Each year, The Star can only dip through the buckets of books and reviews, hoping to shed a little light here and there, knowing that many more fine efforts may not escape the shadows of literature. Here, we offer the 100 books gleaned from the favorites of our staff, reviewers and friends, as well as the recommendations that also appear on the year’s best lists of The New York Times, National Public Radio and The Washington Post.
Publishing industry executives and observers say the tactile and emotional experience of cookbooks, coupled with the generally superior delivery of print over digital, have conspired to keep “p-books” on top of the country’s bookshelves.
Tens of thousands of local kids go without enough food on weekends. The Star is partnering with Harvesters to raise money for the area’s hungriest children. All money goes to Harvesters’ BackSnack program, which provides low-income children weekend meals. Just $25 provides a child BackSnacks for a month; $250 provides BackSnacks for a year.
To my surprise, my list of favorite new books this year breaks down the same way my 2013 list did: six fiction, four nonfiction; eight books written by women, two by men. During the past few years, one of my goals has been to make sure at least half of the books I'm reviewing for the Journal Sentinel were written by women.
"There's no evidence at this stage that the great books in our culture can be produced through the Internet right now," says bestselling writer James Patterson. "If the equivalent of 'Ulysses' came along, out it would go on the Internet, it would get like about 12 Fs in a row - 'I couldn't get through the first page,' 'Couldn't get through the first chapter,' F-F-F-F-F, and 'Ulysses' would disappear."
What makes a great mystery? Some would argue that it's the plot, but while that is important, character triumphs. It doesn't matter if characters are likable as long as they are interesting. Characters must engage the reader, force us to care about what is happening to them and how that story will be resolved.