2014: The Year in Reading

Cover design2014 was another in a long line of good reading years for yours truly. It wasn’t exactly full of surprises; if you compare this year’s list of favorites to that of previous years, you’ll see a lot of duplication: Ace Atkins, Stephen King, Joe Lansdale, and Robert McCammon are among the most common denominators. Atkins, King and Lansdale together dominate this year’s list, contributing two books each. That’s not something that will necessarily change in the coming year: Atkins will be bringing new entries in his Quinn Colson series and his continuation of Robert Parker’s Spenser series; King has a new novel (a follow-up to this year’s Mr. Mercedes) on deck, as well as a new short story collection; and Lansdale has a new Hap and Leonard book on the horizon. Factor in Clive Barker’s Pinhead/Harry D’Amour novel The Scarlet Gospels and I can damn near give you my top ten for 2015 right here and now.

All of these familiar faces may make it seem like I’m in a rut, but that’s far from the truth. I found several new authors in 2014 that I’m going to be watching closely in the future, Nick Cutter chief among them. His debut novel The Troop was narrowly edged out of this year’s top ten; I was lucky enough to get an early copy of his second novel, The Deep (which comes out on January 13) and that one made the cut – I’ll be posting a review early next week that explains why. I was also deeply impressed by Jedidiah Ayres and Mark Morris and several others that I’ll be reading from here on out.

ForsakenCoverOne thing I’ve always struggled with is ranking these year-end lists in any kind of order. Traditionally I’ve gone numbers one through ten, but this year I abandoned that concept. It’s just too hard to pick one favorite out of this group. So, this year’s list is ordered alphabetically by author, and as I look back on it now I see ten books that I’ll happily revisit in the future.

Here are the books that sunk their hooks deep in my brain in 2014. I hope you’ll take a moment to share your own favorites in the comments – I’m always looking for suggestions for something good to read!

Cheap Shot by Ace Atkins
The Forsaken by Ace Atkins
The Deep by Nick Cutter
The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Revival by Stephen King
Black Hat Jack by Joe R. Lansdale
Prisoner 489 by Joe R. Lansdale
The River of Souls by Robert McCammon
Obsidian Heart Book I: The Wolves of London by Mark Morris

And here, if you’re interested, is the complete list of what I read this year:

pwoodUndisputed by Chris Jericho
And the Night Growled Back by Aaron Dries
Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece by Jason Bailey
Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road by Brian Keene, Jack Ketchum, Edward Lee, J.F. Gonzalez, Wrath James White, Nate Southard, Shane McKenzie, Ryan Harding and Bryan Smith
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
The Way of All Flesh by Tim Waggoner
Horror Library Volume 5 edited by R.J. Cavender and Boyd E. Harris
Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayres
Dust Devils by Jonathan Janz
Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon
The Troop by Nick Cutter
Wonderland by Ace Atkins
City of Devils by Justin Robinson
The End is Nigh edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey
Joe Ledger: Special Ops by Jonathan Maberry
Rose of Sharon and Other Stories by Gary A. Braunbeck
The First One You Expect by Adam Cesare
Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
BorderlineThe King of the Weeds by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
The Quick
by Lauren Owen
A Place for Sinners by Aaron Dries
Cheap Shot by Ace Atkins
Borderline by Lawrence Block
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
The River of Souls by Robert McCammon
The Ninth Configuration by William Peter Blatty
Deep Like the River by Tim Waggoner
Piercing the Darkness edited by Craig Cook
Sunset and Sawdust by Joe R. Lansdale
Carrie by Stephen King
Down by Nate Southard
Brainquake by Samuel Fuller
Scream Along With Me edited by Alfred Hitchcock
The Forsaken by Ace Atkins
Black Hat Jack by Joe R. Lansdale
TheHalloweenChildren-HC-mediumDisease by M.F. Wahl
The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss
Fangoria: Cover to Cover edited by Anthony Timpone
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Jackpot by David Bernstein, Kristopher Rufty, Shane McKenzie and Adam Cesare
Obsidian Heart Book I: The Wolves of London by Mark Morris
Prisoner 489 by Joe R. Lansdale
Revival by Stephen King
Dark Screams Volume One edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
Exponential by Adam Cesare
The Deep by Nick Cutter

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Top Ten Reads of 2013

Although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from looking at my Top Ten list this year, 2013 was a good year for me in discovering new writers. Those new discoveries aren’t completely unrepresented here – both Gary McMahon and Aaron Dries made the list – but there would be a lot more unknowns if it hadn’t been such a strong year for established authors. The King family dominates the first three spots, and may have been even more of a presence had I had the opportunity to read the releases by Owen King (Double Feature) and his wife Kelly Braffet (Save Yourself), both of which I hope to get to in 2014. Ace Atkins has become a perennial favorite with dual releases each of the last couple of years in his own Quinn Colson series and his continuation of Robert Parker’s Spenser novels (this year’s Spenser, Wonderland, is another unfortunate victim of didn’t-get-to-it.) Tom Piccirilli is a mainstay on my yearly list of favorites, as are Daniel Woodrell and Justin Cronin in the years they release books.

If I have any reading goals for 2014, it’s simply to read more. More variety. More volume. Catch up on the ones I missed last year and stay ahead of the curve this year. Revisit some old favorites and seek out new talent. Chop down that massive to-be-read pile. Yeah – good luck with all of that. The great thing, and the cursed thing, about books is they just keep coming.

So, without further adieu, here’s my Top Ten Reads of 2013. I’ve linked to full reviews of the books when appropriate. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the list, as well as your own top reads of 2013 – the comments section is at your disposal. Thanks to all of you for visiting October Country in 2013 – Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

1. Joyland by Stephen King
2. 
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
3. Doctor Sleep by Stephen
King
4. The Broken Places by Ace
Atkins
5. The Maid’s Version by Daniel
Woodrell
6. Turn Down the Lights edited by Richard Chizmar
7. The Last Whisper in the Dark by Tom
Piccirilli
8. The Bones of You by Gary McMahon
9. The Fallen Boys by Aaron Dries
10. The Twelve by Justin Cronin

2012: The Year in Reading

edgeOverall, 2012 was a great year for me and the written word. I read a lot of books (you can see a list of them all here) and, most importantly, I enjoyed the overwhelming majority of them. I got new books by favorites like King and Barker, and discovered new voices like Adam Cesare that I’m excited about following into the future. Here, countdown-style, were my ten favorite books of 2012. I should point out that not all of them were published in 2012 – I give books I read for the first time a chance to make that year’s list no matter when they were published. I reviewed a good many of these and have provided links to those reviews if you’d like to read more about why they made the Top 10. The short answer is these are the books that thrilled me, surprised me, impressed me, and stayed with me.

As always, the comments are open and I’d love to hear what your favorite books of 2012 were, or how wrong I was to include some of these and what an idiot I am to have excluded others. Who knows? Maybe we’ll introduce each other to one (or more) of our favorite reads of 2013.

Now, without further ado, my favorites of the year that was…..

10. Kinsmen by Bill Pronzini

9. Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

8. Abarat Book Two: Days of Magic, Nights of War by Clive Barker

7. Abarat Book Three: Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker

6. Video Night by Adam Cesare

5. The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

4. The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli

3. This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs

2. The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins

1. Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale