Notable Nonfiction: 2nd Quarter 2013

I haven’t read many new nonfiction titles yet this year, but I’ve been lucky enough to find and enjoy a few truly exceptional books that deserve special mention:

1.  The Spark – Kristine Barnett (story of an autistic little boy whose IQ is higher than Einstein’s)

2.  Mr. Lincoln’s Battle with God – Stephen Mansfield (definitely not your father’s Abe Lincoln)

3.  Butterfly in the Typewriter – Cory MacLauchlin (intriguing biography of reclusive author John Kennedy Toole)

4.  Celebrating Pride and Prejudice – Susannah Fullerton (everything you ever wanted to know about the best loved novel ever written)

5.  A Chance to Win – Jonathan Schuppe  (a paralyzed drug dealer tries to turn his life around by helping the neighborhood kids form a baseball team)

6.  She Left Me the Gun – Emma  Brockes (a British woman learns the truth about her mother’s first 30 years)

7.  Good Prose – Tracy Kidder, Richard Tood (part memoir, part writing manual – co-authored by Kidder and his longtime editor)

 8.  After Visiting Friends – Michael Hainey (a newspaper man uncovers the truth about his father’s death on a Chicago street)

This is turning into a year during which I read even more fiction than normal, but I expect to have a nice Top Ten list by year-end.

Fiction Top Ten – Mid-Year 2013

Here we are at mid-year and fully half of of the titles on my Fiction Top Ten from just three months ago have dropped off this updated list.  I take that as a good omen, one reminding me that there are always more great books on the horizon.  Say what you will about avid readers, we are seldom bored for long.

Fiction Top Ten
Second Quarter Update

1.   Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – by Therese Anne Fowler (a fictional look at the Fitzgerald marriage that leaves the reader wondering which of the partners was the most reckless)

2.   Light of the World – by James Lee Burke (book number twenty in the Dave Robicheaux series, it proves the author is still at the peak of his writing skills)

3.   The Dinner – by Herman Koch (Dutch novel proving that boys will be boys – and so will their parents)

4.   The Heat of the Sun – by David Rain (Madam Butterfly: The Rest of the Story)

 5.   Tenth of December – by George Saunders (The New York Times called this the “best book you will read in 2013” almost before the year started.  Agree?)

6.   Dear Life – by Alice Munro (Munro officially announced her retirement last week, so unless she has something still in the vault, this will be her last new short story collection) 

7.   Blood Drama – by Christopher Meeks – (the author hits a home run on his first venture into the crime thriller genre)

8.   Havana Lost – by Libby Fischer Hellmann (wonderfully atmospheric novel about Castro, the mob, and generations of family greed)

9.   The Broken Places – by Ace Atkins (third in the author’s Quinn Collins series, this is Southern noir at its finest)

10.  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – by Robin Sloan (a mysterious bookstore with no customers hires a curious new manager) 

Notable Nonfiction: First Quarter 2013

I don’t have ten nonfiction titles that I feel good about recommending as the first quarter of 2013 ends, but these five, I think, are worth your consideration:

1.  The Spark – Kristine Barnett  (Story of an autistic little boy whose IQ is higher than Einstein’s) 

 2.  Mr. Lincoln’s Battle with God – Stephen Mansfield  (This is not your father’s Abe Lincoln)

3.  Butterfly in the Typewriter Cory MacLauchlin  (Revealing John Kennedy Toole biography)

4.  Celebrating Pride and Prejudice – Susannah Fullerton  (Everything you wanted to know about the best loved novel ever written)

5.  Good Prose – Tracy Kidder, Richard Todd  (Part memoir, part writing manual co-authored by Kidder and his longtime editor)

I have high hopes for three or four other nonfiction titles that will reach the top of my TBR stack soon, but you can’t go wrong with any of these.

Fiction Top Ten – First Quarter 2013

Hard as it is to believe, we are already one-quarter of the way through 2013, meaning that it’s time for my first Top Ten update of the year.  Even though my choices are limited to books published between October 1, 2012 and today, this first list is filled with great reads.

Fiction Top Ten
First Quarter 2013

1.  The Dinner – Herman Koch  (Dutch novel proving that boys will be boys – and so will their parents)

2.  A Possible Life – Sebastian Faulks  (We are, all of us, connected to those who come before and after us.)

3.  The Heat of the Sun – David Rain  (Madam Butterfly: The Rest of the Story)

4.  Dear Life –  Alice Munro  (Chance encounters and spur-of-the-moment decisions change lives.)

5.  Tenth of December – George Saunders  (NY Times calls this “best book you will read in 2013.”  See for yourself.)

6.  The Accursed – Joyce Carol Oates  (Demons, Presidents, and fair maidens seduced)

7.  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan  (A mysterious bookstore with almost no customers hires a new night manager)

8.  The Sound of Broken Glass – Deborah Crombie  (Scotland Yard detectives juggle home and work duties via role reversal)

9.  Truth in Advertising – John Kenney  (A midlife crisis involving diapers and the Super Bowl forces one ad exec to finally come-of-age)

10. Hit Me –  Lawrence Block  (Block’s lovable hit man is back with a vengeance.  He needs to pay for new stamps for his collection.)