Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read in 2013


Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I Read In 2013.

I feel like I always end up with the same books on my top 10 lists. How often can I tell you that I loved The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway or Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell? (See, I did it again!) So for this week’s top 10 list, I thought I’d focus on books I loved… that just haven’t gotten a ton of time in the spotlight from me this year. I went back through all my 5-star books on Goodreads, and picked out the ones that I don’t seem to have raved about quite enough. If you want to read my reviews for any of the books listed, just click on the links.

1) The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker: I’ve included this book a lot on “want to read” lists… but now that I’ve finally read it, I can say without hesitation that it’s one of the best books I read in 2013! I’ll be hosting a blog tour stop for this book on January 7th — stop by!

2) The Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold: Hidden tragedies and family traumas form the backbone of this compelling book, which also highlights the impact of reading and how a good book can open up entire worlds, especially for children.

3) Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: You know those books that win all the prizes and everyone talks about, so much so that you feel like the books are overhyped and you don’t want to read them? That was how I felt about Hilary Mantel’s books until this year, when I forced myself to bring Wolf Hall on vacation… and found that I absolutely loved it. These two books provide an amazing look back into a fascinating chapter of history and are true literary masterpieces.

4) The Cranes Dance by Meg Howry: I read this book all the way back in January, which feels like a really long time ago. The Cranes Dance is an intricate and intimate look at the backstage life of ballet dancers and the complex relationship between sisters. Psychologically intense and really quite lovely too.

5) The Round House by Louise Erdrich: I didn’t think I’d be all that interested in The Round House, until I heard the author read a chapter and realized that I absolutely had to know what happened next! I’ve always heard good things about Louise Erdrich’s writing, but hadn’t read any of her books before The Round House — a situation I plan to correct in 2014!

6) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Powerful, dark, and sad, A Monster Calls is beautiful and awful all at the same time.

7) Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg: This story of a gay teen who decides to reinvent himself in order to try to be “one of the guys” in his new school is surprisingly moving and offers plenty of food for thought. Sensitive, sweet, and often very funny as well, Openly Straight is one of 2013’s gems.

8) The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay: This book is often hard to take, full of pain and tragedy, yet really beautiful as well.

9) Hoot by Carl Hiaasen: I’m choosing Hoot not only because it’s a really fun middle grade book, but because Carl Hiaasen’s books for kids as a whole are hilarious, real, full of adventure, and send great messages about family, friendship, and nature.

10) Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain: This is another award-winner that I didn’t think would be for me — until I finally read it and was blown away. It’s not pretty or easy, but I’d say don’t miss this powerful book.

And I can’t finish off a list of the top books I read in 2013 without giving a shout-out to The Shining by Stephen King, which I re-read in September in preparation for the release of Doctor Sleep. I’m so glad I took the time to re-read this horror classic! I found that my memories of the book had been completely overshadowed by images from the movie, when in reality the book is quite different, much scarier in a creepy, intense way, and just overall much, much better!

Sure, I could go on and on with all of my favorites that I usually put on my top 10 lists, like NOS4A2, The Firebird, Redshirts, The Rosie Project… oops, there I go again!

What books were your favorites in 2013? Any hidden gems or stand-outs? Please share!

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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!