It’s that time of the year – the end of year lists. The best of this and that. Movies, books, music. Critics line up to tell you what they liked (and sometimes, what they didn’t). I thought I would join the crowd and write about the best 21 books I read this year. To date, I have read 127 books. I went through the list (yes, I keep lists) and picked my favorites without counting. When I was done, I had 21 books on the list. So, without further adieu, here is my list.
Agent in Place by Mark Greaney – The Grey Man. I love him. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I love a good thriller/spy novel. The Grey Man is one of my favorite characters. I love Mark Greaney because he puts Court in these horrible, untenable positions and you think there’s no way out. But there is always a way out for Court. I like Court better than James Bond. Better than Scot Harvath. Better than Pike Logan. Don’t get me wrong, I love all those characters. But I like Court more because he’s more human. He admits his shortcomings. If you haven’t read any Grey Man, I highly recommend him. Agent in Place is probably my favorite because it moves so fast and is so good.
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara– from the Grey Man to the Golden State Killer. Having lived in California almost all my life, I was stunned to realize there was a serial killer in the 70s and 80s that I knew NOTHING about. One of my besties lived in Visalia when the Visalia Ransacker (considered to be the Golden State Killer at the very beginning) was active. This book was so good and freaky and scary.
The Fox Hunt by Mohammad Al Samawi – From the Golden State Killer to Yemen. Mohammad was born and raised in Yemen. He was a devout Muslim until he met a Christian professor. They exchanged gifts (Mohammad gave the professor a Quran and the professor gave Mohammad a Bible) and the gift changed Mohammad’s life. He embarked on a mission of peace-making. He wanted all people to get along. He was forced to flee Yemen at the beginning of the civil war. The book tells a compelling story and stayed with me for a long time.
How Hard Can It Be by Allison Pearson – A middle-aged Brit tries to navigate a mid-life crisis husband, ill parents, surly teenagers, and re-entry into the job force. Laugh-out-loud funny. And real. I loved this book.
Warning Light by David Ricciardi– Spy novel number two. An origin story. Zac Miller end up in Iran and on the run for his life. MacGyver meets James Bond. I found this book thrilling from the get. Some people didn’t. But I did love it.
Rising Out Of Hatred by Eli Saslow – What happens when the heir-apparent to the White Nationalist movement in the United States goes to college and realizes that his entire belief system is wrong? That is the premise of this book. And it’s probably the most important book I read this year. I have recommended this book about 100 times. I will keep recommending it. You want to know how Donald Trump got elected? Read this book. Scary, scary stuff.
The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz – This book is genius. A writer named Anthony Horowitz is shadowing a cop, investigating the murder of a celebrity. Fact meets fiction. This book is spectacular. I kept having to google names to see who was real and who was a figment of Horowitz’s imagination. Brilliant.
November Road by Lou Berney – I got hipped to Lou Berney from Don Winslow. I follow Winslow on Twitter and he raved about this book. Then, I won a copy. THE BEST BOOK I READ THIS YEAR. Hands down. It’s a about a mobster, running from his boss, after unwittingly being an accomplice to the Kennedy Assassination. It’s about a woman and her daughters leaving their small life and imaging something better. Lou Berney has a gift and you can experience it by reading November Road. It’s lyrical and beautiful.
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon – A book that is a mystery and a meditation on aging. A supposedly long dead man comes back. A woman is convinced he killed someone a long time ago. But her memory issues and being in an assisted living community are hampering her ability to solve the mystery. You will get to a conclusion and the mystery will be solved, but at what cost? An engrossing book.
Light It Up/Burning Bright/The Drifter by Nick Petrie– I discovered Peter Ash this year and I’m glad I did. I won a copy of Light It Up, the latest in the series. Peter has a form of PTSD that causes him to become extremely claustrophobic. He cannot be indoors for very long. Peter is a stand-up guy who will go to the ends of the Earth for his friends, and even people he doesn’t really know. These are really good books.
Measure of Darkness by Johnathon and Jesse Kellerman – Clay Edison, book two. I won and read the first book (Crime Scene) last year. I like Clay. He’s human and basically a good dude. There is a shooting at a party in Oakland, but one victim is unidentified and not shot as a result of the violence at the party. Clay goes on a quest to find out who she is and what happened to her. A really good mystery.
The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel – Megan and Crystal are twins. Megan has a heart transplant. She and Crystal drift apart. Megan has a friend who also received a heart transplant, Caleb. She stood Caleb up and did not move to London to work with him because she was afraid. Then she meets the parents of her heart donor and decides to complete the girl’s bucket list. The book is a story about living and redemption and relationships. It is well-written and touching.
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks – Jessica Ferris signs up for a mysterious study because she needs money. Her life unravels as a result. This book doesn’t come out until January, 2019. I’m putting it on my list because I read it months ago and it is a spine-tingling thriller with some excellent plot twists. These authors also wrote The Wife Between Us, another twisty thriller. I mention this because, unlike other authors who write thrillers, Hendricks makes each one original and interesting. And worth reading.
Trust Me by Hank Ryan Phillipe – A journalist is covering the trial of a woman who supposedly killed her daughter. The case mirrors Casey Anthony and that case is mentioned in the book. A really, really good, tightly wound thriller that kept me guessing until the very end.
Rocket Men by Robert Kurson – The story of the Apollo 8 mission that flew around the moon Christmas, 1968. A thrilling true story. This book was absolutely fascinating. Kurson manages to discuss the lives of the three astronauts, the space race, and the events that occurred in 1968, causing a deep divide in this nation. I loved this book. It is well-written and entertaining.
The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton – As much as Rocket Men was uplifting, The Sun Does Shine is rage-inducing. Anthony Ray Hinton spent 21 years on Death Row in Alabama for a crime he couldn’t have committed. Anthony’s faith, his best friend, and his mother kept him sane. Bryan Stevenson at the Equal Justice Initiative took on Anthony’s case and ultimately win his release. This book should be a must read for everyone.
Loot by Aaron Elkins – an art theft mystery set in WWII and today. This book is a mystery that is truly mysterious. A truck of looted art disappeared during WWII. A Boston pawn shop owner gets a Velasquez painting that turns out to be from the missing truck. The pawn shop owner calls his art historian friend and then the pawn shop owner is killed and the art historian attacked. These acts set off a chase through Europe and Russia to find the rest of the missing art. I read this book in one sitting and it was fantastic.
Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman – I loved this book. Part chick lit, part hilarious story, the book follows four families who live on the same block in Los Angeles. I totally identified with the characters and the book reads with ease. I loved it.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean – She writes about the fire at the Los Angeles County Public Library on April 29, 1986. Don’t remember it? That’s because Chernobyl was the prior day. The news cycle was dominated by the nuclear meltdown and the LA County Library Fire was relegated to the back pages. More than 400,000 books burned. 700,000 more were damaged. 51 firefighters were injured fighting the fire. Orlean tells the story of the fire, but also of the Los Angeles County Public Library. It is an engrossing tale.
So, there you have it. The 21 best books I have read this year. I hope that you have found some new authors and some good reads.