David Mitchell (Random House)
Ward Just (Houghton Mifflin)
Judged by Jessa Crispin
An Unfinished Season begins with the most compelling opening line from 2004: The winter of the year my father carried a gun for his own protection was the coldest on record in Chicago. It sets the story of a young man coming of age in 1950s Chicago while his father comes under the threat of union violence.
Cloud Atlas, on the other hand, is almost impossible to sum up. There’s a man on a ship in 1850 heading to California, then a bankrupt bisexual composer in 1930s Belgium, then a reporter investigating corporate corruption in 1970, and on and on, spinning forward in time until it reaches a post-apocalyptic community in Hawaii. It’s all connected, all intricately structured.
So how to determine the best between two books so completely different? An Unfinished Season is sparse, cutting close to the bone. Cloud Atlas is gauzy and shimmering, a decadent yet compulsively readable treat. It’s such a close call, but I think I’m going to have to go with Cloud Atlas. It dazzled me.
Judge: Jessa Crispin
Types of books you tend to read frequently:
Everything I can get my hands on.
Types of books you rarely read:
Favorite book of all time:
Lanark by Alasdair Gray.