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Monday, December 30, 2013

Third Annual Knauss Awards for Excellent Books

Here we are again! Something that never changes from year to year is my love for reading. It seems I get to do less and less every year, and this time I was further hampered by the fact that I've lived in a hotel room for eight months. Such spaces are not known for their ample bookshelves, and I can confirm that I had zero nice places to store my books. Unless you consider a box under the bed a nice place. (Crimes against literature, I tell you.) On to the winners!

Best Fiction
The Color Master by Aimee Bender
The best fiction title of 2013 won by virtue of its being the one I most look forward to having handy on a shelf so I can open it back up and discover something new all over again. The Color Master is full of shimmering language in the service of a vigorous imagination. Read the full review here.

Best Non-Fiction
Clara's Grand Tour by Glynis Ridley
The best nonfiction title this year had more competition than I even remembered, but it's so good it beat out the others even though it was published in 2004. It researches and describes a world-changing moment (two decades) in the eighteenth century when a Dutch sea captain purchased and toured throughout Europe with a female greater one-horned rhinoceros. The author never puts forth ideas without solid evidence to back them up, but so much joy shines through her facts that the reader can't help but conjecture and imagine both the sailor and the rhino as personal acquaintances. It's everything a non-fiction book should be. (Of course, I love anything that helps me learn more about rhinos.)

Best Book I Edited
The Fiery Alphabet by Diane Lefer
This category gets more competitive by the minute. Looking back over the year, I actually find it hard to believe I edited The Fiery Alphabet in 2013. I feel like it's been with me forever. That overall fondness, coupled with its exquisite writing and historical, philosophical, sociological plot, make it the best book I edited this year. Read about its debut and an interview with the author here.

I wish I could honor every book I read because reading is such an amazing experience. Congratulations to the winners! Here's to an equally wordy 2014!