Just like everyone else, I too will make you suffer through a year's end top/best/favorite list. So here are my favorite books from those I read in 2013.
The Passage by Justin Cronin: Cronin's The Passage is the first in a trilogy that I read out of order, having begun with the second installment, The Twelve, at the end of 2012. The post-apocalytpic tale involves accidental release of a military biological experiment that triggers disturbing changes in upwards of 90% of the world population, societal collapse, and a return to an agrarian existence for the unaffected 10%.
Unlike World War Z which somehow got turned into a film, Cronin's stories actually make sense and, more importantly, make you care. But the good news is that Ridley Scott's production company has reportedly acquired the rights to The Passage although there's no word on when that film might be released.
The final act of the trilogy, The City of Mirrors, is supposed to be published in 2014.
I highly recommend that you read Cronin's The Passage and The Twelve so you're ready for the final act when it comes out next year.
The website for Cronin's trilogy is enterthepassage.com.
The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen: Clayton's The Innovator's Dilemma offers an astonishingly simple premise: innovation sews the seeds of its own failure. As a product or business grows it necessarily becomes more complex as it evolves to meet the needs of an ever expanding audience. This leaves it vulnerable to disruptions from new market entrants at the low (i.e. simpler) end of the market. This trek to failure is compounded by the fact that the mature organization lacks the systems, processes or people - or even desire - to disrupt its own market.
As an example of a disruption consider music on mp3 versus CD. CDs offer better audio quality, nice packaging, and booklets with lyrics and performance credits. An mp3 is a single song, of lower quality, and comes with no extras. And we all know how that's working out. Think also about Kodak and digital photography.
The trick for advice from any business book is to figure out how to put it into practice yourself. Yet example after example show why this this theory is valid and should be ignored at your own peril. Christensen has gone on to write a series of books including the very personal How Will You Measure Your Life?
Christensen's website is www.claytonchristensen.com.
Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade, 1940-1950: This book is the exhibit guide to the same-named traveling exhibit of Rothko's work from the 1940s during which his painting style evolved from mythical figuration to abstract rectangular forms.
To read about, see examples of, and gain insight into the process by which an artist moves to pure abstraction helped me better appreciate something I guiltily enjoy without understanding.
This book is also what motivated me to reread Rothko's own The Artist's Reality to see in his own words what he was trying to achieve.
Suffice it to say that the book influenced me to schedule a trip to Little Rock to see the exhibit at its closest approach to DFW. The Arkanasas Art Center's website for the exhibit is www.arkarts.com/rothko.
Honorable Mention: The world lost two great authors from the military/espionage thriller genre this year: Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn. They will be missed.
You can see all the books I finished in 2013 here.