It’s time for the end of the year best and worst lists! I set a new personal high for number of books read this year with 120 (at an average of 304 pages/book) so I had plenty to choose from. So without further ado, here they are (re-reads are excluded – click titles to go to full reviews):
Top 10 Fiction:
- Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – A pitch perfect retelling that adds coherence while maintaining an Old Norse style.
- The Chosen by Chaim Potok – A moving portrait of family, friendship, and faith in Jewish American culture
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Not my usual at all, but the lush, surreal setting was fascinating
- Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar – A weird riff on Pandora’s Box
- The Turn of the Screw by Henry James – Malevolent ghosts, a mad/manipulative governess, or both?
- Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft – Kafkaesque Chaldean Steampunk (who knew that was a thing?)
- Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler – An amusing retelling of The Taming of the Shrew that gets rid of the Stockholm Syndrome vibe
- Just Another Jihadi Jane by Tabish Khair – So-so style/plotting, but an informative look at “radicalization”
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Dozens of retro nerd culture references make up for any deficiencies in plotting (especially if you’re a child of the 80’s)
- Day of Atonement by David deSilva – Decent historical fiction about the depredations of Antiochus Epiphanes and rise of the Maccabees
Top 5 Non-fiction
- The Myth of the Lost Cause by Edward H. Bonekemper III – An examination of the Confederate cause using primary documents from before and during the Civil War rather than the usual post-war justifications/rationalization propaganda
- The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories by Herodotus – The writings of “the father of history” accompanied by a slew of helpful maps, notes, and essays (technically a re-read but the additional material and modern translation made it practically a different book)
- Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Rolan H. Bainton – A good overview of the man whose faith and courage changed the course of history 500 years ago (older, but slightly better than the Eric Metaxas biography released this year)
- When Is It Right to Die? by Joni Earickson Tada – A compassionate examination of issues related to euthanasia and assisted suicide
- The Golden Age of Piracy by Benerson Little – A gleeful demolition of the “noble pirate” myth
Bottom 5 (most disappointing) reads
- The Shack by William Paul Young – A tear-jerking, feel good story that tries to make us feel better about suffering/tragedy in the world by radically redefining God (eliminating classic understanding of sovereignty, holiness, transcendence, etc.)
- Humans Bow Down by James Patterson & Emily Raymond – A weak robot apocalypse where things seem to happen for no reason other than needing to move the plot forward or checking off a diversity box
- The Other Side of Magik by Michael Lingaard – A self-pub book that shows some creativity but is extremely amateurish
- Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman – How do you manage to make Batman boring?!
- The Crystal Shard by R. A. Salvatore – This year’s reminder of why I seldom read Forgotten Realms books- possibly the most generic fantasy book ever
And there you have it! Reading goal for next year is 100 books at an average of 300+ pages/book. Happy New Year!