The Troxellian Literary Awards: The Winners!!!!1
As we close out the decade, it's time to crown the winners of the annual TROXELLIAN LITERARY AWARDS!
I'm a big fan of books but not much of a fan of the bestsellers list (How many James Patterson cookie-cutter novels can people actually read in a lifetime?). My reading list is usually limited to books I’m reading to assist with whatever novel I’m currently working on, classics that I’m rereading or that I’ve never gotten around to reading, books that others recommend to me, books that look unique or interesting, or books that by one means or another serendipitously find their way into my life.
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. My word is law. 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…
The Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Watterson
I try to keep my fake awards as legitimate as possible, but when I received my Calvin and Hobbes collection (my favorite comic of all time) for Christmas last year, I knew it would win this award ... and it has. I made it my goal to read every single Calvin and Hobbes comic ever written before the end of the year. I never read it on a set schedule or anything. If I had a spare minute or I was having a bad day or I was having a good day and wanted to make it better, I would enjoy the adventures of trouble-making Calvin and his (imaginary?) tiger pal. It's the smartest comic ever written. How many comics are based on the teachings of transcendentalism? And there's so much heart and passion in Watterson's work. I was sad when I read the last comic and realized I had read all the Calvin and Hobbes there was to read. But I wasn't sad for taking the journey.
Honorable mention: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
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…
Half a Life by Darin Strauss
I've read a lot more non-fiction in recent years as I've entered my mid-thirties. Maybe it's an old person thing. I don't know. Anyway, Half a Life is about a young man (Darin) who is out for a drive and hits and kills a girl on a bike and how it affects the rest of his life. The accident was totally the girl's fault, but the guilt still eats away at Darin. Eventually, the girl's parents sue Darin years later and the whole thing is a mess. The story explores how we deal with trauma from our pasts and how difficult it is to move on. It was well told without being sentimental violin-playing garbage (like a majority of non-fiction victim stories).
Honorable Mention: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't good enough to be the best in any category. Sorry Bill).
The “Young at Heart” Award
This award goes to the best YA book I read this year. And the Troxell goes to…
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
I saw the movie version on Netflix and thought it was a fun story so I downloaded the book. It's about a fat girl who ironically enters a beauty pageant to get back at her beauty queen mother, and she learns stuff like self-worth and other such nonsense. It was a fun read and the main character was tolerable unlike most YA books starring a teen girl. The story was well told and Dolly Parton plays a central role. Bonus!
Honorable Mention: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
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…
A Storm of Swords by George R.R Martin
I'm kind of cheating with this one since Game of Thrones may not have officially reached "classic" status yet (the series is probably maybe still ongoing), but I really wanted to give the GoT book series an award so here we are. I became obsessed with Game of Thrones in 2019 after binge-watching all eight seasons of the TV show in a matter of weeks. Then, of course, I felt obligated to read the books. The first three books in the series will absolutely one day be considered classics. They are the best fantasy books I've read since Lord of the Rings. Amazing world-building, interesting characters, jaw-dropping twists. To me, A Storm of Swords is the best of the series. A masterpiece. Two words: Red Wedding. It's also the book that killed the series. The choices Martin makes in that book submarined the entire series and is probably the reason Martin will never finish his epic. I learned so much as a writer on what NOT to do from reading A Storm of Swords. Subverting expectations is one thing but never at the expense of the narrative. Thanks, George. NOW GET BACK TO WORK!
Honorable Mention: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (always one of my favorites but I've read it, like, 20 times at this point)
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…
Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake
I work in my school's fake library, and I've walked past this book probably hundreds of times and never thought twice about it. Then one day, I saw it looking back at me and I just knew ... it was time. Historical fiction is real hit-or-miss for me. I was into this book from page one. The premise is fairly cliche: white dude goes out to the frontier, befriends a Native American tribe, realizes their ways are better, falls in love with a white chick who also lives with the tribe (OK, this part is kind of original), and ultimately abandons the white world to join the tribe. The descriptions of the frontier and prairie were beautiful and John Dunbar has a real likable every-man thing going on. It's one of those stories that makes you feel terrible about being a white person. It's a tragedy you see coming from the very beginning but one you know can't be avoided. The whites will come, spread across the land, and the prairie will forever be transformed ... not for the better.
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…
Replay by Ken Grimwood
My favorite books are light science-fiction books that explore philosophical and moral themes. In the past, this award has been won by books like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Stranger in a Strange Land. This year's winner, Replay, falls very much into a similar category. I loved the premise from the very beginning: A man dies in his 40's, returns to his college years, and gets to REPLAY his life over again. Then he dies at the exact same age, returns, and does it all over again...and again... and again. Eventually, he stumbles upon another replayer (a waman ... of course) and the two of them try to figure out what it all means and how to break the cycle. They do the cliche stuff and play the stock market and get rich but that all leads to nothing since they die anyway, and then they try to use their foreknowledge for good, but that goes horribly wrong. There are great moral and philosophical questions explored and the ending (which I assumed would be disappointing since most books like this have trouble sticking the landing) was subtle and appropriate and didn't pull any Stephen King-esque "IT'S ALIENS!!!" bullshit. Easily my favorite book of the year. Read it!
There you have it! The best books of 2019 ... that I read. Time to start putting together my reading list for 2020!