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The Biblioracle: A last glimpse at the best books of 2013

Kurt Vonnegut

Merry 2014.

I'm now old enough that looking at that year makes me wonder if I'm living inside a science-fiction novel. I think I might've even written something in grade school set in the Year 2014 where our food came in pill form and we traveled in pneumatic tubes wearing clothes that looked like pajamas.

Given the nature of my employment, the pajama thing has pretty much come true, but I want my pneumatic tubes!


This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.


The holiday season parties have come and gone, but I've held back some of my book awards for the new year so we can have one final celebration before we turn to the grim, gray days of winter.

Books from the new year are already here, so this will be my official purge of all things 2013, once and forever more.

Narrator I'd most like to hang out with: Fourteen-year-old Citoyen "City" Coldson from Kiese Laymon's "Long Division." He made me laugh out loud four times on the first page alone, and gets into all kinds of interesting trouble through the rest of the book. Runner-up: Henry Shackleford from "The Good Lord Bird" by James McBride.

Narrator I'd least like to hang out with: Paul Lohman from Herman Koch's "The Dinner." If you've read the book, you know what I'm saying.

Book I'm most likely to reread: "Pacific" by Tom Drury. I've already read its two companion novels, "The End of Vandalism" and "Hunts in Dreams," so this seems like a no-brainer.

The "There's something in my eye, I'm not crying" award: "Return to Oakpine" by Ron Carlson. So, so beautiful. Runner-up: "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish" by David Rakoff.

Book that filled me with the most hometown pride: "The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream" by Thomas Dyja. Remember that review in The New York Times that ran down this book and the city together? Yeah, me neither.

Scariest book: "The Dinner" by Herman Koch. I wrote a whole column about it last year. I still get unsettled just thinking about it. Runners-up: "Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked" by James Lasdun. The story of Lasdun being psychologically targeted by a former student reveals how vulnerable we are in the Internet age. "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief" by Lawrence Wright. Wright pretty definitely proves that Scientology leaders are subjecting some of their followers to something that approaches torture.

Book I hope gets a wider audience: "The Explanation for Everything" by Lauren Grodstein. A widowed father of two young girls/biology professor agrees to supervise an independent study for a student trying to prove intelligent design. Both humorous and emotional complications ensue. Grodstein is one of those mid-list novelists that publishing used to be able to support comfortably, but the new economics make her a vanishing species.

Bought it, never got to it and sad I didn't award: "Bleeding Edge" by Thomas Pynchon.

Book started in 2013 that I'll still be reading in 2014 and 2015: "Letters: Kurt Vonnegut" edited by Dan Wakefield. I parcel out these little bits of wit, wisdom and humanity for myself bit by bit so as not to run out.

Book I liked so much I can't wait for the next one by the same author: "Want Not" by Jonathan Miles. If this was released earlier in the year, it would've shown up on a lot more "best of" lists — not that we trust those as a measure of quality, but you know what I'm saying.

Onward!

Biblioracle John Warner is the author of "The Funny Man." Follow him on Twitter @Biblioracle.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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