Friday, January 6, 2017

Best Reads of 2016

I read 67 books in 2016; started and failed to finish nine more. Below are my ten favorites, though not necessarily released in 2016 (I think only two were). I’m not saying they were the best books. These are the ten that stuck in my mind as the best reading experiences. (Listed alphabetically by title.)

A Detailed Man, David Swinson. Often neglected in the well-deserved buzz that surrounds The Second Girl, A Detailed Man deserves attention on its own merits. The story of a burned-out cop as he decides how badly he wants to rebuild his career (or not) and the various vicissitudes of having no regular gig in a police department.

Flash Boys, Michael Lewis. The stock market may have been intended as a way to create fluid capital and bring buyers and sellers together, but the people making the big money have nothing to do with any of that. They think of it as a casino and Lewis’s book described how they filter the skim for themselves.

King Maybe, Timothy Hallinan. The first of two Junior Bender adventures this year continues the series in good form, in part by returning Junior more to his roots as a burglar who gets by more on his wits than on hardware.

LaBrava, Elmore Leonard. Among the few Leonard novels I hadn’t read, ad from his prime crime period. As good as I’d heard it would be. True, his characters and plots have a lot of similarities, but they’re similar in good ways and just different enough you don’t mind. Besides, no one reads Elmore Leonard for the plots.

The Lost Detective, Nathan Ward. Maybe the best book I’ve ever read about a writer.

The Long and Faraway Gone, Lou Berney. Deserves all the acclaim. A departure from Gutshot Straight and Whiplash River, though the elements that made both of them so good are here, as well as an added layer. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

The Martian, Andy Weir. The biggest surprise read of the year. It’s been a long time since I read a book I enjoyed more.

Once Were Cops, Ken Bruen. Snuck in under the deadline to remind me how good Bruen is, even with awkward material.

Rain Dogs, Adrian McKinty. Book Five of the Troubles Trilogy shows why McKinty didn’t stop at three. He had a lot more for Sean Duffy to say and do.

World Gone By, Dennis Lehane. Sequel to Live By Night, and I liked it better.

Honorable Mention

The Hunter and Other Stories, Dashiell Hammett. A good cross-section of Hammett’s shorts.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Finally got around to reading this, thanks to David Swinson. I see why it’s such a big deal, though it probably would have moved me more had I read it in school.

L.A. Confidential, James Ellroy. A big, glorious mess of a book. If you’re into Ellroy’s writing for the sake of the writing, read it. If you have a mission to read the entire LA Quartet, read it. Otherwise, see the movie.

The Long Good-Bye / Bay City Blues, Raymond Chandler. One of the Big Three Chandler novels, and one of the best shorts.

One or the Other, John McFetridge. The Olympics came to Montreal in 1976, and Eddie Dougherty was there. Take a look at how the Olympics affects a major city from the ground up.

Rumrunners, Eric Beetner. No one writes books that lend themselves to movie treatments better than Beetner. Unlike many others, his are outstanding books, too. Picture Harry Dean Stanton as the tough as nails old man here.

Rough Trade, Todd Robinson. Boo and Junior are in over their heads again, and Robinson gets them out in a way only he can.


seana graham said...

Great list. I've read a lot of the authors, though not so much these particular books. Glad to hear you say World Gone By is better than Live by Night, as, though I really like Lehane in general, I wasn't as crazy about that one.

Dana King said...

LIVE BY NIGH won the Edgar that year, continuing my tendency not to like books that win awards, even when written by favorite authors (and Lehane is certainly that) and before I know they won awards. My tastes and what judges think is good must differ greatly.