The world of books had a big year in 2013. Famed authors released long-awaited novels, the awards season showed the rise of the short story collection, and some classic books were turned into movies. So when it came time to pick the “best” fiction books of 2013, Paste was overwhelmed by the number of great books that came out in 2013.
Choose books that you and your friends enjoy reading. Books that made us laugh, books that made us cry over injustice, and books that made us change our minds about things. It was hard to find these books in a bookstore, but some of them won international awards. That’s why we love reading.
Unfettered: Tales by Masters of Fantasy edited by Shawn Speakman
This anthology is a fantasy fan’s dream come true. It includes new stories and rare outtakes from big names like Terry Brooks and R.A. Salvatore, as well as new stories by rising stars like Todd Lockwood. Author and editor Speakman has cancer, and the collection is a way to raise money to pay for his treatment. It also marks the start of the foundation he will run to help other self-employed artists who get sick and don’t have enough health insurance. Tolkiencare is what you should call this type of care. So, call it the best fantasy book set of the year. — John Ruch said that.
Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash
Over the course of fourteen stories, Ron Rash shows a complex and nuanced view of Appalachia. He moves through time and emotions with ease and uncertainty, but he doesn’t know what to expect. All of his characters have one thing in common: they live in the same places. There are a lot of interesting people in Western North Carolina, like farmers, meth addicts, and British academics looking for history. The land comes to life just as much as any person. In this case, Jessica Gentile is speaking.
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat
It doesn’t matter that Edwidge Danticat sounds like the kind of name a professor at Hogwarts would have. The magic of her book comes more from the everyday things that happen in our lives than from anything out of the ordinary. There is a lot to be said for the book’s structure alone. When a young Haitian girl goes missing, Danticat’s book starts. But you won’t feel like you’re running at any point. Instead, the book takes a look at the lives of Haitians who knew young Claire and the lives of Haiti itself. There is a kind of book that makes us feel better about ourselves and the country we live in because it is so beautiful. Claire of the Sea Light is like that. For example, Mack Hayden said that.
Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
Barnhardt’s Lookaway, Lookaway is a Southern story about family problems and morals that don’t match up. Instead, it skips Fried Green Tomatoes and goes for the funniest parts of Faulkner. The literary South is a place where there is one Atticus Finch for every hundred Flannery O’Connor grotesques in it. A lot of Barnhardt’s book is set down here, and it’s very much like real life, too. Good people are hard to find. He knows where he is and how easy it is to find people pretending to be good. Barnhardt, on the other hand, is very aware of this. It’s ironic that he gives us such a close look into such hypocritical behavior when we’re told to look away, look away. For example, Mack Hayden said that.
The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly
Fennelly is a poet who also writes about history. She works with Franklin, a crime writer from Mississippi, on this historical thriller and romance. During the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927, a federal agent who was looking for bootleggers found a child who had been left behind. In the end, his search to find the boy’s home leads to a dangerous love. One of this year’s best thrillers is called The Tilted World. It’s a mix of Southern Gothic and historical noir. — John Ruch said that.
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
McCann’s book is based on three important trips to and from Ireland: the 1845 visit by former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass; the first nonstop, transatlantic airplane flight in 1919; and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell’s 1998 trip to broker the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland. A powerful story of the weight of history is told by combining real events with the lives of four generations of women who aren’t real. Only 13 books were nominated for this year’s prestigious Booker Prize, and TransAtlantic is one of them. This makes McCann, who was born in Dublin, another great Irish writer. — John Ruch said that.
Red Moon by Benjamin Percy
Even before the publication of Red Moon, Benjamin Percy lived in a dark area between “literary” and “genre” fiction in the wilds. This is how he wrote about rural Oregon: He used the language of cowboy literature in his stories about telemarketers and water bureau workers. Red Moon is very much in line with these genre trends. This results in a book that not only tries to tackle big issues, but also has more fun than most of its peers. The book is set in a world where werewolves (called “lycans” in Percy’s language) are a repressed lower class. It looks at modern political issues through a sprawling, careening epic. It’s a love story, a political allegory, an adventure, and a not-too-bad example of all of the above things. In this case, Shane Danaher said that.
Pickett’s Charge by Charles McNair
To say that we have a soft spot for Pickett’s Charge because our Books Editor Charles McNair wrote it would be fair. Threadgill Pickett, the last living Confederate soldier, finds out that only one Yankee soldier is still alive. This is the premise: 114-year-old Threadgill then breaks out of an Alabama old people’s home and goes to Maine to kill a Yankee so the Civil War can be over for good. This is what any “rational” person would do. If you want to learn about the history of the South, Pickett’s Charge is the best way to do it. It’s part tall tale, part comedy, and part tragedy. In this case, Frannie Jackson says:
The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd
Civilization will always have its flaws. In Amy Grace Loyd’s work here, the literati talk about this a lot. The story takes place in a tenement hall, where order and privacy are respected from the top floor to the bottom. That is, until a new tenant moves in. Sexual and destructive impulses start to rise up after the new person moves in. From that point on, everything starts to spiral down into chaos (or upward into liberation, depending on how you look at it). This book has both grit and optimism, making it worth reading. It’s a good mix of modern-day realism and romanticism. For example, Mack Hayden said that.
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
An old friend of mine told me that The Flamethrowers were “the feminist Invisible Man,” which isn’t too far off the mark. Rachel Kushner’s second novel takes a bunch of cultural sludge and turns it into a fun-loving calliope of a story. The Flamethrowers is based on the adventures of Reno, a Nevada native who moves to New York to become an artist. It talks about motorcycle warfare, tire manufacturing, abstract art, Italian high society, and the land speed record. Much of 2013’s internet ink was spent praising The Flamethrowers, and the book was well-deserving of all the praise it got. Kushner has a unique talent that comes from her unique curiosity, and the results are amazing, as well. In this case, Shane Danaher said that.
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
With his 1996 book The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, McBride made an important contribution to the ongoing conversation about race in the United States. In The Good Lord Bird, McBride talks about the same things, but from a completely different angle. When a young boy who was recently freed from slavery meets John Brown, the fiery white abolitionist who was hanged for trying to start a slave revolt before the Civil War, things get a little silly in this comic book. It was called the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the 21st century by critics. It won this year’s National Book Award for fiction, which is given to the best book of the year in fiction. — John Ruch said that.
A Delicate Truth by John le Carré
Author Le Carré might not want to write his new book at a time when the National Security Agency’s spying turned out to be more unbelievable than he could have ever dreamed up. But A Delicate Truth, which came out two months before Edward Snowden’s revelations, doesn’t seem out of date. The U.S. and the UK have a secret plan to spy on Gibraltar, and a government employee is willing to risk his life to expose it. It sounds familiar. The book is a chilling thriller with a moral core and well-drawn characters. It doesn’t include sex or violence, but instead shows the shadows and doubts that haunt our War on Terror psyche. This hurts so good. — John Ruch said that.