Thursday, December 26, 2013

Kicking off the year-end favorites

It's that time of year when I reflect back on the books I've read and put together lists of my favorites. I'll start with a little recap of my reading stats for you. I'm hoping to fit another one or two books in before we ring out the year next week, but they will be 2014 publications, so I feel ready to run down my favorites at this point.

So at this point I've read 98 books. A smaller percentage of that number were audiobooks this year: only 30. The 98 books were written by 92 different authors, and 65 of those authors were new to me this year.  I read 21 debut novels (3 debuted earlier than 2013).

I wish I could double those numbers, but alas, I simply don't read that fast. And while I wish I could read more of the books that come out, I don't ever want reading to turn into a chore for me. I read at a pace that allows me to absorb and enjoy my books. I'm happy with that.

Now onto our first look at favorites - favorite book covers.

I've discovered that I'm not a fan of commercial book covers. In other words, I don't like what sells. I prefer covers that elicit something from me. I love covers that have strong meaning and connect well with the books they are wrapped around. So, you may find my choices a little odd...that's just me, a little odd! And just a little side note, these are only covers from those books I read this year. I know there are fabulous covers out there I haven't seen or picked up yet as well...

If You Were Here - Alafair Burke

I love all of Alafair Burke's books, but this is by far my favorite of her covers. I'm often drawn to colors that are not black, white or red because those are so dominant in the crime fiction genre. But this cover's simplicity conveys a lot of meaning connected to the book. This is definitely a gold star book cover.

The Broken Places - Ace Atkins

While the use of the car mirror isn't a new one, I find the use in this cover especially strong given the role of the storm in the book. There's a great deal of atmosphere created in this cover without bogging it down with a lot of insignificant and busy detail.

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

I'm finishing up the 26-disc audio of this one right now. Again, I like the simple design. I like the sense of depth--inviting you to look inside, the appearance of texture and the font--among my all-time favorite fonts. There's an overall aura of something hidden and mysterious behind the paper. This cover does a lot with little.

Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies - Chris Kluwe

Maybe it's because I see so many dark and melancholy covers in the crime fiction genre, but I just can't help smiling when I see this cover. It has such a sense of whimsey to it. The contrast between the big male football star and the carousel horse is striking. This is a beautifully unique book and I think the artists came up with a beautifully unique cover.

Brilliance - Marcus Sakey

As with Alafair Burke's work, I thoroughly enjoy all of Marcus Sakey's work. And likewise, I feel the cover for Brilliance is his best cover yet. The depth perception, the use of light and shadows, it's all such a strong image. I love the way they've positioned the title and Marcus' name. Had they moved the blurb to the back cover or made it A LOT less prominent I'd say this cover is perfect.

Today's post will be a twofer: two favorites lists for the price of one (since they are both short). My next list is my five favorite first lines from 2013. First lines from any book I read this year, whether published in 2013 or earlier were considered for this list. I think these mostly speak for themselves, so here you go:

From Dead Harvest (Chris F. Holm): "Light spilled through the window of the pub as I watched them, casting patches of yellow across the darkened street but conveying no warmth."

From Gun Machine (Warren Ellis): "On playing back the 911 recording, it'd seem that Mrs. Stegman was more concerned that the man outside her apartment door was naked than that he had a big shotgun."

From A Quiet Vendetta (R.J. Ellory): "Through mean streets, through smoky alleyways where the pungent smell of raw liquor hangs like the ghost of some long-gone summer; on past these battered frontages where plaster chips and twists of dirty paint in Mardi Gras colors lean out like broken teeth and fall leaves; passing the dregs of humanity who gather here and there amongst brown-papered bottles and steel-drum fires, serving to tap the vein of meager human prosperity where it spills, through good humor or diesel wine, onto the sidewalks of this district... Chalmette, here within the boundaries of New Orleans."

From The Titled World (Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly): "Dixie Clay was squelching through the mud along the creek's swollen banks, shooing mosquitoes with her hat, when she saw a baby coffin bobbing against a sycamore snag."

From Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies (Chris Kluwe): "I've decided to call my own mind." (Note: since this is a series of essays and articles, this is only the first line to the first essay. Virtually every first line for each entry in the book is worthy of appearing on this list.)

There you have it! My five favorite covers and my five favorite first lines from books I read this year. How about you? What were standouts for you in these categories?


Beth F December 28, 2013 at 7:04 AM  

Argh -- I haven't read any of these, although several are on my TBR pile.

Katharine Ott January 2, 2014 at 3:47 PM  

I read 76 books, quite a few of them from our elementary school library. The covers I liked were: The Song of Achilles, The Hangman's Daughter and Dogboy. I do note first lines in my reviews (thanks for the idea!), but none stand out. Thanks for your interesting blog - Happy New Year!

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