Here are the best books of 2003, according to some of Green Man Review's favorite authors and artists.

From Holly Black, author of Tithe and The Spiderwick Chronicles comes this: 'This is my very personal list of favorites from 2003. I haven't read nearly as many books as I wished I did this year, but of what I read, these are the ones that stayed with me.' Here's her list in no particular order: Charles de Lint's Spirits in the Wires, Garth Nix's Abhorsen; Kij Johnson's Fudoki; Neil Gaiman and assorted others' Endless Nights; Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty; Laura Williams McCaffrey's Alia Waking, Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Choice; Cornelia Funke's Inkheart; Charles de Lint and Charles Vess' A Circle of Cats, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's Swan Sister anthology; Kelly Link's Trampoline anthology; Sharon Shinn's Angelica; and Alice Hoffman's Green Angel.'

Paul Brandon, author of Swim the Moon and the forthcoming novel The Wild Reel, which involves Fey immigrants to his home city of Brisbane, claims he was a light reader this year: '2003 wasn't a particularly big reading year for me, as I seemed to spend most of it buried in research about old Cornwall, but here are a few that poke out. These are only in the order in which they tumble out of my severely coffee-deprived morning brain (I've only quaffed two cups of Merlo's Arriba Arriba so far).

Angel of Ruin and particularly The Autumn Castle by fellow Brisbane author Kim Wilkins. I loved The Autumn Castle for its lovely mix of de Lintian and Gaimanesque themes and can't wait for the next two in the series. Holdstock's The Iron Grail, which as always is up to his incredible standards. Dean Koontz' By the Light of the Moon and The Face weren't too bad, but I still get the feeling he's just marking time until he gets back to the final part of the brilliant Moonlight Bay stories. I also ploughed through quite a few Charles de Lints this year too, and as always they were grand, with A Circle of Cats, Spirits in the Wires, Medicine Road, and Seven Wild Sisters standouts. 

A few non-2003 stories that I finally got around to this year and loved: Elisabeth Hayden's Rhapsody trilogy helped restore my faith in the high fantasy genre, though that also might have been assisted by rereading The Lord of the Rings again. The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers, Sean Williams's Books of the Change, Matthew Reilly's rollercoaster, Ice Station, and Scott Westerfeld's Evolution's Darling (which I really liked despite not being a huge fan of the genre). Out of left field comes Priceless by Bradley Trevor Greive and The Natural History of Selbourne by the Rev. Gilbert White (I miss England sometimes). And finally, but by no means least, I'm currently nose-deep in The Talisman, which I'm finally reading after someone gave me The Black House this year. Oh, I loved that too.'

A few minutes later, I got a second e-mail from him: 'Bugger, can you slip Jasper Fforde's two books in there somewhere too -- I knew as soon as I pressed 'Send' I'd remember something. Oh, and Gaiman's Coraline... Stoopid coffee brain.'

(Fforde's two novels that he's referring to are the first two in the Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book.)

Steven Brust, whose latest works are a series called The Viscount of Adrilankha Adventures, The Paths of the Dead and The Lord of Castle Black, like Josepha Sherman has a single book to recommend 'I think the only '03 book I've read is Gene Wolf's The Knight. It would certainly qualify under 'the best' even if I'd read a bunch of others, for whatever good that will do.'

Charles de Lint says, 'It's been another great year for readers and anyone who complains that there aren't any good books out there anymore just isn't paying attention. My problem is trying to find the time to read all the great titles I do want to read.

My favourite of the year has to be Alice Hoffman's Green Angel (Scholastic), though her adult novel for this year, The Probable Future (Doubleday), is also a real winner. These are closely followed by The Parrot Trainer by Swain Wolfe (St. Martin's Press) and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Knopf).

I've also really been enjoying Holly Black's collaboration with Tony DiTerlizzi on The Spiderwick Chronicles (Simon & Schuster) and Hannah's Garden by Midori Snyder (Viking, 2002 -- which, for those of you keeping track, is actually a somewhat different version of what would have been the fourth book in the Brian Froud Faerylands series).

What else? Well, Peter Straub and Dean Koontz showed us once again just how good they are with, respectively, lost boy lost girl (Random House) and Odd Thomas (Bantam). Greg Keyes reminded me why I can still enjoy high fantasy with The Briar King (Del Rey) and Charles Dickinson's A Shortcut in Time (Forge) proved, as Niffenegger's novel did, that there's still innovation to be found in a time travel story.

