It was my great honor (and no small pleasure) to be invited to attend Noir in Festival in Courmayeur, Italy this last weekend. A prestigious film-and-lit noir festival that's been running for 20-plus years, NiF is located at the foot of Mt. Blanc in the Italian Alps. Featuring some of the best of European film, as well as authors like Richard Price, Don Winslow, and Victor Gischler, it was without a doubt one of the best gigs I've had as a writer.
The only downside, and it ain't much of one, is that I traveled for 26 straight hours yesterday. A car ride from Courmayeur to Milan, Milan to Atlanta, a three hour layover, a two-hour tarmac delay, Atlanta to Chicago, lousy weather, a two-hour holding pattern, a landing in Cincinnati to refuel, back to Chicago, and a thirty minute wait for them to defrost the jetway.
As the headline suggests, griping about that would be just silly. However, the net result is that I'm a little zonked and jetlagged. So rather than a formal post, I thought I'd help with your holiday shopping. I've gone over the list of books I've read thus far this year (76 to date, not counting the magazines and anthologies that held the 400+ short stories I read for the Edgars), and picking my faves. In no particular order, here are the top 15; if you're looking for more, I review on my website.
Reign in Hell, Steven BrustHow about you? What are your faves of the year?
Wildly entertaining and super-sharp retelling of The Fall from a different perspective.
Tree of Smoke, Denis Johnson
A study of America at war with writing so good it made me ache.
Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn
A genuinely creepy thriller, not only for what happens, but for the way it's told.
What the Dead Know, Laura Lippman
Which should have won last year's Edgar.
My War, Colby Buzzell
My second read of my favorite Iraq II memoir, an obscene, in-your-face, boots-on-the-ground read that's all the more excellent for its lack of glamour.
Once Were Cops, Ken Bruen
A one-sitting read from a master. Bruen is at his best here.
The Human Stain, Philip Roth
It's Roth. How much more do I need to say?
Northline, Willy Vlautin
A beautifully understated novel of addiction and recovery, harm and hope.
The Paperboy, Pete Dexter
Dexter is an American treasure. If you've never read him, start now.
Feast of Love, Charlie Baxter
A lovely and entertaining rumination on love and sex and more love.
The Given Day, Dennis Lehane
Historical epic of 1917-18 Boston, rich with life. Possibly Lehane's best.
Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan
Richard Morgan is this year's discovery, the most exciting sci-fi writer I've read in a long time.
The Wishbones, Tom Perrotta
Manifesting itself as a lighthearted comedy about a struggling band, the novel's great strength is in it's protrayal of the joys and difficulties of romantic relationshops.
Straight Man, Richard Russo
A send-up of academia, this is the funniest Russo I've read.
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
Didn't just hold up on a third read--it got better. R in more P than you felt in life, brother.