So many books, so little time. Well, I can't possibly give you the best books of the year overall--I can only share the best that I've read. So here goes. Complete reviews of all of these books, save for Heaven Lake are in the Book Reviews section of this site.
Joe Pernice, from the band the Pernice Brothers, came out with a slim little work of fiction called Meat is Murder, that was written on inspiration from the Smith's album of the same name. This guy's a talent in so many ways, and we look forward to reading and listening to more of his work.
Author Steve Almond nails the rock journalism scene (and personality) in his masterpiece short story collection, My Life in Heavy Metal. The title story is the only real music-related story, but Almond has the lingo and hipness to make every tale cool.
Jo Ann Beard's Boys of my Youth isn't really about music, but it's full of music and great little moments from the seventies, when all the guys aspire to be Ted Nugent and a song on the radio sets the tone for your entire life. A wonderful book of stories that relate to create its own whole.
Simply Cool Stories
Paperback Original by Will Rhode is a book so hip, so fun, and so well-written that finishing it broke my heart. A must for slackers, druggies, adventure buffs, and literary enthusiasts everywhere.
Brownsville by Oscar Caesares is a literary masterpiece. This guy has brought the rest of the world to his poor Latino community, and got us loving them right along with him. It's a collection of short stories that can be read in a day--but they'll be remembered for a lifetime.
Carolyn Parkhurst's Dogs of Babel was a weird little book with a kooky premise; that leaves the reader quite literally rooting for the underdog. I loved every word of it.
And finally, you haven't had the chance to read about it yet, but watch for John Dalton's Heaven Lake, due out this Spring. It's a fresh, fascinating and honest picture of a young American and his traveling colleagues living in China; assuming the world wants to adopt their Western culture and believing they've got life all figured out. Of course, they're in for some rude awakenings. A review will be posted on Nighttimes.com in the next month or two.
Looking forward to reading with you in 2004... keep those suggestions (and books!) coming.