And just to deviate from genre fiction for a moment, I have to thank Robert Crais and Andrew Vachss for so ably feeding my hardboiled fiction fix with their books The Last Detective (Doubleday), Only Child (Knopf), and The Getaway Man (Vintage Books); the latter two are by Vachss.

And finally, anyone who thinks YA fiction is too kiddie-lit for them, isn't reading what's out there. Many YA books are edgier and of far more interest (at least to me) than so-called adult fiction. These aren't genre books either, but were particular favourites of mine for this year: Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn (Simon Pulse), Empress of the World by Sara Ryan (Speak), and Define 'Normal' by Julie Anne Peters (Little, Brown).

For more detailed descriptions of why these books appealed to me, many of them were discussed at longer length in my column Books to Look For which appears monthly in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It can be accessed on the Internet here.

Happy holidays folks.'

Gwyneth Jones, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke award in 2001 for her novel, Bold As Love, says, 'Here's my list, the books of '03 for me. Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel trilogy -- Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, and Kushiel's Avatar (Tor). I read the third one first and the second one last, which I don't exactly recommend, but it proves how keen I was. Alternate-Mediaeval Erotic fantasy, well over the top in many ways, highly enjoyable and a great page-turner. Lian Hearn's Across The Nightingale Floor, and Grass For His Pillow, (Bloomsbury) Young Adult romance, intrigue and adventure set in a fantasy version of sixteenth century Japan. Gripping: can't wait for volume three. Falling Angels, Tracy Chevalier (Plume). Straight historical novel, about the Victorian Way of Death, and suffragettes. Yes, it's a bit farfetched in places but the quality of the writing is outstanding; I now want to get hold of everything Tracy Chevalier has ever written (starting with the huge bestseller Girl With A Pearl Earring). Then, the best of the science books. They're neither of them published in '03, but The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (Oxford Press), by Charles Darwin, is absolutely fascinating, still perceptive today, and full of anecdotes and human touches. Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing, by Margaret Livingstone (Abrams,) is both riveting popular science and such a beautiful book, full of great images. Happy Holidays -- G'

Larry Kirwan, founder and leader of Black47, the best Irish punk/folk/rock band ever, and author of The Liverpool Fantasy, laments 'I'm afraid to say that my reading has been scandalously skimpy this year and seems to have been all over the place.  But from what's lying askance around my flea-ridden couch, I would venture to suggest that I've, at least, opened the pages of Through the Dark Labyrinth (a biography of Lawrence Durrell) by Gordon Bowker, In Search of Duende by Federico Garcia Lorca, The Master of Petersburg by J.M. Coetzee, Genius by Harold Bloom, Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels, and Selected Poems by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. There must be more but that's all I can think of right now.'  

 

Ellen Kushner, who wrote two of my favorite novels of all time, Swordspoint and The Fall of Kings, has annotated her Best of '03 list: 'Cat, here are three of my favorite books this year:

Lynda Barry -- her new A! Hundred! Demons!!! is just BRILLIANT -- is it a comic? a novel? a memoir? She calls it Autobifictionalography (2002, Sasquatch Books, Seattle, WA.)

Elizabeth Knox -- Billie's Kiss (2002, Ballantine Books, NY). Is it a romance? a mystery? an homage to 19th century gothics with a whiff of Robert Louis Stevenson? with a severely dyslexic heroine and an autistic villain?

The author is quoted in the Reader's Guide to Billie's Kiss saying: 'I think genre labels are a marketing invention, and that 'literary fiction' is also a genre, and that literature -- the real thing -- can appear in any 'genre.' . . . Some [of my novels] are fantasy, or supernational, or magic realist (depending on your favored marketing description), but they are all of a piece -- novels that explore ideas about identity, memory, destiny and fate . . . .'

Just about the best novel I've read in ages: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon -- it won the Pulitzer, but it actually deserved to. One review called him a reader's writer and he is. Chabon talked to lots of the original comic book creators; his novel addresses why people write them.... Two immigrant teenage boys in 1930's Brooklyn create a series of successful superhero comix. Kavalier, the artist, studied Houdini-like escapes in Prague, and gets out a step ahead of the Nazis in a box that also contains the Golem . . . what's not to like?

I've also listed these on the Interstitial Arts site -- please send folks to this address. Old mythic arts friend Delia Sherman is the president, Terri Windling & Charles Vess are on the Board, along with me, Kelly Link, Midori Snyder & others... Interstitial Art is work that falls in the interstices -- between the cracks -- of recognized commercial genres. Interstitial Art wanders across borders without stopping at Customs to declare its intent. We're attempting to bring together readers, listeners, musicians, viewers and artists who may not be aware of one another to celebrate and further explore ongoing work that resists categorization.'

