Despite my writing proclivities I read across genres, and not just because I occasionally intend to review what I read. Most of what I’ve read this year I haven’t reviewed. Pleasantly, this year I’ve mostly figured out the trick of being a book author and a book reviewer: it’s reviewing the stuff you like and not reviewing the stuff you don’t like. Make no promises and you’ll alienate no one. Win-win.
Here are the top five books I’ve read this year.
- 5: Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons and Dragons by Gary Witwer: One of the most transformative moments of my younger days was joining the high school’s D&D club and playing the RPGs I’d collected since age ten. There will always be a special place in my heart for Dungeons and Dragons, and this biography of Gary Gygax, D&D’s creator, unveils so much I didn’t know about the early days of the game. It gets a bit silly in parts with the dramatizations of moments in Gygax’s life, but overall it’s a must-read for D&D fans.
- 4: The Assyrian by Nicholas Guild: Not dissimilar to Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian and Gary Jennings’s Aztec, Guild’s two novels about the life and times of Tiglath Ashur are riveting reading. Published in 1987, they’re as relevant today as when they were written, focusing on universal themes and unforgettable characters.
- 3: My Tired Shadow by Joseph Hirsch: What can I say about this book that I haven’t already said in my review? The rise and fall and further descent of Ritchie “Redrum” Abruzzi is a classic story, well told. Full of brutal ugliness and intense pathos, it’s the kind of book you don’t see coming, like a shovel hook to the liver.
- 2: Night of the Furies by David Angsten: The sequel to Angsten’s amazing Dark Gold, it continues the adventures of Jack Duran, who is once again plunged into terrifying adventures by his scholarly but irresponsible brother Dan. This time the action moves to the Greek isles, where the old gods are still in charge. Once I got to the last third, the titular Night, I could not put the book down. Fast-reading and mind-ripping, it rekindled that sense of Hellenic magic and danger I remember from Mary Renault’s The King Must Die.
- 1: Tough Guys by Adrian Cole: I wasn’t half-finished reading Tough Guys when I knew that it was likely going to be my favorite book of the year. In every story in the collection the writing is sharp, the plotting is tight, and every scene builds on the next, tightening the nerves until the conclusion. Characters like Oil-Gun Eddy and Razorjack echo in the imagination long after the book’s done. I can only compare Cole’s work to writers like Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock with the highest respect and admiration. If you read nothing else this or any other year, read Tough Guys. I can’t believe Cole isn’t a household name in every fantasy/horror fan’s lexicon.
Only one horror book in the favorites pack this year, though it was the top one. What surprises does 2018 have in store?