borg’s Best of 2019–The Best Books of the Year

Our borg Best of 2019 list continues today with the Best Books of 2019.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2019 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2019 here, the Best in Television 2019 here, and the Best Comics of 2019 here.

We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf.  We don’t print reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year:

Best Read, Best Fantasy Read, Best New Edition of Previous Published Work, Best Translated Work – A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes 1 by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood (St. Martin’s Press).  The first book in one of the most read books of all time finally makes its way to the U.S. after its premiere in Great Britain.  Readers will learn why George Lucas pulled its concepts for his Skywalker saga, and why generations of Chinese fans of fantasy of flocked to its heroes and villains.  Honorable mention for Best Fantasy Read: A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery by Curtis Craddock (Tor Books), The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz (Algonquin Young Readers).

Best New Novel, Best Horror Novel, Best Historical Novel, Best Mystery Novel – The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).  A truly literary work combining a smart Holmesian adventure and the dark mind of H.P. Lovecraft.  Readers will love Lovegrove’s approach, Holmes and Watson’s journey, and all the creepy surprises.

Best Sci-Fi Novel, Best Thriller – The Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson (HarperCollins).  Wilson successfully conjured the spirit of Michael Crichton for this smart, creepy, and oddly current sci-fi sequel to The Andromeda Strain.  A cast of characters just like Crichton would have put together, and a must-read.

Best Franchise Tie-In Novel – Firefly: Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).  One of the best authors around crafts a worthy story to expand the Firefly canon and give fans their own new movie of sorts for the franchise.  Runner-up: Alien: Prototype by Tim Waggoner (Titan Books).  Honorable Mention: Death of the Planet of the Apes by Andrew E.C. Gaska (Titan Books).

Best Retro Read – Mike Hammer: Murder, My Love, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Titan Books).  Collins continues to bring Spillane’s characters to life with thrilling prose and all the best pieces of noir drama and action.  Honorable mention: Brothers Keepers by Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime).

Best Genre Non-Fiction – Industrial Light & Magic Presents: Making of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Rob Bredow (Harry N. Abrams).  Bredow’s unique access to the production made for a rare opportunity in any production to see details of the filmmaking process.  Every movie should have such a great deep dive behind the scenes.  Honorable mention: The Making of Alien by J.W. Rinzler (Titan Books).

There’s much more of our selections for 2019’s Best in Print to go…

Best NovelizationMen in Black International by R.S. Belcher (Titan Books).  Good novelizations mirror the movie’s script and narrative.  Better novelizations, as the case here, supplement the script.  Here that meant in-jokes, Easter eggs, and throwbacks to sci-fi of the past.  Vivid, visual storytelling.

Best Book Design – The Moviemaking Magic books: Marvel Studios: Heroes + Villains (Abrams Books for Young Readers).  Abrams released the second and third books in this interesting format following the premiere book last year, Star Wars: Creatures + Aliens We were ecstatic to see the format used this year again across licenses and digging into a single licensed property with new subject matter.  The interactive nature makes the learning process–about filmmaking–fun, but each book also is full of fandom: great photos, flip-down images, and tipped in material that nicely expands on the “vault” format books.  Gorgeous books, attractive design components, and great entertainment hours to read over and over.

Best Concept Art Book – Klaus: The Art of the Movie by Ramin Zahed (Titan Books).  The subject lent itself to a great use of the movie “art” book, allowing readers to in essence stop the film, and marvel at these thousands of works of art that came together to become a film.  Beautifully designed, lovely cover, and great layouts made for a holiday book to treasure.

Best Book on FilmTCM’s Dynamic Dames by Sloan De Forest (Running Press).  De Forest’s overview of 50 women actors by character categories proves that smart, strong, women characters are from from something new at the movies.

Best Anthology Book – Christmas is Coming! by Metropolitan Museum of Art (Harry N. Abrams).  Take one of the world’s finest museums and carve out documents, images, art, and artifacts all with a common theme.  It’s a clever idea that could be replicated again and again.  Focusing on a tradition and holiday like Christmas provided the opportunity to curate (in the true sense of the word) a historical exhibit for readers, with the bonus of adding sheet music and recipes to provide an even wider experience.

Best Genre Cookbook – Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel (Titan Books).  Presents loads of in-world and tie-in content with recipes that will make you feel like you’re eating all over the ‘verse.  We tried some of them and found them worthy.

Best History Non-FictionThe Color of Time by Marina Amaral and Dan Jones (Pegasus Books).  Amaral’s brilliant use of historical photography and modern technology creates a new history of the world that is much more than words on a page, bringing a new, almost tangible drama to history’s best and worst moments.

Best Science Non-FictionMaking the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup (Bloomsbury Sigma Books).  A fantastic analysis of Shelley’s first genre mash-up of man and machine, providing an education to readers on a fascinating segment of the history of science and technology.

And The Best of the Rest…

Best Marketing IdeaFeast of Legends RPG by Alex Lopez, Collin Fogel et al (Wendy’s).  A roleplaying game that at first blush was a funny marketing stunt ended up an interesting read and a real, detailed game applauded by gamers.

Best Board GameTrivial Pursuit: Back to the 80s/Stranger Things (Hasbro Gaming).  Great improvements on the original Trivial Pursuit made this a winner, but the 1980s questions and Stranger Things tie-in components were nice additions, too.

Biggest Genre Event of 2019The Child aka Baby Yoda debuts in The Mandalorian streaming series (Lucasfilm/Disney+).  You don’t need to say much about him, because he’s everywhere in only a matter of weeks.  A sure sign that Star Wars still has a bright future.

Best Action Figure Line (budget) – MLB Classic All-Stars ReAction Figures (Super7).  The Kenner-style figure from Super7’s ReAction line added classic baseball players, sure to be sought-after collectibles crossing sports and toy enthusiasts.

Best Action Figure Design (high-end) The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Statue Series (Weta).  Weta artisans continue to make the finest artwork replicas around.  These figures look every bit the equal to the originals.


So that’s it!

Come back tomorrow as we wind up our year-end review, and add several new members to the borg Hall of Fame.

C.J. Bunce

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