Monday, January 6, 2014

Book Blogger New Year's Challenge of 2014 - What Was the Best Book of 2013?

What Was the Best Book of 2013?

The best book I read in 2013 was Errantry: Strange Stories, a collection of short fiction by Elizabeth Hand. This stories contained in this collection are mostly the kinds of fantasies that exist on the edge of our world, and are filled with melancholy, regret, loneliness, loss, and yearning. Although there is no explicit theme to the collection, the stories seem to belong together as a group, each complementing the others. For the most part, the images presented in the stories feel as though one was looking through a distorted lens, and the result is both disturbing and beautiful. I've said this before, but it bears repeating - the stories in Errantry remind me of the kinds of stories written by John Collier in Fancies and Goodnights, or Ray Bradbury in Medicine for Melancholy. But the stories also evoke the fantasy style of writers like Theodore Sturgeon and Avram Davidson, but with a somewhat updated vision of the world, and a unique perspective not found in the works of those who had gone before. If you told me I could only keep one book that I read in 2013, it would be this one.

Although Errantry was my choice for best book of 2013, it was a collection of short fiction, and there are some people who simply don't read much short fiction. If I were to pick a best novel for 2013, it would be Food for the Gods by Karen Dudley, a humorous mystery novel set in mythic Athens and featuring Pelops, a celebrity chef who had previously been prepared as an entree for the Olympian deities. The novel is a well-written melange of history, mythology, and mystery, using all of the elements to deliver a fast-paced story that manages to be funny, satirical, and at times, endearing. The novel includes several handbill-style advertisements in between the chapters, ostensibly marketing some commercial aspect of Athenian society, highlighting the parallels between the over-the-top nature of Athenian culture and the over-the-top nature of modern consumerism. If you would enjoy a murder mystery, or a historical fiction about ancient Greece, or a story filled with mythological elements, or all three, then Food for the Gods is the perfect book for you. I am a fan of all of these elements, and as a result, in my estimation Food for the Gods is the best novel I read in 2013.

Go to Day 5: What Was the Worst Book of 2013?
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  1. The Tennis Player from Bermuda, by Fiona Hodgkins.

    1. @Julia Rachel Barrett: I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that book. I suspect that this is my loss.