Another year, another look back at all the great books I read in the last twelve months. According to Goodreads, I read more this year than any year previous. I’m determined to read even more next year. The following are a few of my favorites from this year.
Best First Book in a Series: Who Could That Be At This Hour?
I missed Lemony Snicket’s voice after finishing the Series of Unfortunate Events. After thirteen books, I never grew tired of the way he tells stories. I feel like Lemony Snicket as a whole is one of the greatest gifts to modern children’s literature, and the more books we can get of him narrating his peculiar life in his peculiar world, the better we’ll all be. I really liked this first book in his newest series.
Best Unexpected Surprise: Green Angel and Green Witch
I picked up Green Heart (a compilation of Green Angel and Green Witch) at my favorite Seattle bookstore, Third Place Books. I’d heard of these books but hadn’t realized that the plot was so unusual and daring and ever-surprising (a literary take on the aftermath of a dystopian event in a medieval-type village). This book was lovely, and so very strange in the best way.
Best Stories: Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brother’s Grimm
At some point, I’d really love to write another fairy tale retelling (Minnow is based on the Grimm story, “The Handless Maiden”), so I bought this book and the audiobook. The print edition is gorgeous, and contains notes from Philip Pullman pertaining to the choices he made when retelling each story, and the audio version was so immersive. Perfect for driving around on foggy days through the forest.
Best Middle Grade: Moon Over Manifest
This book is made of everything that I love–epistolary (it’s told in part through old letters and newspaper articles), historical (it takes place partly during the Great Depression and partly around WWI) and a mystery about family. I don’t generally cry at books but the ending of this one gutted me.
Best YA: Cinder
This is the kind of book that I’m fairly certain could only ever have been written in YA. I’m convinced there’s no other category that allows authors to have such complete freedom. This story of a cyborg Cinderella was charming and unique, and I’m aching to read the rest of the series.
Best Audiobook: Dodger
This book made my god-awful commute not only bearable but something to look forward to. I’d–gasp!–never read a book by Terry Pratchett, but I got a pretty hearty dose of his famous wit and wordsmithery in this story set in the sewers of Dickensian England. The narrator, Stephen Briggs, was also amazing. Eleanor and Park gets an honorable mention in this category because the narrators so brilliantly encapsulated their characters.
Best Nonfiction: Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
I should rename this category “Best Nonfiction that You’ll Forget Isn’t a Spy Novel.” The details of the race for the atomic bomb between the Americans, Soviets, and Germans were fascinating, and so exciting. The beginning reads like an old-fashioned caper. I loved learning about the scientists in the Manhattan Project, who were basically ordinary nerds whose research changed the world, in good ways and bad.
Best Conclusion of a Series: The FitzOsbornes at War
I’ve loved the Montmaray series from the first book, but this book put it over the edge into One of My Favorite Series territory. There’s something magical that happens when a brilliant narrator’s voice, a cast of authentic characters, and a well-realized setting are combined. I haven’t fallen in love with characters like this in a long time.
Best Graphic Novel: Saga
The colors! I must first talk about the colors, which made reading this graphic novel akin to drinking after a long trip through the desert. The plot was unique beyond reason, in addition to being hilarious and surprising. The only downside is having to wait until April for the third volume.