2013: My year in books

best2013a2013 was a great year for reading. Bestsellers, hidden gems, older books, books-into-movies — I had a blast, and based on all of my bookish friends’ comments on Goodreads, Twitter, book blogs, and actual in-person conversations (*gasp* – yes, those still happen occasionally!), it sounds like everyone spent some quality time with noses in books.

It’s hard for me to pick a definitive set of “best” books, but here’s a selection of books that made an impression — for good, for bad, really for a whole slew of reasons. As with last year’s year-in-review post, my salute to the books of 2013 is a snapshot of what I loved, what I could have lived without, what made me laugh, what made me cry… and just about everything in between.

[Note: Included here are books that I read in 2013. Many were released in 2013, but some are older. Hey, it’s my list. Make of it what you will.]

[And another note: Click on the links to see my reviews if you’re interested!]

Goodreads stats as of 12/27/2013:

Total number of books read: 145
Total number of pages read: 44,569
Star rating used most often: 4 stars (57 total)
Star rating used least often: 1 star (only 2 this year — not bad!)
Number of five-star ratings: 51

Longest book read: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, 692 pages
Shortest book read (excluding graphic novels): The Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, 181 pages

Top Genres/Shelves:

GR chart 13

I’m not sure this actually means anything, since I have all sorts of additional weird shelves in Goodreads (twins! will make you cry! werewolves! etc.) that probably skew the numbers… and frankly, I got tired of sorting and resorting. Moving on…

Bests, Worsts, & Other Stuff of Note

Best of the Bunch! If I had to pick just one “best” for each of the the various categories in my handy-dandy chart, my choices would be:

Best children’s (middle grade): The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon by S. S. Taylor
Best young adult: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Best contemporary: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Best graphic novel: Y: The Last Man (series) by Brian K. Vaughan
Best sci-fi/fantasy: The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
Best love story: Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Best historical fiction: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Best urban fantasy: Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Overall favorite: Gah! That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child. The book that really stands out for me as something truly special, a time-travel book with a compelling love story and excellent historical content, is The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway. Simply outstanding.

Moving on to slightly quirkier book highlights:

Books that make you want to grab a pedometer: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

Best use of Venn diagrams: The Theory of Everything by J. J. Johnson.

Triumphant return of a favorite character: Mercy Thompson in Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs; Harry Dresden in Cold Days by Jim Butcher.

Going out on top: All hail Jane True! Tempest Reborn by Nicole Peeler wraps up the series in style.

Should have quit while she was ahead: Poor Sookie Stackhouse. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris ends the series several years and several books past its expiration date.

Should have left well enough alone: Let’s just pretend certain sequels don’t exist. I nominate The Shade of the Moon (book #4 in the Last Survivors series) by Susan Beth Pfeffer and The Last Battle (Narnia #7) by C. S. Lewis.

Favorite graphic novel series (already complete) read in 2013: Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan is simply incredible. Absolutely loved it.

Favorite graphic novel series (ongoing) with new volumes in 2013: Where to begin? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Fables by Bill Willingham is the best thing since sliced bread; for creepy fantasticness, can’t beat Locke & Key by Joe Hill; and in terms of a great beginning to what I hope will be a long-running series, I really enjoyed the first two volumes of Saga by Brian K. Vaughan.

Grrrl power: Let’s hear it for the awesome young women of fiction who inspired, rocked, and ruled, with special praise and recognition to Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein.

Stuff of nightmares: Creeps and shivers galore! Best of the best: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill; Doctor Sleep by Stephen King; Parasite by Mira Grant.

Best book for Big Bang Theory fans: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion has the most Sheldon-like protagonist I’ve ever met… and just made me really, really happy.

Longest awaited sequel: Thank you, Stephen King, for giving us the amazing Doctor Sleep, 16 years after the publication of The Shining. Well worth the wait!

Most disappointing: I preordered Shadows by Robin McKinley months in advance… and couldn’t get past the first 100 or so pages.

Best twist on a familiar story: I loved Longbourn by Jo Baker, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view.

Best author who’s suddenly everywhere: 2013 has to be the year of Rainbow Rowell! I’m one of the many who gobbled up her two decidedly different (and decidedly excellent) young adult novels as well as her book for grown-ups this year.

Best author event: Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan gave a two-person reading that was hilarious and warm and engaging. Hearing them read passages from Fangirl together was priceless! Joe Hill’s appearance and reading of NOS4A2 was also a delight — he was friendly, funny, and just a little bit out there — just as you’d expect.


Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan

Loveliest writing: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. Beautiful.

Mind-bendiest timey-wimey weirdness: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer.

Not what it sounds like: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan (not really a dictionary); The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker (not really a guide to magic).

Best use of f-bombs: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn — see chapter 11. Brilliant.

Favorite quirky titles: Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn; Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Best armchair travels via fiction: Scotland via A Small Death in the Great Glen by A. D. Scott; Africa via A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn; Egypt via Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell.

Most haunting apocalypse: Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts.

