2013 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
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that really stands out for me as something truly special, a time-travel book with a compelling love story and excellent historical content, is The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway.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:
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!