James Renner is the author of two books of nonfiction that detail his adventures in investigative journalism: Amy: My Search for Her Killer and The Serial Killer’s Apprentice. His novel The Man from Primrose Lane will be published by Sarah Crichton Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux in February 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesRenner.
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale
Cool idea: the first chimpanzee that learns speech. Sort of a modern-day Pinocchio. Wish it had been more fun, less creepy.
The Last Child by John Hart
Three mysteries are at the core of this thriller set in the Deep South. Hart’s in his prime as an author and beginning to explore with structure a bit. Great beach read.
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
What a fun book. An exploration of the changeling myth set in present time. A welcome change of pace from all the popular stories about vampires.
The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Hands-down my favorite book of the year. An ensemble of tragic and desperate characters in small-town America slowly converge on one another. Sparse, gritty, truthful. Brilliant.
The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
Found this one at a used-book store in Kinsman, Ohio, for two dollars. Brackett is best known for writing the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back. This is her story about what happens when only the Amish survive the end of the world.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The classic ghost or-is-it story. A study on tone. A companion to Jane Eyre. Good stuff.
At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft
A great fall read and the best way to jump into Lovecraft. You need to read this just to see how it influenced pretty much every sci-fi movie ever made.
Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
Three separate tales of characters in search of identity: a twin tracking his brother to the Arctic Circle; a young man faking his death; a high-school girl eloping with her teacher. Then the stories begin to come together . . . and wow!
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving
I wish I was always halfway through a John Irving novel. I love spending time with his fully realized characters. This one is about a father-and-son team on the run from a bad cop. But it’s also about logging, cooking, and, of course, writing.