Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Best Novels of 2013

... or at least the best of those I read:

3. Where Men Win Glory, by Jon Krakauer. Pat Tillman was an American icon, but not by his own choosing. He was a man who gave up an NFL career so he could serve his country in the aftermath of 9/11. He became an Army Ranger, fought in Afghanistan, was held up as an emblem of what an American could surrender in order to battle for his country, and was killed by friendly fire. Krakauer's reporting skills are at their best here. We get a moving portrait of a complex man and the hell that being in battle can be. This was the only nonfiction book I read this year, and it was worth every second.

2. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. Amy's introduction to us as a woman falling head over heels for this guy Nick at the start of the book is one of the best set-ups for a novel I have seen in years. She is breathlessly in love, swept away, in awe. But slowly, petal by petal, we see this flower of love begin to fall apart. Amy disappears. Was she murdered? Did Nick do it? Flynn details Amy and Nick so precisely, and it is eerily fascinating to watch the evolution of their relationship. A first-rate novel.

1. And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini. This man writes some of the most delicate prose, but it is his characters who carry the day. Each story Hosseini weaves leaves me feeling like I am eavesdropping into private lives, and I should turn away because the characters might catch me looking at them. He puts the fabric of those lives into a broad sweep of time, and each step of the way he gives me insights into Afghan life. I was wondering what I was getting into when the first chapter was the telling of a children's story, but by the end of the chapter I had the sense that the story was a bad omen of what was to come. I was eager to return to this book whenever I had a chance. It is highly recommended.

WHAT I AM READING NOW: Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. This isn't a book after the afterlife, but about the many realities one life has the possibility to become. In the first few pages, Ursula is born but dies in the process. Then she is born again, and dies again, and on, and on, and on. I am barely 80 pages into the novel, and I am adjusting to Atkinson's very British writing style. I await what Ursula's next life is going to be like. I will give updates as I continue to read.

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