Favorite Doesn’t Always Mean Best

I was going to just put these books up here without commentary and let the titles provide an interesting picture of who I am, but I’m too self-important to let a chance for commentary slip by so here you go. And let me stress, this is a list of my favorite books from the decade, not necessarily the best books of the decade. And in that spirit, you’ll notice one name that doesn’t appear that might be strange. Dennis Lehane is one of my favorite writers, but all of my favorite’s of his were published in the 90s. I thought Mystic River and The Given Day were great books, but probably two of my least favorite Lehane books. I know, it’s weird, but there you go. And to even further complicate things, I use the excellence of Mystic River in my first entry here. Yeah, I’m like that…

Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner – This book was the Mystic River of chick lit. It took all of the familiar elements of chick lit and mixed it with a nice message, some stretching of boundaries, and all of it made for one of the most satisfying reads of the decade

The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow – I’m sure some of Winslows books may be better than this one, but this was one of those perfect books I read at the perfect time. It gave my writing a new lease and showed what can truly be done with a PI novel

The Ice Harvest by Scott Phillips – Short, nasty, simple, and amazing. Scott did some great things after this book, but this first one, mmmmmm hmmmmm. Awesome.

Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover – A kick in the ass to the traditional PI novel. Didn’t break any new ground yet still managed to blow me away.

This Wicked World by Richard Lange – Probably the best of the “literary thrillers” I read this decade. Literate without being pompous or boring yet commercial enough without being gimmicky or clichéd. Great characters

Officer Down by Theresa Schwegal – Best police procedural I may have ever read. A great character in great situations. One of the best uses of the present tense narration as well

To The Power of Three by Laura Lippman – This is not Laura’s best book, but it’s my favorite of hers. It works all of her best themes regarding the suburbs and young girls with a lot of inside jokes that theater and music geeks from high school would get

Go Go Girls of the Apocolypse by Victor Gischler – It was close between this one and Pistol Poets, which is my favorite Gischler crime novel. But Go Go Girls was such a game changer of just pure raw fun energy. This was one of those books I was sad to see end

Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston – More great use of the present tense. Also a great, conflicted character who’s not so bad we hate him, but not so good we…hate him. I love the trilogy arc of the books and the little nuances of character

Tell No One by Harlan Coben – Pretty much invented the modern suburban thriller and one of the few thriller writers who I can read regularly. I was most impressed with how he integrated high technology into the story yet kept an old fashioned suspense feel

Controlled Burn by Scott Wolven – I can never say enough about Scott Wolven and his talent. I look forward to putting his first novel (out soon hopefully????) on my best of the decade list ten years from now

Poachers by Tom Franklin – Great stories that showed me what can truly be done in the framework of a short story. Smonk is a great novel, but these stories are still my favorite

Night Passage by Robert B. Parker – For a brief moment, it looked like Parker was trying again. This series wasn’t a Spenser knock-off like some of his other series, but kept everything that worked well about Spenser only he added some true dimension to this cop. It was nice to see a Parker hero suffer

Hitman by Lawrence Block – He made one of the most vile careers out there as enjoyable as a casual sporting event. Keller is the modern everyman and these stories have some of the best twists without being gimmicky

The Cleanuo by Sean Doolittle – I liked all of Sean’s work, but when I heard he was writing a novel based on his Plots With Guns story about a cop working nights at grocery store I was giddy. And the book lived up to every dream I had for it. A fairly straight forward hide-the-body thriller populated by some great, damaged characters who do some really stupid, awful things. Good stuff

Queenpin by Megan Abbott – This book not only represents all of Megan’s books that I love, but all of the Hardcase Crime books it’s written in the spirit of. It’s got all of the best elements of noir with a writing style so beautiful and awful and precise.

Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner – My favorite book ever. Many people have tried to write a new Catcher in the Rye but this is it. It was given more success than others may have expected from it because it was published by Red Dress as chick lit, but it will get a new life as YA novel next year which I think is perfect

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella – While it doesn’t break any new ground like Good In Bed, this book is one of my favorites because it’s about a writer who’s bad with money who works through it. The movie was meh, but the book is great

Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith – I love Neil Smith’s short fiction, but I had a hard time finding any of his novels I could get on board with. There was something about them I just couldn’t get into. But this one about a Gulf cop isolated in Minnesota was a perfect mix of Neil’s nasty story telling ability with a story I was truly interested in. Billy is one of the true great bad cops and it was a pleasure to know him

The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski – Soon to be one of the noir superstars. This book, along with Gischler’s Pistol Poets, finally broke me out of my PI novel writing ditch and showed me what else could be done with a crime novel and some humor

3 thoughts on “Favorite Doesn’t Always Mean Best

  1. I’m interested in the cop and the grocery store story. These guys I really feel bad for them because they are just visual deterrents and don’t have any authority.

  2. Some fantastic stuff. Everything that I’ve read from this list I’ve loved. So I’m figuring you’re right on the others. I am creating an analog copy of this electronic posting and will visit the bookstore this weekend. Then I will come back to the googles because the store never has what I want. “We can order it for you.” Yeah. I can frickin order it myself, dillwad. OK. Sorry. Great list is what I meant.

  3. AWWWWW, Thanks!!! Make sure you remind me to send ya one when I get the new version. I just saw the cover – it’s awesome! I’ll have to send it to you.

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