2021 Troxellian Literature Awards: The Winners!!!1
Welcome to the second Pandemic Version of the Troxellian Literary Awards!!1 Will there be a third? Let's hope not ...
The nominees are limited to the books I read in the past 12 months and can be found here. All winners were chosen by me and the results are indisputable. Novels, graphic novels, and non-fiction are fair game in all general categories, but there are specific genre awards as well.
Here are your winners ...
The “DON'T THREATEN ME WITH A GOOD TIME” 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…
Devolution by Max Brooks
Max Brooks is best known for World War Z (which I find to be overrated), but I had a blast with his Sasquatch-flavored survival/horror novel. I love all things Sasquatch so I was an easy target for this novel about a bunch of yuppies who are left stranded in an experimental mountain community after a natural disaster and have to nut up to survive a clan of rampaging Bigfoots (Bigfeet? Bigfootses? I don't know). They HAVE to make a movie based on this and I will be the first one in line to buy tickets ... unless it's streaming. Then I'll just sit at home and do that.
Honorable mention: The Locke and Key series by Joe Hill
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…
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
Sometimes books find you at just the right time. My buddy who just got released from jail after nearly a decade behind bars recommended this book, and, since I'm a sucker for book recommendations from strange places, I read it. I'm not sure there is a better time to "not give a fuck" than during a global pandemic. This book summed up a lot of my own personal philosophy toward life so it didn't tell me much I didn't already know, but it did help explain why I'm so much happier than a lot of people I know. I know when to care, and, more importantly, when not to. I highly recommend it for all the overthinkers out there.
The “Young at Heart” Award
This award goes to the best YA book I read this year. And the Troxell goes to…
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
It's rare that I move beyond the first book in a series. I'm just not a "series reader" (if that makes sense). Inkheart was a book that crept up on me last year. I thought it was okay after I read it, but I was ready to move on like I usually do. But the characters in this YA fantasy novel about characters who escape their book to cause chaos in the real world kept poking and jabbing at me. I wanted to know what happened to them. So, a year later, I read the next book in the series, Inkspell. It was another fun read, and I'm exited to see what happens to the characters in the third book ... which I will read next year. I'm a pretty patient guy.
Honorable Mention: Gone by Michael Grant
The “Fine Wine” Award
This award goes to a classic work of literature that totally lives up to its own hype. And the Troxell goes to…
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I've reread Lord of the Flies multiple times and even taught it a few years back at the start of my teaching career. I reread it this year because I wanted to add some LotF seasoning to my upcoming post-apocalyptic series After the End (releasing in spring 2022!). Man ... it's still good! The symbolism is great and the commentary on War and how it's ingrained into our human nature is just as relevant today as it was when it was first published. Poor Piggy ...
Honorable Mention: The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
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…
Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling
Ironically, Amazon's algorithms recommended this book to me because it shares several similarities to my debut novel, The United States of Walmart (available on Amazon). Of course, as soon as I heard it was similar to my own book, I was determined to hate it. Unfortunately, it's an amazing book. It takes place in the near future in a world where an Amazon-like mega corporation runs the country and complex algorithms determine your job, your friends, and your love interests. Random drones fart out products that you want before you even know you want them. It's terrifying how close we are to colliding with the book's reality. The book is very Vonnegut-esque in its humor and satire and Vonnegut-esque is my favorite type of -esque.
Honorable Mention: Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson
The “‘Badge of Honor’” Award (a.k.a. The Ulysses Award)
This is an award I give to myself for finally finishing a book that had previously bested me. And the bane of my existence this year goes to …
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Yup. I did it. I read Moby Dick from cover to cover. It wasn't quite as brutal or soul-sucking as Ulysses ... but it was still pretty bad. There's a good story buried in there beneath a full-blown "How to Catch, Kill, and Harvest a Whale" instruction manual, but there are only five chapters of actual narrative in the whole thing. If nothing else, it gave me an idea for a version of Moby Dick in space where space explorers need to hunt giant space whales that live in an asteroid field for the rocket fuel the creatures use as brain fluid. DON'T STEAL MY IDEA!
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…
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
This book has been hunting me for nearly 20 years. Various people have mentioned this book to me over the years and failed to explain what it's about or why it's so important so I've always brushed it to the side ... until now. It would be difficult to explain this book's importance in a short paragraph. It changed/destroyed my life. I was psychologically and emotionally wrecked for nearly a month after finishing it. The book is about a telepathic gorilla that is trying to save the human species, but its plot is irrelevant. Really, this is a philosophical text written in the same fashion as the ancient Greek philosophers where a teacher is passing along his philosophy to a student. You're the student.
Ishmael explores the tragic journey of the human race, how we've lost our way as a species due to a basic flaw in our original narrative, and why we are destined to fail as a species. It won't tell you anything most intelligent human beings don't already know, but it connects the dots in a way that will force you to view yourself as a member of a flawed species that has been falling off a cliff for thousands of years and doesn't even realize how close we are to the final impact. The best comparison I can come up with is that reading this book is the equivalent to taking the red pill in The Matrix. Doing so will free your mind and allow you to finally see the prison you've been living in your entire life. Unfortunately, after you take the red pill, you'll find there's no going back and some people will ultimately realize that they preferred the prison. Read it but only if you're prepared for the consequences. No, I'm not joking.
So there you have it! The best books of 2021 (or at least the best ones I read over the past 12 months). I said it last year, but I'll say it again. Next year has to be better .... riiiiiiiiight?