I've been gearing up to do a year's best books list since the end of the first quarter. But in looking over the books I've read thus far (I'll probably add at least four or five more by the end of the month) I realized that I've read a pretty large number of older works and that perhaps including those doesn't give a wholly accurate view of this year's best novels. So with that in mind, I've decided to do a separate list for books that were released prior to this year. Thanks to the realization that I had been reading with a bias toward male authors this fall, I've been making an effort to seek out books by female authors that I may have overlooked. I'm happy to report that many of those authors have made their way not only onto this list but also into my "must buy" list of authors. I'll be posting a list of the best of 2013 closer to the end of the year.
10. Miserere by Teresa Frohock: I’m not a huge fan of stories with religious overtones, and exorcism movies freak me out more than almost anything else. Nevertheless, Frohock’s tale of exorcists, demons, possession, and priests was one of the most compelling books I’ve read this year. With a focus on personal drama over supernatural hi-jinks, Miserere reads more like a Shakespearean play that typical dark fantasy. Those afraid of a preachy sermon of a story will be disappointed, and those who avoid such things like the plague will be surprised with how deeply this story of redemption and forgiveness touches them.
7. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear: Epic fantasy is filled with grim Euro-centric themes. Kings, castles, vast battles, and political intrigue are the order of the day. Readers who’d like to explore a completely different and unexpected take on the epic fantasy could do no better than to explore Bear’s Eastern influenced Range of Ghosts. With nuanced world building, characters that eschew the common archetypes that permeate the genre, and best of all, heroes that are not only struggling to survive but to actual make their world a better place, Range of Ghosts is a breath of fresh air for those tired of endless variations on the same time honored themes.
6. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig: Rarely does a protagonist hook me through the lip in the first page. Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black is an exception to that rule. Her blend of street smarts, moxy and vulnerability guarantee that she’d a character you won’t soon forget. Blackbirds is full of foul mouthed banter, visceral action, and characters that would make Tarentino envious. Word to the wise; don’t crack this book late at night, unless you have time off to burn at your job or enjoying working through sleep deprivation. Blackbirds is the most compulsively readable book I’ve seen in a decade.
2. Feed by Mira Grant: Zombies are everywhere, and I’ll admit to loving a good apocalypse story but rarely does a zombie story sink its teeth as deep into my throat as Feed did. Set in the aftermath of the a zombie outbreak that will forever alter the shape of the world, Feed focuses on a group of journalists following a presidential campaign that is beset by undead catastrophes at every turn. A compelling thriller with perhaps the most complex world building I’ve seen in a novel of its type since World War Z, this is a novel that defies expectations at every turn and challenges the genre to be far more than the splatter-fest readers have grown to expect. This is a tense gem of a novel that will leave you itching for the sequel.
1. The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett: What can I say, Bennett's The Troupe just won't go away. It's held the top spot on every list I've made based on the fact that I have rarely found myself thinking back over characters and events from a novel months after I turned the final page. With lyrical prose, this subtle and moving tale about what it means to be a family, and how art enriches not only the audience but the creator and the world as a whole is one I cannot recommend more highly. That's why it remains in the top slot on this list. If you take only one recommendation from this site all year, let it be this one.