I read a lot. My goal each year is to read 100 books, and I usually read more. Books, and writing, are two things I can happily talk about all day long. For the last few years, I’ve done a post here about my top five reads that year. I have fairly wide ranging tastes, so there’s a decent variety in these selections.

1. Lock-In by John Scalzi– This was a really amazingly detailed book. A disease sweeps the world, and leaves people “locked in” to their bodies. A new technology emerges to give these victims something like a normal life. There are political, philosophical, and various social ramifications that are part of the background. The major plot is a murder mystery with a twist. I was really impressed with the storytelling and world building.

2. Mars Up Close by Marc Kaufman– I’m a little bit of a science geek (in addition to many other kinds of geek). I’ve always been fascinated by the space program. This book has gorgeous pictures sent back from Mars, as well as a history of the various probes we have sent there, what they have found, and what the discoveries mean. This is worth going through for the pictures alone.

3. World War Z by Max Brooks- For those who have seen the movie, this was much better and more detailed. It’s the story of a zombie plague that caused serious issues all over the planet (hmm, two plague books this year). Aside from people having to believe that suddenly there were zombies roaming around, there were all manner of complications all over the world. The history of the plague, its outbreak, and then recovery, are detailed in various first person interviews with survivors and witnesses of what happened. I thought it was really well done.

4. Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen– This one is really not for the faint of heart. Special Agent Smoky Barrett of the FBI is one of their best serial killer hunters. As the book starts, she’s recovering from a great tragedy. Her team is getting by without her, but they need her back, especially when a new threat emerges who seems to be highly interested in Barrett coming out of retirement. It’s a dark story with some really grim scenes, but I thought it was very well written and plotted.

5. The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay– I’ve seen a lot of different settings for fantasy books. I don’t recall seeing Moorish Spain used as the background before. This book had some great characters, and did a great job depicting the strife, frustration, and foolishness from the clash of religions. I think this was a great story with unexpected twists and turns along the way. For a “fantasy” book, there was no magic or otherworldly elements, barring one character having visions. It was great, though.

Honorable Mention:

Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan. This begins a fantasy series that has a lot of stereotypes but rises above them to be a really entertaining read. A warrior and a thief travel together as mercenaries, commanding elite prices for difficult jobs. Some of it was easy to see coming, but how they got there was enjoyable, and I really had a good time with this book.

My Worst Read of the Year:

The Washingtonienne by Jessica Cutler. Sometimes it’s hard to pick one for this. I don’t always read a book over the year that I consider bad, so sometimes I just need to pick one that was what I enjoyed least. That wasn’t the case this year. I can’t remember how this book got onto my list; it might have been a review I read somewhere. The main character, who is the narrator, is shallow, self-centered, and flat-out annoying. I rarely say this, but this not a book I recommend at all.

About the author

Wayland Smith WAYLAND SMITH is the pen name for a native Texan who has lived in Massachusetts, New York, Washington DC, and presently makes his home in Virginia. His rather unlikely list of jobs includes private investigator, comic book shop owner, ring crew for a circus (then he ran away from the circus and joined home), deputy sheriff, and freelance stagehand. Wayland is a four time participant in, and survivor of, NaNoWriMo, having made the 50,000 word goal each time. A black belt in shao lin kung fu, he is also a fan of comic books, reading, writing, and various computer games (I”ll shut Civ down in one more turn. Really). He lives with a beautiful woman who was crazy enough to marry him, and a goofy dog with a fondness for peanut butter and white wine.