It's time to announce the winners of the 2018 Troxellian Literature Awards!
These are the mandatory end-of-year awards where I rate all the books I read over the past year and give them fake awards based on the only opinion that matters: MINE! The nominees are limited to the books I read in the past 12 months and can be found here.
I usually include winners in six different categories and I'll stick to that. The categories are all positive this year since the two negative categories (The "Hulk Out" Award and "Tap Out" Award) are the ones I eliminated. In case you're curious, the book that pissed me off the most this year was "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (total disappointment after all the hype) and the book I'm most disappointed in giving up on was "Main Street" by Sinclair Lewis (I loved the social satire but it was so drawn out and BORING). Novels, graphic novels, and non-fiction are fair game in all general categories.
So with no further ado (I hate too much ado...), here are the winners:
The “DRINK IT IN, MAN!” Award:
This award goes to the book that I had the most fun reading during the year. Maybe it wasn't the best written or most literary but it was just a good time! And the Troxell goes to…
The Disaster Artist by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero
I NEVER thought a non-fiction book would win this category...but here we are. I love terrible movies...like so bad they're good movies. I love literature. Combine them and you have Troxellian nirvana. This is the story of how "The Room", one of the greatest terrible movies ever made...got made. It's one of the best character studies into modern human nature that I've ever read. Tommy Wiseau is such an interesting human being that no creative mind could ever invent such a truly unique character. The book was crazy, hilarious, soul-crushingly sad, and a total blast to read. All I can say is..."Oh, hi Mark!"
Honorable mention: Postmortals by Drew Magary (loved the concept in this one where a cure for dying is discovered and all the moral and philosophical problems such a discovery would create)
The “Fine Wine” Award
This award goes to a classic work of literature that totally lived up to the hype. And the Troxell goes to…
The Stranger by Albert Camus
This is a really important book for me. "The Stranger" is considered one of the first recognized works of absurdist literature. As someone who describes his work as absurdist, I could only put off reading it for so long. I was worried, though, that I'd find it dated and underwhelming. I didn't. It was great. Everything I needed it to be. The main character reminded me a lot of the main character in the first novel I ever wrote, "Cheshire Moon". Someone who just doesn't get what it means to be part of society and finds the whole premise of "being human" to be utterly absurd. There were a lot of similarities to "Fight Club", too, another important book for me. Great stuff.
Honorable Mention: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (just a fun adventure novel)
The “‘Didn’t See That Comin’” Award
This award goes to a book I enjoyed way more than I expected to. And the Troxell goes to…
Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates
Listen, I'm only 35 years old. I knew NOTHING about the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident where a young girl drowned in a car after Senator Ted Kennedy abandoned her following a car accident. NOTHING! I love Joyce Carol Oates and her fictional account based on the incident was incredibly powerful and the writing was beautiful. Oates' writing is humbling as she places the reader in the car as the black water continues to rise and rise until she is consumed by it. The message about what it means to be rich and powerful in America resonates more now than ever...or maybe it just goes to show that some things never change.
Honorable Mention: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (I hated his writing style in "Into the Wild" but found this outing to be far superior)
The “TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION” Award
This award goes to the best non-fiction book I read this year. And the Troxell goes to…
Lucky by Alice Sebold
I never intended or wanted to read this book. I work in my school's library (although we have to call it a "Media Center" because it's just a small room full of books and if we call it a library the library police will come and ask why we don't employ a real librarian) and I try to read at least a chapter of each new book donated to the library...er, Media Center. That way I can tell students what the book is about. Alice Sebold wrote "The Lovely Bones"...which I have never read. "Lucky" is the story of how she was raped in college, ran into her rapist on the street months later, and the trial that followed. I hate victim stories. They're just stories I've never enjoyed reading. They're always overly sentimental and I often find the victim is too scarred by the experience to write about it honestly (granted, it's not an easy thing to do). Sebold's account of her violent rape and its aftermath was so brutally honest and unsentimental I couldn't put the book down. It was a true testament to the necessary strength it takes to come back from something so inhumane.
Honorable Mention: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (good but a little underwhelming considering its reputation)
The “Young at Heart” Award
This award goes to the best YA book I read this year. And the Troxell goes to…
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
Working in the "Media Center" has put me into contact with more YA novels than I would normally read in a year where I wasn't actively writing a YA novel. I read some good stuff...and I read some bad stuff. Female narrators are tough for me because YA writers tend to write their first-person female narrators extremely whiny, self-centered, and annoying so it's a tough sell for me. I'm a teacher so I get enough of that in the classroom. "Everything Everything" (a student recommendation, by the way) was an excellent read and the narrator (doomed to spend her life indoors due to her "bubble girl" disease) was not annoying. That's a win. Good story, too, and well written.
Honorable Mention: Looking for Alaska by John Green (I was actually shocked at the direction this novel took and it left me really, really depressed...which I guess was the point)
The “BEST IN THE WORLD” Award
This award goes to the best book I read during the year. The best book...IN THE WORLD! And the Troxell goes to…
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Another genre of book I hate is books where animal characters have human characteristics. Animals aren't humans; they're animals. They can't think like a human, feel like a human. These books usually just annoy me. I was supposed to read this book in college, but I only read part of it due to my discrimination against animal literature (Animal Farm doesn't count since the animals are clearly symbols). So I decided to ignore my animal animosity and read the damn book...and it was the best book I read all year. "Watership Down" says more about the human experience than any book with humans in it. Feeling like an outsider, the search for a place to belong, fighting against a cruel, indifferent world, the fight against totalitarianism, and the quest for happiness. Those are all parts of the human experience and it never comes across as pretentious or silly. It's a classic for a reason, folks! And, no, I will not watch the Netflix series. The reviews say it's not traumatizing at all! Blasphemy!
So there you have it! Another year in literature. See you next year...which is tomorrow.