Mumblemumble Best Books Year End List Mumblemumble

I don’t like making “Best Of” lists. Ask my friends. What’s my top 5 favorite movies of all time? I don’t know. They shift, they change. So this isn’t really a “Year End Best Of” list for books. Especially since most “Best Of” lists consist of at least ten something or others, but these five books (and a promising latecomer I’m in the middle of, but it just so cool you have to know about it) are all fantastic reads.

In no particular order:

Things That Are by Amy Leach is a wonderful and wonderfully odd collection of essays on sea cucumbers, honeybees, Trappists, and peas, among other things. Leach’s prose is clever and bright; she’s able to take almost any phrase and turn it on its head and show something completely new, something confounding. (Milkweed Editions: publisher)

Jagganath by Karin Tidbeck. I knew Karin was a good writer – I’d been privy to at Clarion Writers’ Workshop when we attended together, along with 16 other writers, in 2010. My classmates and I read and critiqued a few of the stories in this collection. And despite my familiarity with some of the work, I was completely bowled-over by this collection. It is by turns weird and dark and luminous and harrowing…but above all, these stories – some of the finest short stories I’ve read in a long time – are human. (Cheeky Frawg: publisher)

How to Traverse Terra Incognito by Dean Francis Alfar, for me, took a little getting used to, which is a strange thing to say for a short story collection. I fell in love with the first story, “Simon’s Replica,” about a queen in her final years who orders a precise replica of her kingdom made. The next two stories, however, left me a little cold. I’m glad I pushed through, though, because the rest of the collection, like the first story is outstanding (and to be fair, I read this in the gym so maybe I was just angry at the elliptical). (Flipside Publishing: publisher)

Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders by Samuel R. Delany. Delany’s masterpiece. It is better than Dahlgren. It is better than the Nevèrÿon series. Like all great Delany it is pornographic and philosophical, deeply moving and thought-provoking. It is a behemoth, a novel pushing the boundaries of what novels do, not unlike 2666 or Gravity’s Rainbow or Ulysses. (Magnus Books: publisher)

Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem is reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining only so far as that it takes place in a rustic hotel; if it resembles anything, Poe or maybe even Kafka come to mind. After the death of his wife, Richard Carter takes his daughter to a hotel where he has found work as manager. Under the tutelage of the groundskeeper, Carter learns the strangeness and darkly alluring qualities of the hotel. The book is so good, you guys. I don’t want to tell you anymore except to read it (and maybe this: the part with the cat? Yeah. Read it.). (Solaris: publisher)

A PROMISING LATECOMER

Tainaron: Mail from Another City by Leena Krohn. I just started reading this on my kindle and have been transported. A woman writing letters to someone (lover? friend? sister? brother? I don’t know yet, or that I will know) from a city of glorious and monstrous flowers and insectlike people with a “volcanic core.” I don’t know that you could ask for anything more. (Apologies on the rhyming, there.) The letters are sort-of-meditations on love, gods, mortality, etc. The standout right now, for me, is the letter “Fire on the Mountain.” (Cheeky Frawg: publisher)

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