are my top picks for the year based on the books that I reviewed. This
is never easy because I don't feel like I read enough books in a year.
So by no means should this be considered an all inclusive list of "best
of the year." It is a list of some of the best books that I had a
chance to read. And I'm sure it's complete. Nonetheless, these books are
selected for their quality of writing, creativity and lasting impression.
See all books reviewed in 2001
Weight of All Things by Sandra Benitez
in El Salvador in 1980, it chronicles 6 weeks of a nine-year old
boy's life as he searches for his mother in a country controlled
by two warring factions. I put this novel at the top of my list
as a gentle reminder that war is not the answer. It's always a matter
of where one stands that seems to define an act of terrorism. This
novel puts a human face on war showing that the true losers are
always the ones that are being "protected."
Minnow Pea: a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable
by Mark Dunn
is a very clever and humorous novel about Nollop, an island nation
that idealizes the originator of the pangram "The quick brown
fox jumps over the lazy dog." One day when the letter Z
falls off the cenotaph in town, the Council decides to make it
illegal to speak or write words with this letter, turning this into
a "lipogrammatic" tale as more letters drop one by one.
Dunn has written a humorous satire on the fragility of our civil
Nine Stories of an Imminent World by Walter
is a series of interlocking stories that take place only a generation
or so away. Like any well founded science fiction writer, Mosley
extrapolates from today's socioeconomic and technological trends
to come up with a seemingly advanced world, but in truth, not too
different from our own, only more extreme; the rich are very rich,
the middle class are tightly controlled, and the poor have no rights
Giuliana Legacy by Alexis Masters
novel is absolutely captivating. It's hard to imagine, but this
writer has managed to capture the feeling of true joy through a
character in a novel. Her success can be attributed to her in depth
research regarding the Greek Goddess Aphrodite and other ancient
religions as well as expression of her own personal belief system
and then tying this all together into a very wonderful novel. The
hypnotic quality of her tale mad me shut out everything around me
propelling me into Julia's beautiful world.
Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
now anyone who has heard of this novel most likely associates it
with the brew-ha-ha over Franzen's attitude after the Corrections
was chosen as an Oprah Book of the Month. Personally, I think
Oprah's Club made a good choice. Anyhow, the book is destined to
be popular and read by many and will probally win a few more awards,
having just been selected by The National Book Award.
Corrections is nimble, despite its many complications and intertwining
details. In all its truth about family and marriage, it's really
funny. There are so many scenes in this novel that had me chuckling
out loud. As we meet each Lambert, its fun to discover how the title
gets worked in. I found it surprising as to how many different meanings
that Franzen ekes out, including the obvious reference to the adjustment
in the stock market.
as time goes on, I find myself wanting to re-read this novel.
Absence of Nectar by Kathy Hepinstall
year old Alice Fendar knows the "jig is up." Her stepfather,
Simon Jester is going to kill her and her older brother Boone and
their mother is going to let it happen.
is Hepinstall's second novel and shows how powerful of a writer
she is. With her unconventional characters and knack for story telling,
she reminds me of John Irving.
Truths and a Lie by Katrina Kittle
Canard is an habitual liar. She started to lie after telling one
truth that caused her schoolmates to laugh at her. She continued
lying whenever the truth was too boring. On the day she met Peyton
she told a lie she couldn't undo and now, after eight years of marriage,
it's eating away at her. But this isn't her only lie, she's an alcoholic
in denial. At the opening of this novel, Dair's life is suddenly
plunged into a state of chaos when she realizes the man who just
threw himself across her hood, dashing between idling bumpers, and
then hurling himself over the guardrail to his death, is their best
friend and neighbor. While Dair suspects murder, it seems that she
is not the only liar.
has a real knack for writing about the things we like to avoid (alcoholism
in this one, AIDS in the last one) and making us want to read on.
Joe by T. Jefferson Parker
Trona, at age 24, is already hard-boiled. During the day, he's
a Deputy for the Orange County Sheriff's Department assigned to
work at the Central Jail Complex, as are all new deputies. At
night, he is Will Trona's driver. But on this one fateful night,
while retrieving a kidnapped girl, the Trona's are trapped in
an alley by a gang and Will Trona is killed. And with the aid
of his eidetic memory, Joe pieces together the truth of his father's
Trona is the "acid baby," so dubbed by the media after
his birth father poured a cup of acid on his 9-month old face
leaving him scarred for life and his forever indebted to his parents
for adopting him. Joe Trona is a complex character and Parker
fleshes him out with some very unusual and unforgettable details.
And the story is good from start to finish.
is Digital by Pat Cadigan
is a cyberpunk mystery. If you haven't tried this type of novel,
but like an intellectual challenge, then you are in for a real treat
with this one. Cadigan knows how to bend the mind.
Lieutenant Doré Konstantin is Chief Officer in charge of
TechnoCrime, Artificial Reality Division. As such she spends much
of her day in a very expensive hotsuit jacked into an environment
that, by its very design, is a lie. Her job is to prove copyright
infringement, product piracy, industrial espionage, theft of credit,
fraud and confidence games, all which she privately refers to as
"aggravated mopery and dopery," further exasperated since
nothing in AR constitutes a legal contract. So when AR is a lie,
how does one go about an investigation?
Chao by Han Ong
just love the concept behind this book! William Narciso Paulinha
is drinking in his usual seedy bar when he's approached by Shem
C with a clever plan. He wants William (although Filipino and not
Chinese, but who in New York City can tell the difference) to imitate
a Feng Shui Master so that they can use Shem C's connections to
earn some good cash off some very rich people.
this novel were only about the confidence game that Shem C cooks
up, the novel would be interesting and even humorous, but this novel
extends far deeper, taking into account the meaning of the immigrant
experience in America, raising questions of race and privilege,
of character and identity and finally, it takes a look at the end
of the possession laden century. It reminds me of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire
of the Vanities not in its style but in its excoriating view
of the upper-crust society in New York City.
Popejoys of Pistolburg by C. Mike Reid
another great scam novel. Bosco Popejoy comes up with a unique get-rich-quick
plan. Why not sell some lake front property to an unaware out-of-stater?
When he meets up with his high school crush and finds out that she's
got a really good criminal mind, the two of them are off and running.
But forwarned this is not a plan cooked up by a couple of brain
novel had me chuckling all the way to the end. Every one of the
characters has some quirky habit that's hard to forget. C. Mike
Reid succeeds in juggling the plot between the real land owners,
the would-be marks, and all of the supporting events that in one
way or another help this haphazard scam come to fruition.