Today's list of favourite reads comes from Ron Stadnik, the Print Manager for Library Bound. He's one of the most eclectic and eager readers I know, and I can always count on him to deliver a list with plenty of adrenaline. Here are his top picks of the year:
Since straight up “best of” lists of top fiction & non-fiction books can eventually be a dull overload, this year I’ve created my own fringe categories. They are:
Best Books of Men Behaving Badly (Fiction)
Solar by Ian McEwan
Hysterically funny misadventures of a middle-aged prize winning philandering physicist whose best days are behind him, this is also an effective satire on academia and the politics of climate change.
All That Follows by Jim Crace
A narcissistic British jazzman struggles with past and present, private and public. While it reminded me of Solar in many respects, this is a quieter book, more subtle and nuanced.
Swap by John McFetridge
An ex-army Detroit criminal comes to Toronto to make a guns for drugs deal with a biker gang. McFetridge has garnered critical praise for dialogue worthy of Elmore Leonard but what impressed me even more were the observations he’s able to make about U.S. and Canadian culture. His knowledge of bike gangs rivals that of the best non-fiction. Released in the U.S. as “Let it Ride,” to the general confusion of Canadian libraries and their customers.
When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle
Another outstanding Boyle tale of obsession, hubris, and the sheer ignominious folly of man. Conflict rages between an environmentalist and a biologist in Santa Barbara and on The Channel Islands over the fate of invasive species.
The Swap by Antony Moore
A very funny book that manages to be a mystery, thriller and dark comedy verging on horror at times, this is another tale of a middle age British loser having a terrible time of it, thanks entirely to their own extremely selfish decisions, past and present. A comic shop owner returns home for a 20th anniversary school reunion and becomes haplessly involved in revenge and murder. Probably the most surprising book I read all year, it’s beyond any simple attempt at categorization.
Best Books of Men Behaving Badly, Non-Fiction
Siberian Education: Family, Honour, and Tattoos: an Extraordinary Underworld Life by Nicolai Lin, translated by Jonathan Hunt
This look at the lives of the Urkas, a close knit criminal community relocated from Siberia, absolutely transcends the true crime genre in its poetic beauty and moral certainty.
Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields by Charles Bowden
Charles Bowden cries with the intensity and poetry of a Biblical prophet who can’t turn off the visions that overwhelm him, of life on the ground in Ciudad Juarez.
War by Sebastian Junger
Brilliant old school war reporting from the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
Best “End of” Books
The Wayfinders by Wade Davis
The 2009 Massey Lecture explores the end of cultural diversity.
Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges
The end of literacy, from the Pulitzer Prize winner.
Eaarth by Bill McKibben
The end of everything! (At least, earth as we’ve known it.)
The Wave: In the Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey so with his permission, I'm adding it here, mostly because I chuckled over the ahem . . . wave of his enthusiasm:
"Holy clacking Underwoods, I absolutely loved this book! One of those rare non fiction reads you learn from while being entertained as though it was a thriller. Make a great beach read... well, unless a rogue wave came in and sucked you out to sea I guess. LOVED IT!")