Best alien encounter: The Humans by Matt Haig.
Worst (for humanity) alien encounter (in a terrific book): The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.

Best history lessons via fiction: Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell; The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley; Gathering Storm by Maggie Craig, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel; Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield.

Worst to read with a meal: Parasite by Mira Grant. Ew.

Best for a geek-tastic laugh: Redshirts by John Scalzi.

Most eye-catching covers:

15819028The Love Song of Jonny Valentineshadowy

Biggest sources of guilt: Buying three books that I couldn’t wait to read — preordered the hardcovers, no less! — and never making time to read them: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, and The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.

Bookish delight on TV: Game of Thrones never fails to deliver. Brutal, beautiful, heart-breaking. “Red Wedding” says it all.

Bookish delights at the movies: I was once again quite pleased with the latest Hunger Games adaptation: Catching Fire was just as it should be. Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing was pure bliss. And The Hobbit? Well, I liked the dragon. And Thorin Oakenshield is one awesome dwarf king.

Bookish delight, all year long:

All the many, many books which, for whatever reason, I can’t quite categorize but still really enjoyed (plus a few that are probably better off forgotten). It’s been a great year of reading! I can’t wait to see what treasures I’ll uncover in 2014!

What were your favorite books of 2013? What surprised or excited you the most? Please share your top reads and recommendations in the comments!

17 thoughts on “2013: My year in books

  1. I guess I shall have to add The River of No Return to my wish list! 🙂 Awesome list honey – boy do you read a lot of 5 star reads, I wish I’d come by that many this year!

  2. I enjoyed reading your answers, sounds like you definitely had a good year in reading and stuff! 🙂 You mentioned a lot of titles that I definitely hope to get around to next year (Life After Life, The River of No Return, The Golem and the Jinni (definitely need to read the latter in the new year)) 🙂

    • I’m about 75 pages from the end of The Golem and the Jinni, and can’t believe I waited this long to read it! Excellent book — and I just found out that the author has a book event coming up here next week for the paperback launch. Perfect timing!

  3. I really enjoyed seeing your reading recap. When I went and looked at my own stats on goodreads, I see that I am a) not as generous with my five-star rating, and b) not reading as widely as I thought. Nonetheless, I read some good ones. I especially liked the Observations by Jane Harris and The Turncoat by Donna Thorland. I know you’re not a short story reader, but Lauren Groff’s collection Delicate Edible Birds contained one of the only pieces of writing that had the power to make me cry this year. Some of the best dialogue I read was in Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner – a great little western romance. I thought The Husband’s Secret was brilliantly plotted, and the writing in Nightwoods by Charles Frazier was beautiful (and at times, creeeeeepy). I didn’t quite make my reading goal this year, but I’m looking forward to another good year of reading in 2014.

    • Ooh, thanks for the recommendations, Mary! I have a novel by Lauren Groff on my kindle that I still need to read (really enjoyed her 1st one a couple of years ago). I’m going to read The Husband’s Secret when OBC reads it as the book of the month (February, I think?). I think I’ve gotten a bit freer with my 5-star ratings over time. I used to reserve them for books that were my absolute favorites only, but lately have started giving 5 stars to books that I thought were so good that I couldn’t find faults with them — even if they don’t go on my “best of all time” list!

      • It seems that everyone tends to view the star ratings a little differently. I reserve five stars for books that I love so much I want to own, read again, quote from, etc. So I guess that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but I think I’ve become a more critical reader over the last few years. (Unfortunately?) It’s funny though, if I read a few romances back to back, my reading radar isn’t generally as sensitive, and then the next sort of literary book I read seems really, really good! 😉
        P.s. I think you’ll love The Husband’s Secret – can’t wait to discuss at OBC. I just started January’s book selection today!

        • Oh, good, can’t wait! I read the January selection last year — didn’t love it, although I think the author is great (loved his previous novel). It’ll be interesting to see how those discussions go!

    • It always makes me happy to do these year-in -review type of posts — such a great reminder of how many amazing books I got to enjoy this year! Rosie is definitely one of the books that made me happiest this year, and I’ve been recommending it to just about everyone I know. Thanks!

  4. I have The River of No Return waiting for me at the library when I get back home. Can’t wait! (And unfortunately that’s as far as I got before I started skimming; I’m coming back once I’m not sitting in a crowded and distracting coffee shop!)

  5. hahaha I still have to read Dead Ever After but I removed it from my TBR until I decide to do so because I was sick of looking at it. I doubt it’ll happen at this point. There are far better books I’d rather be reading. I’ve heard The Shade of the Moon is awful and I’ve decided it’s probably best just not to start the series period. lol Stick my head in the sand and ignore is my solution!

    • Wise decision re Dead Ever After! It’s too bad about The Shade of the Moon, because I thought the first 3 books (especially #1 and #2) were quite good. This is one of those situations where I’ll just pretend the bad one doesn’t exist — so yeah, The Last Survivors series is a great trilogy! 🙂

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