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1. The Smoke at Dawn -- Jeff Shaara
By my count, this is the eleventh Shaara book I've read, so I'm a big fan of the formula. Since this book covers the Civil War battles for Chattanooga, you can find something of a review on my Chattanooga Civil War blog.
2. Gray Mountain -- John Grisham
Not as good as the last Grisham novel I read (Sycamore Row), but an interesting look at the evil coal mining companies of Appalachia.
3. Mr. Mercedes -- Stephen King
Somewhat of a surprise. None of the horror or monsters (except the human kind) you might expect from Stephen King, but a fairly straight-up crime story.
4. The Wild Blue -- Stephen Ambrose
The first non-fiction book of the year. Subtitled "The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s over Germany," this interesting book focuses on George McGovern's WWII squadron.
5. Fuzzy Nation -- John Scalzi
Scalzi calls this a "reboot" of H. Beam Piper's Fuzzy universe, "not unlike the recent J. J. Abrams 'reboot' of the Star Trek film series (but hopefully with better science.)" Piper's Little Fuzzy delved deeper into the philosophical questions surrounding sapience, but Scalzi's Fuzzy Nation is a more entertaining book.
6. Void Moon -- Michael Connelly
It's very odd to read a Connelly book that isn't about homicide detective Hieronymus Bosch, FBI agent Terry McCaleb or defense attorney Mickey Haller. This is more of an Elmore Leonard-style plot with the bad guy (in this case, a woman) trying to stay ahead of the even badder guys.
7. Fear City -- F. Paul Wilson
I'm a big fan of Repairman Jack, one of the coolest crime fiction characters of all-time. The cover said, "Repairman Jack: The Early Years," so I snatched it up. When I cracked it open to start reading it, I noticed that the title page said, "Fear City -- A Repairman Jack Novel -- The Early Years Trilogy: Book Three." Yikes! I started to take it back until I could get around to the other two books, then realized that I've read a good bit of Wilson's "The Secret History of the World" ALL out of order anyway, so what the hell. Except for a few parts (What the hell's the deal with Tony?), it works very well as a stand-alone book, telling the "secret history" of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
8. Underworld -- Don DeLillo
After some lightweight page-turners, I was looking for something a little more substantial. This book more than fit the bill. A big sprawling contender for the title of Great American Novel, perhaps a tad overly long and ambitious. The prologue, a recounting of Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard Round the World, is incredible sportswriting.
9. The Red Badge of Courage -- Stephen Crane
More than what I expected. This falls into the category of "Books I Should Have Read 35 or 40 Years Ago."
10. King's Mountain -- Sharyn McCrumb
I'm a big fan of McCrumb. I've read almost everything she's written and especially enjoy the Ballad novels that deal so extensively with Appalachian life. That said, this book, a fictionalized account of the Revolutionary War Battle of King's Mountain, was fairly disappointing. Although the actual battle lasted just barely longer than an hour, I would have thought the telling of it would have taken more than the limited number of pages McCrumb devoted to it.
11. A Sense of History
Subtitled "The Best Writing from the Pages of American History," this book is an excellent collection of essays on a wide variety of historical topics, showing what a national treasure we all lost when American Heritage magazine folded.
12. The Uncivil War -- Robert Mackey
Nonfiction. Subtitled "Irregular Warfare in the Upper South, 1861-1865. Not exactly what I was expecting -- I was hoping to learn a little something about East Tennessee Unionists -- but an interesting look at the various types of irregular warfare the Confederates used (guerrillas in Arkansas, partisans -- Mosby in Virginia, and raiders -- Morgan and Forrest in Tennessee and Kentucky) and how the Union eventually defeated them.
13. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom -- Cory Doctorow
A short, fun sci-fi story. You've got to admire an author who shows such reverence for Disney's Haunted Mansion.
14. No Country for Old Men -- Cormac McCarthy
Not a bad book, but for various reasons I wasn't nearly as impressed as I thought I'd be.
15. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk -- Ben Fountain
A blurb on the cover says that this could be the Catch-22 of the Iraq War. No, but it's close, damned close.
Currently reading: Rise of the Warrior Cop -- Radley Balco