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
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.)
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.'
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
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
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
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
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.'
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'
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.'
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
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
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
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.'
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!
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...'