worst to themselves.”

Ig is a man full of anger and rightfully so. His long time girlfriend was murdered during a night he can’t remember and everybody thinks he did it. One year later he wakes up to find horns growing out of his forehead which come with the power to make other people tell him their worst secrets and desires and sins. This is not a great superpower as it mostly reveals that everybody hates him, including his family. Things get worse and worse, though the book never loses its sense of humor. This is very very good.

7. The Sandman Vols 9-12 by Neil Gaiman

I finished them! For real! Again, the only reason why these aren’t higher on the list is because it’s only the ending. Gaiman pulls off the ending of a lifetime as he wraps up his epic story about stories and the realm from which they come. The book which takes place during a reality storm is one of the best of the series as a group of strange characters tell stories about people dying which culminates in the passing of one of the Endless. It’s kind of amazing.

6. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

“What is it we value? Innovation. Originality. Novelty. But most importantly…timeliness. I fear you may be too late, my confused, unfortunate, friend.”

Holy word count, Batman! Sanderson kicked off a new ten book series with this giant tome and it’s pretty great. There’s so much happening that I’m not sure I can remember it all, but the world is again brilliant. He’s got a few better characters here, too, though they’re often variations on a theme with him. Scholarly person vs. man of action. Guy trying to be a good leader in a rats nest of politicking and backstabbing. All indications point towards greatness, though.

5. The Manhattan Projects Vols 1-3 by Jonathan Hickman

Like a superhero team up comic but with scientists. Also, insanity. Robert Oppenheimer is there, but fighting with a twin version within himself. So’s Albert Einstein, though he’s obsessed with a door to another dimension. And Enrico Fermi is an alien. So, you know, it’s like your science history class but crazy. And awesome.

4. The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

“But it isn’t easy,” said Pooh. “Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.”

The Hundred Acre Wood is a marvelous place to visit. Pooh and his friends are just delightful to spend time with. And though this is the end of the Pooh stories (and what lovely stories they are, Pooh Sticks and all), it feels less like an ending and more like a pause. I’ll come back again and again.

3. Tenth of December by George Saunders

“I guess you just have to trust your kids, trust that their innate interest in life will win out in the end, don’t you think?”

Short stories are great. Almost all of the examples in this collection are great, and the few that aren’t are at least interesting. There are some sci-fi things, but even those are more about the deeply human emotions and ideas than the world-building things. And they’re mostly heartbreaking, too. Super fantastic.

2. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Frost had built on the dead grass, and it skirled beneath his feet. If not for this sound he’d have thought himself struck deaf, owing to the magnitude of the surrounding silence. All the night’s noises had stopped. The whole valley seemed to reflect his shock. He heard only his footsteps and the wolf-girl’s panting complaint.

This book quite literally changed my life. It’s short, I again read it in an afternoon, and it packs a giant punch. In around a hundred pages Johnson captures the fullness of an early 20th century man’s life. It’s tragic and peaceful, beautiful and fulfilling. And it inspired me to create plans to become the man I want to be. So, pretty good.

1. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

You have with you the book you were reading in the cafe, which you are eager to continue, so that you can then hand it on to her, to communicate again with her through the channel dug by others’ words, which, as they are uttered by an alien voice, by the voice of that silent nobody made of ink and typographical spacing, can become yours and hers, a language, a code between the two of you, a means to exchange signals and recognize each other.

Too much fun. Crazy and inventive with a wacky structure (half the book is different opening chapters of books of wildly varying genre) that is as much about the pleasure of reading as it is about finding true love. It’s a wild ride that instantly rocketed up to the top of my top 50 list.

Those are the books that were in 2013. I’ve already started on a good foot for 2014 with The Dog Stars. Let me know what you thought of this list in the comments! Tune in again next week for my TV list.

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