*as judged by me, that I have read this year. And not only that, there are 11, plus a few extras.
When I started thinking about what would be on my top list I really could only think of a few that I had read in a clump over the summer. I looked through my Goodreads list for the year and was shocked to discover that another clump of great books counted for 2013 as I had read them in January-seemed soooo long ago. I noticed that most of the books that really stood out to me this year were big, fat, long, satisfying books with not necessarily happy resolutions for everyone and a mixture of both likable and unlikable characters.
As for stats, I read a total of 72 books. I had set my goal quite high, based on last year’s high number. But in the spring I didn’t complete the YALSA reading challenge, which meant fewer books overall. I reduced my goal twice and still didn’t quite meet it, but I think 72 is still a pretty high number-that’s more than a book a week. Plus, it doesn’t even include the many hours of reading aloud picture books, easy readers, and chapter books to my kids, and listening to audiobooks with them. (If I had to pick an audiobook/kids book that really stood out for me this year it would be Miracles on Maple Hill.) This year I also did a good job of keeping up with reading a book and promptly writing about it here, which satisfied my need to organize and record.
In other books news this year, I started another blog, Fourteen Bears, where I’ve been keeping track of the books my kids are reading and that we read together. Although it doesn’t have a huge following I really enjoy the chance to write about children’s books (since when I’m working I’m a youth librarian) and share my recommendations. In December I published a post each day (from the 1st to the 25th) about Christmas books, which was a fun project. I also started writing reviews for SLJ’s Adult Books 4 Teens, which has gotten me to read several adult books I might not have read otherwise.
OK, on to the best books of 2013!
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: I haven’t been a big Meg Wolitzer fan (and actively didn’t want to read her previous book), but this one sounded so interesting to me-friendships starting out at summer camp, which is practically boarding school. I loved this. It was an interesting book since I found the main characters to be quite flawed, but I loved being able to see how the adolescents you met in the beginning turned out to be as adults.
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan: This was so fantastic. I have liked her other books very much and had high hopes, which were met, with this one. I was so fascinated by the multiple story lines and how they ended up twining together, and especially the historical aspect of deBeers and the diamond industry and the fabrication of the diamond engagement ring tradition.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty: I love every single one of her books and this one seems to have been her big hit in the American market, making her suddenly very popular. If this was the first book of hers you read because you saw a review in People magazine or EW, do go back and read her other titles-they are just as good! This was so thick and satisfying. Like her other books she has elements of happiness, sadness, surprise, secrets, and not necessarily tidy endings. It was also a book that really made you think “what would I do?” so many times. Absolutely wonderful.
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein: Last year I included Code Name Verity on my top list, and this follow up (a companion, not a sequel) is included here with no hesitation. Probably the book that really hit me in the heart and stuck with me the most. I enjoy WWII fiction very much, but rarely have read anything set in a concentration camp-it’s just too sad. Well, this is not only in a camp, but also includes the women who were experimented on. Beautifully written, achingly sad, a must read.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: Another WWII book, this one with such an interesting concept. The book follows the life of Ursula and shows each lifeline she would have with a different decision. You know right away that she keeps dying (drowning, flu, etc.) until some element is changed and she lives a bit longer. I found it fascinating, but I know that what I liked was exactly what my good reading friend, Melissa, did not like. Do you ever really know which is the “real” life? Like a confusing time travel novel, sort of. I thought this was a wonderful story, but also a fabulously constructed novel. The most unique book I read this year.
and next we have the three books I read right in a row at New Year’s last year and loved and five starred them all.
Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple: Hilarious and quirky. A trip to Antarctica and absurd scenarios. I hardly remember all that happened in it, but it was terrific.
Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: Also quirky and funny (and set in the same general area as the above, so I always think of them together-in one someone works at Google, in another at Microsoft.) A novel with a puzzle in it, wonderful details (which I will assume are true) about Google, and kind of smartypants fun. Maybe I’ll consider this the second unique book I read this year.
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton: A big fat story (again, WWII!) with shocking twists. I loved this story of a woman and her children uncovering her secrets. Flashes back and forth in time.
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis: A fantastic fairy tale of a story and I’m super excited that when I looked it up for this list I found out that book #2 is out already and waiting for me at the library! This is the rare book that had me very excited to see it being set-up for a series (in a perfectly natural way.)
After Her by Joyce Maynard: I received this for review and probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise. I thought it was wonderful written and suspenseful. The details of the 1970s were excellent and cinematic, and the suspense of the serial killer was super.
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: I was shocked to discover I read this in 2013 as I thought I read it a couple years ago. Anyway, another suspenseful winner. Also-boarding school and Jack the Ripper. This was a fantastic novel (and I believe there will be a sequel?)
Honorable Mentions to:
I wouldn’t put these YA titles in my top 10, but they were definitely worth noting this year. They are all series/trilogies.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey: a somewhat terrifying alien invasion novel. I should probably stop reading these types of books, but I’ll certainly be reading the sequel.
The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson: This was the conclusion to the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy. Of all three I probably liked the second book best, but this was a wonderful and satisfying conclusion.
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger: a new series from this steampunky supernatural author. It’s set in a boarding school that is located on a dirigible and trains young ladies to be covert agents. Vampires and werewolves are around and just as important as wearing the right gloves to tea. I was happy to discover this new series for some fun quick reading.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: a fantasy novel involving a fully realized world that includes dragons living among us and the battle brewing between them and humans. At its center a girl who is half dragon. Looking forward to following this trilogy.
The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: not the sort of book I usually read, and I really was caught up in it. Rather CSI-y. A girl who is a natural profiler is recruited to live in a house with others like her and assist the FBI with cold cases. Of course she gets caught up in a current serial killer situation.
There you have it. Thanks for reading along!
Here’s to happy reading in 2014! I’m starting the year with a hilarious book recommended by my friend Mary Lynn, called Crazy Rich Asians.