It’s the end of a decade! Wow! The Matrix is ten years old! I have more white in beard than ever! Will this planet even make it another ten years? Who knows!
I tend not to read a lot of books as they’re new. They tend to be too expensive for my tastes, I buy them all used. Or use my library. I’ve become cheap this decade!
The point is, my list isn’t extensive of the years. It is, however, a pretty decent portrayal of my limited tastes. So, without further ado, my favorite books of the 2010s, by year published!
I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells
This book actually freaked me out quite a bit and it’s for teenagers! I picked it up because I enjoyed Dan Wells on the Writing Excuses podcast and it was fairly recent to when I was listening. I don’t normally read horror and, actually, this might have been the first real “scary” book I read. I also made the mistake of reading this when I was home alone for a week. I’m a wimp.
The story of a boy who feels predestined on becoming a serial killer and is actively trying to fight it. That is, until someone worse moves into town. It’s a spooky character study aimed at the young adult crown that should creep out the older crowd as well. I liked the sequel even more, which came out the same year, so maybe it should have gotten the award…off to a great start!
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I suppose the backlash on this book has tainted it a bit, with it’s detractors calling it a book of lists. But, when I couldn’t put this book down and ate up the world building and concepts of the OASIS, I didn’t notice that. And, being someone who was slowly trying to read the best scifi and see the important films, I even enjoyed the references. Obviously, your mileage will vary on that sort of thing. It got me to watch The Last Starfighter.
It’s pure fulfillment, but what a wish. Would I have plugged my brain into the OASIS and moved in permanently? You bet. I enjoyed the challenges Cline provided for our hero, Wade. Joust, Dungeons and Dragons, Wargames and all that. While I think the opening race of the movie adaptation is pure gold, I did miss some of the geekier quests the book provided. I loathed Armada but I think Ready Player One is Grade A junk food and I’ll defend it for at least one more decade.
Runner ups that year were some real cool books…
Robopocalyspe by Dan H. Wilson
Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
The Heroes by Abercrombie
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
This book spoke to me on a level that I didn’t realize I had. It’s not that I find the characters incredibly relatable (though I connect to anyone with a self-destructive genome) but it’s more that I find them endearing. Pat was a character I wanted nothing but the best for. And, sure, his desire to win back his ex-wife Nikki might have actually been relatable in small ways. I’m a liar. Happy?
But Pat’s relationship with his family, with Tiffany, with his therapist really fill this book out. The movie changes some of the characters a bit, putting some into the background while bringing others forward. For a while, I liked having them both to form a full picture. These days, I just need the book. It inspired some of my own writing and made me think through some choices I was making at the time. It’s a humble read, with slow pacing that never meanders, unlike some of Matthew Quick’s other books.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer is one of my favorite young adult books I’ve read. Highly recommended.
Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt
A bit of a geek’s travelog, but way less self-deprecating and ashamed then the obnoxious Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf. Of Dice and Men still holds Gary Gygax on a pedastle, but it doesn’t cast him in the role of a Frodo Baggins like Empire of Imagination by Michael Witwer did. It’s a fun history through Dungeons and Dragons, with trips and stories and a bit of unnecessary flavor text.
It has a deep respect for the game and those who play it. It’s a fun read, one that makes you want to breakout your own dice while reading. In some ways, it gave me a deeper appreciation for the game. It’s an everyman’s history of the game, one that I could suggest to those with a curiosity of the game, but also had enough for a lover of pen and paper to sink his teeth into.
Runner ups that year have a bit of an unintentional Ewan McGregor vibe…
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
With prose that felt like poetry and a eerily calm look at the end of the world, Station Eleven was unlike anything I had read. The ruin landscape of a world ravaged by a humanity destroying virus was oddly beautiful. Emily St. John Mandel avoids the overdone pessimism of the genre that made the Cormac McCarthy’s The Road almost unbearable. Instead, St. John Mandel goes for an optimistic view of humanity picking up the pieces.
The book is also affecting in how it shows big events having origins in small moments. Independent comic books causing religious cults because they ended up in the wrong hands? It should seem silly but it comes across like a gut punch. The makeshift museum of human history is another element that’s laced in sadness but filled with hope. It really hit me in my heart.
The runner ups this year are crazy.
The Martian by Andy Weir
Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
Console Wars by Blake J. Harris
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates
What a trip. I don’t know if you could call this horror, but it’s disturbing. Worse, the main character was relatable at times! His journey through madness is subtle at times, intense at others, but always gripping. There’s a Stephen King element, yes, but King would never have the courage to limit his word count to under three hundred pages.
