Yes, yes, we’re already well into the new year, but now that you’re no longer inundated with ‘best of’ lists, you can take your time and appreciate this one to the fullest. That’s my rationale. Late? Hmpf. Certainly not. Here are some of my favorite reads over the last year. Text links go to my full reviews, image links send you to Amazon.
The Girl with All the Gifts—M.R. Carey, 2014.
A sensitive, intelligent young girl happens to be a hungry—a fungal-controlled zombie—who may just hold the key to saving the human race, or at least its legacy, in this brilliant post-apocalyptic novel. Action-packed horror sequences complement a bittersweet journey of self-discovery.
Later—Stephen King, 2021.
Jamie Conklin shares the story of his childhood and how his ability to talk with the newly dead leads to a battle for his soul. Cop story, coming of age story, ghost story: Later does it all, with aplomb.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires—Grady Hendrix, 2020.
Patricia Campbell’s book club revels in the true crime genre until a new neighbor moves in, and bizarre attacks and deaths start to multiply. Patricia and her friends must overcome personal, hidden troubles such as sexism, abuse, betrayal, and infidelity to unite against this unique threat.
The Book of Koli—M.R. Carey, 2020.
Teenage Koli discovers that the privileged class in his village is hiding a secret about the old technology that keeps them safe from threats like killer trees and rogue drones that populate the woods beyond. Stunning worldbuilding, thrilling scenes, and characters with heart make this an outstanding read.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London—Garth Nix, 2020.
Merlin St. Jacques, a left-handed bookseller (the fighting kind) helps eighteen-year-old Susan uncover her magical heritage in this enchanting, old-meets-new urban fantasy.
Here are some standouts that I, regretfully, did not get to write a full review for you. Do check them out: They are all phenomenal.
Wanderers—Chuck Wendig, 2019.
Across the US, an apparently random group of “sleepwalkers” moves inexorably towards the west coast, protected on their march by confused, desperate family members, or “shepherds.” The inexplicable sleepwalkers trigger a wide range of responses across the country—many violent. Wending has his finger on the pulse of contemporary conflicts, beliefs, and partisan divisions, and superbly captures the highs and lows of both humanity—and AI. A deeply thought-provoking, powerful novel.
Ash—James Herbert, 2012.
Brooding paranormal researcher David Ash, battered from previous cases, returns to investigate the very malevolent Comraich Castle, an expensive asylum where the world’s evildoers and inconvenients seek sanctuary. Atmospheric, dark, and genuinely spooky: a great read.
An Easy Death—Charlaine Harris, 2018.
Crack-shot Gunnie Rose hires on to help some Russian wizards track a man into Mexico in this extraordinary western. The altered, magical vision of a fragmented US is compelling, and Gunnie is a savvy, plucky heroine, with secrets of her own.