I’m in a chatty mood today, so let’s talk books. Below are my favorite reads from the past year—past year meaning when I got around to reading the books, not their release date. Most of the books came out in 2013, a couple were released in 2012, and THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE came out in 2007.

Covers

THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tart
Donna Tartt has written three books over the past twenty years. Her first, THE SECRET HISTORY, is one of my favorite novels of all time. Her second, THE LITTLE FRIEND did not hold my interest, and despite repeated attempts, I never finished it. This made me hesitant to pick up THE GOLDFINCH, but I’m glad I did. It’s a beautifully written story about a boy, a painting, and so much more.

LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson
Superb execution of a tried and true premise. Think literary “Groundhog Day.”

HELP FOR THE HAUNTED by John Searles
A “little” thriller with fascinating characters, lots of twists, and a gripping mystery all tied together by fine writing so subtle, it doesn’t overshadow the story. This is the one I wish I’d written.

THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE by Don Winslow
Frankie is a retired hitman living in SoCal who is pulled back into “the life.” Sound cliché? It’s not. This book is proof crime fiction can be well-written and original.

SUSPECT by Robert Crais
Most poignant here is the resonance of the human-canine bond. Yes, some of the story is told through Maggie the German Shepherd’s POV, but instead of anthropomorphizing (like all those cutesy cat mysteries), Crais incorporates instinct, canine social hierarchy, and pack behavior. Yep, I cried.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman
What can I say? Superlative storytelling. A young boy’s life takes a dark turn. It’s Mr. Gaiman at his finest.

SAY YOU’RE SORRY by Michael Robotham
Robotham’s series about Parkinson’s afflicted clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin works because the author doesn’t dwell with the protagonist. Psychological thrillers are my favorite reads, and Robotham’s exploration into the minds of victims and villains along the hero keeps this series fresh.

SANDRINE’S CASE by Thomas H. Cook
A man is on trial for killing his wife. Written in the first person POV of the accused, you’re probably thinking you’ve read or watched this story play out more than once on the page or screen. I guarantee you have not—not this way, at least.

14 by Peter Clines
Horror, mystery, and quirky characters handled with a deft touch. Does the rent for that apartment sound too good to be true? Reading 14 will make you think twice before moving in.

TENTH OF DECEMBER by George Saunders
Ten short stories by the brilliant George Saunders.

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What were your favorite reads from the last year?

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