In the digital age, it’s all too easy to squirrel away an endless number of books on virtual shelves, some you get around to reading, others just languish and drop further down the Kindle list until they end up like so many discarded and forgotten trinkets.
Yes, I do scroll in a hunt ‘n peck style but… Oh look, shiny!
In the good old days, I used to read a paperback or hardback, then either decide to keep it for a reread or pass it along to friends who shared my reading preferences, or I talked them into giving it a try. The book then got re-homed and re-homed, usually ending up in the library donation bin.
In the old days, that was called discoverability.
The fact that my house has no wall space that doesn’t support a bookcase attests to how many books I found worthy and how many I have yet to read. Attending RWA, DragonCon and ComicCon meant scoring a cornucopia of signed books (75 at the FL RWA alone, eek!).
While I do dearly love the digital age and the fact I can stockpile enough reading material on my Kindle to support my habit without building an addition onto the house (I read upwards of 300-400 books per annum), finding keepers hasn’t been exactly cut and dried.
That said, I did stumble upon a surprising number of worthy reads this year, many of them gay literary fiction, M/M romance and M/M suspense. These are the digital books that I’ve purchased in print form for my permanent library because the quality of writing, the audacity of style, the exquisite use of language and elegant prose, or the unique voice added not just to my reading enjoyment but taught me, as a writer of gay fiction, more about the craft of writing, more about the authenticity of my own understanding of gay culture, and most of all… more about the human experience.
A good book does just that: it enriches us, it shares with us the depth and breadth of what it means to be who and what we are, and it allows us the intimacy of introspection so that we can confront our own demons, whatever they may be.
In no particular order, most of these books now exist as physical copies on my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOKS shelf. Click on the title to go to my review.
1) The Value of Rain by Brandon Shire: quite simply one of the best books I’ve ever read. Intelligent and gut-wrenching, this is truly a milestone in literary fiction.
2) The Next by Rafe Haze: a psychological tour de force filled with suspense and insightful observations about the human condition.
3) King Perry by Edmond Manning: Unusual, uber creative, complex and totally engaging—not for everyone but if you like a challenge, give this a try. I haven’t figured out how to review this without spoilers.
4) The Art of the Heart by Dan Skinner: this short story blew my socks off. The prose is elegantly simple, evocative and sensual. Not in print, but forever in my heart.
5 & 6) Waiting for Rain and Worth Keeping by Susan Mac Nicol: I am a forever fan of Ms. Mac Nicol. She writes with style, her characters are beautifully flawed and she rewards the reader with an uncommon story that leaves you grateful for her inviting you on that journey.
7) Summer Symphony by Brandon Shire: seldom have I found an author with such command of language, such respect for the art of storytelling as Mr. Shire. Each work is a gem. This is a novella, ergo not in print, but it will never be forgotten.
8) Grif’s Toy by Joseph Lance Tonlet: staggeringly imaginative and not for the faint of heart, it takes erotica to an entirely new level.
9) Springtime 1962, The Lawson YMCA by Owen Keehnen: a short story told with sensitivity and restraint, and with such authenticity it will stay with you long after you finish it.
10) My Favorite Uncle by Marshall Thornton: funny, sweet, tender and insightful—this one surprised and delighted.
Honorable Mentions (some in print, some not):
Listening to Dust by Brandon Shire
Bad Behavior by K.A. Mitchell
Going Home by Max Vos
The Price of Dick by Dan Skinner
The Fallen Angels of Karnataka by Hans M. Hirschi