Sharyn November, editor of Firebird Books, and the editor for Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction, reads more than anyone else I know of! Really. Truly. So here's what she says is her Best of 2003 list: 'Here are my favorites for the year. When I say 'favorites,' I mean that these are books that stuck in my head, that I fought with, that engaged me.' Her list is Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines; Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark; Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; Nalo Hopkinson's Mojo: Conjure Stories anthology; Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair; Ursula K. Le Guin's Changing Planes; Charles de Lint's Spirits in the Wires; Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman's The Fall of the Kings; Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's Swan Sister anthology; Kelly Link's Trampoline anthology; Lois McMaster Bujold's The Warriors Apprentice and others; Neil Gaiman and others' The Sandman: Endless Nights; and Robin McKinley's Sunshine.

I own many 'stockpile' books: I hoard them for times when I am burned out and need something wonderful. The pile includes Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Choice, Jonathan Stroud's The Amulet of Samarkand, Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, China Mieville's The Scar, etc etc etc.

I am sure that I have forgotten loads of books. In fact, I know I have!

Sigh.'

Josepha Sherman, the author of many, many works, including the tastefully titled Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood, has but one recommendation, but what a recommendation it is: 'Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men has to be one of the best books he's written, a wonderful combination of fantasy and folklore, complete with such a strong feel for the young heroine's deceased grandmother, whom we never see, that she becomes a full-dimensional character in her own right. The Feagles (the Wee, Free Men) are a fascinating mix of Celtic lore and ant society, and the Faerie folk are NOT the sweet and pretty creatures of generic fantasy!'

Jennifer Stevenson, author of the Solstice chapbook that Green Man published, and the forthcoming Trash, Sex, Magic (out in July of '04) says, 'Cat, here's a list, not complete but a good start. It's heavy on comfort reads, except for Schneier's Beyond Fear and Wilson's Adrenal Fatigue.

These are the books I read and reread in 2003 that were published in 2003: Jennifer Crusie, Faking It (in paperback) from St. Martin's Press; Laura Moore, Night Swimming from Ballantine Ivy; Bruce Schneier, Beyond Fear from Copernicus/Springer-Verlag NY; Isabel Sharpe, A Taste of Fantasy from Harlequin Blaze; Vicky Lewis Thompson, After Hours from Harlequin Blaze; Nalo Hopkinson, The Salt Roads from Warner, 2003; and Vicky Lewis Thompson, Nerd in Shining Armor from Dell.

Books I read/reread in 2003 that were not published in 2003: Joe Keenan, My Blue Heaven and Putting on the Ritz from Penguin; Patricia Gaffney, The Saving Graces from Harper Torch; Barry Hughart, Bridge of Birds; The Story of the Stone; Eight Skilled Gentlemen from The Stars Our Destination (publisher); Terry Pratchett, The Truth from Harper Collins; Rudyard Kipling, Kim (any edition); Lorna Novak, How Amelia Secured the Tie that Binds with a Very Loose Knot and Does It Make into a Bed? from Doubleday; Patricia White, Got a Hold on You from Love Spell, 2003; Carl Hiaasen, Basketcase from Warner, 2003; Terry Pratchett, Wee Free Men from HarperCollins 2003; John Crowley, The Translator from Perennial, 2002; Jennifer Crusie, Welcome to Temptation and Fast Women (St. Martin's Press); and Manhunting (Mira); and James L. Wilson, Adrenal Fatigue by Smart Publications.'

The list from James Stoddard, author of the Evenmere novels, The High House and The False House, is interesting. As he says, 'it's a weird list. Since you didn't specify SF, I'll list any fiction I enjoyed. If you want only SF, feel free to cut the list back. I have listed them in the order of those I enjoyed the most: Ship of Fools by Russo; Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (sure to be a classic); Ten Years After by Alexander Dumas (this one, too); The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken; Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright; The Prisoner in the Opal by A.E.W. Mason (detective/fantasy); The Dawn of Amber by John Gregory Betancourt; The Riddlemaster of Hed series by Patricia McKillip; and Unicorn Sonata by Peter Beagle.' This books on his list are the result of his decision to '[designate] this year 'the year of reading all the stuff I'd had around the house and been meaning to get to.' A wonderful way to clear out the excess books...'