Best of the Decade, Part One

My list of books to be read is somewhat extensive, and most of the books are older.  Of the books I did read that were published in this swiftly ending decade, these are the ones I liked the best.  I by no means read everything published, and I’m sure there are some I have overlooked and won’t think of until much later.

I couldn’t decide on a definite top ten, so the list grew to twenty.   The books on this list are, primarily, in no particular order, except for the book that holds the number one spot.

Be sure to check out Part Two.

20.  Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign (2017) by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, this is a fascinating read.   It’s a great look inside a campaign that everyone in the world, even the competition, was certain had the election in the bag.  Even knowing the outcome, or maybe because of knowing the outcome, it’s riveting.

19.  Top of the Volcano (2015) by Harlan Ellison

If you’ve never read Harlan Ellison, this is the best place to start.  This collection consists of twenty-three stories, each an award winner.  If nothing else, just read the titles (Ellison was a master at titles):  ‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman; I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream; and Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans….to name just a few of the jewels in this book.

18.  Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men (2018) by Harold Schechter

The first of the true crime books on the list (although, some may think Shattered true crime).  Harold Schechter, one of my favorite nonfiction authors, is a master at profiling some of the most vile human beings to ever live and the evil things they do.  That he does it with such class, and precise insight, is nothing short of a miracle.

17.  The L.A. Quartet (2019) by James Ellroy

From true crime to crime fiction masterpieces.  This omnibus is from the Everyman’s Library Contemporary Classics Series.  The complete Quartet is included:  The Black DahliaThe Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz.  These novels are not for the faint of heart.  Ellroy describes himself as a “demon dog” and his works, especially these four, have serious bite.

16.  See What I Have Done (2017) by Sara Schmidt

Any fans of Lizzie Borden here?  Maybe I shouldn’t use the word “fans,” but you know what I mean.  Sara Schmidt’s poetic debut novel is a fictitious account of that fateful day in the Borden house when Lizzie’s stepmother and father were found dead from their (nowhere near) forty and forty-one whacks, respectively.

15.  A Season of Darkness (2010) by Douglas Jones and Phyllis Gobbell

If you live in Tennessee, especially the Middle Tennessee area, and are of a certain age, you recognize the name of Marcia Trimble.  In February of 1975, nine-year-old Marcia was delivering Girl Scout cookies in her neighborhood when she disappeared.  Her body was found a month later, on Easter Sunday, not far from her home.  This is the story of her family, and a state, that waited over thirty years for justice.

14.  Dragon Teeth (2017) by Michael Crichton

When Crichton passed away in 2008, I felt as though I had lost a family member.  In the ensuing years, a few posthumous works have been released.  They haven’t all been winners, but I’m glad to have them.  I think Dragon Teeth is the best of the lot.  How can you not like cowboys fighting over dinosaur fossils?  And it’s inspired by actual events?  Yippee ki yay!

13.  Black Hills (2010) by Dan Simmons

Follow me here:  when a young Sioux warrior “counts coup” on General George Armstrong Custer as Custer lies dying on the battlefield at Little Bighorn, Custer’s ghost enters the boy and speaks to him for the rest of his life.  It’s difficult to describe this novel and do it any kind of justice.  You just have to read this great American epic yourself.

12.  The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015) by Stephen King

When it comes to Stephen King, I more often than not prefer his short stories and novellas to his longer works.  His big books tend to ramble here and there, but his shorter works are lean and mean.  This collection of odds and ends is quite nice with hardly a bad story among them.  It is hands down his best collection since the perfect Skeleton Crew.

11.  Horns (2010) by Joe Hill

From Stephen King to his son, Joe Hill.  Hill’s debut novel, Heart-Shaped Box, was good.  His sophomore effort, Horns, is a dark masterpiece.  A young man wakes up with horns on his head and the power to make people tell the truth.  So naturally, he’s going to find out who killed the woman he loved and prove to everybody, including his family, that he’s not the murderer.  It’s a funny, poignant tale.

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