And that’s part of the charm. You can read this book quickly and it never overstays it welcomed, but I wanted more as soon as it was over. Or more like this. I haven’t found anything quite like it, but I’m not great at reading horror, so maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. Anyway, Jack of Spades is deliciously dark and bonkers and had me laugh out loud once or twice. I need to reread this.
All young adult books for the runner ups…
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
Adrift by Paul Griffin
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
The only Ruta Sepetys I’ve read, failing at my job as a youth librarian. But, it was an incredible showcase. Salt to the Sea is about the tragic sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. More than nine thousand people died, with about five thousand of them children.
The story leading up to this horrible even follows four youths during World War II. The road to the ship is fraught and each of the characters have a secret that is exposed. This was a page turner and, though I was reading this for work, I couldn’t put it down even at home. It left me depressed, as expected, and it’s stuck with me. I tend to recommend this to the young adult crowd because, like the movie Titanic, is balances gripping action and romance with a terrible tragedy in an incredibly enthralling story.
Runner up for the year it’s gonna blow some minds when it hits movie theaters.
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
This was not the type of book I normally read but there was so much talk around in 2017 that I had to read it for myself. And I couldn’t put it down. It felt like a thriller at times and I’m not surprised that Martin Scorsese is in talks for a movie. Seriously, even as a history book, it had me audibly gasp at certain revaluations. How fresh of a reader am I at thirty-three?
A history of the crimes committed against the Osage Indian Nation by, you guess it, white Americans, as well as a history of the FBI and it’s formation. It’s money and power telling an unfortunately familiar tale. Grann is keeps things educational, but it moves at a pace of a classic page turner. Hurry up, Scorsese.
Runner up this year is someone I actually interviewed about the book!
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Love Poems for Married People by John Kenney
I don’t get poetry more often than I do. My brain doesn’t work that way. Why doesn’t it always rhyme? Why did you put that word one extra space away? Why can’t you clean up the coffee spill with the rag right next to you, why do you have to use the shirt your mother died in?
Love Poems for Married People, on the other hand, is hilarious and is one of the funniest books I’ve read. And, listen, I saw myself in the book multiple times. I’m now trying to change some behaviors. I’m trying, okay?
Runner ups were some interesting young adult scifi and the best Witcher book since the first…
Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Contagion by Erin Bowman
Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski
You can listen to me talk more about these books and here Nic’s favorites in episode 223 of the All the Books Show!
Is Stephen King’s Carrie a horror story? Did I make the right choice, picking it as a Halloween read? Was it once a scary book that’s been tamed by time?
Carrie is well known enough now that talking about the plot seems silly, but let’s get through it anyway. Carrie is a girl with a crazy mom. Carrie has psychic powers. Kids at school are super mean to Carrie. The kids cover Carrie in pig blood. Carrie loses it. Bad times are had by all.
So, is the book scary? Not really. It reads more like a super hero book, like a dark comic book in novel form. Psychic abilities aren’t very frightening, even when used by someone losing their mind. Like super heroes in general, Carrie almost reads like a power fantasy. Yes, when she lashes out on her fellow students and her home town, she takes it too far and kills a lot of innocent people. But, it doesn’t come across as horror, more like a disaster movie. Carrie, near the end of the book, is more of a force of nature, even though she’s able to target a few people specifically. A storm with a vengeance, but still a storm.
The idea of her being a natural disaster is backed up by the way the story is told through police reports, through interviews and headlines. Carrie is mentioned and talked about like she was a hurricane that passed through town. Dangerous, but not human. It’s an interesting way to tell this kind of story, it just doesn’t scream horror.
Carrie’s mother might scare some, but I find fundamental religious zealots to be the least effective way to make someone scary or interesting. The mother is a cartoon villain, a person beyond reason or relatability. She’s not real, in or out of the book. And, again, that type of insanity is at the bottom of the interesting-barrel for me as a reader. It always strikes me as lazy, as a quick wave as to why someone would act a certain way. Carrie is least interesting when dealing with that part of the story.
Not to say Carrie isn’t entertaining. It is, in both its destruction and seventies’ aesthetics. But, it’s more thriller than chiller. It reads like a super villain origin, which is fun, but I’m not sure how this has become a horror classic. I’m not even sure how it became a hugely popular book, as it doesn’t strike me as particularly earth-shattering in it’s plot or style. But, maybe I’m in the wrong place and time. Maybe, back in the late seventies, this would have scared the heck out of me. Or, maybe, I would have treated it like a Doctor Doom comic book and wondered what I’d do with some nasty telekinesis powers of my own.