Scott MacKay's favorite books of 2013

Dec 19, 2013

In keeping with what has become an annual tradition, here are our 10 favorite books of 2013. In no particular  order, of course.

Good Prose by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd: A wonderful book for the writer on your Christmas list. This inspiring and instructive work is about the partnership of a great narrative writer (Kidder) and his editor (Todd).

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Europe, 1944-1945, by Rick Atkinson. The last volume in a trilogy, Atkinson, a longtime Washington Post reporter, melds the research heft of a historian with a journalist’s jeweler’s eye for detail and sharp writing to report on the bloody  end of WW II.

The Obituary Writer, by Ann Hood:  Every year we include a work by a local writer. This year’s is this multi-generational   tale that sharply depicts women’s lives and blends in mystery by Hood, a Rhode Island treasure. Great descriptions of mid-20th Century Providence and New Frontier Washington, D.C.

Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America,  by Dan Balz. Balz is a veteran Washington Post reporter who is arguably the nation’s top campaign reporter. His well-reported, snark-free political diary is the best of the 2012 campaign books.

This Town, by Mark Leibovich. A snarky, winking takedown of the incestuous insider culture of Washington, D.C. Leibovich, a New York Times reporter, is a funny, entertaining   writer, even though this book is more flash than substance. Too bad the joke is on us.

The Circle, by Dave Eggers.  Orwellian dystopia for a 21-Century world in which the brightest of the young flock to work for a Google-Facebook-Apple-Microsoft combination that controls the world. Laugh out loud funny, too.

The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams, by Ben Bradlee Jr. This doorstop of a biography is the definitive story of Red Sawx great Williams, the last player to hit .400 (.406 in 1941) and as tempestuous a player as has ever graced the emerald lawn at Fenway Park. Great gift for that Sawx fan on yer list.

The Tenth of December, by George Saunders.  Great short stories that remind one of Carver. Saunders has great human feeling and is that rare writer who can switch points of view without losing the reader.

The Great Unwinding, by George Packer. With a tip of the hat to John Dos Passos of the 1930s, Packer takes to a recession-racked United States that rarely gets in depth coverage in the mainstream media. A haunting book.

Tie: The Patriarch, by David Nasaw:  Nasaw’s biography of Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President JFK, traces his business and Hollywood prowess and dubious legacy as a Nazi sympathizer and confidante of FDR, who eventually boots him from his circle.

Wilson, by A. Scott Berg: Better on Wilson the person that the politician, Berg’s biography nonetheless is good on Wilson and his times. A professor and Calvinist minister’s son, Wilson promoted women but was a racist and famously tried unsuccessfully to make the world safe for American-style democracy.