Favorite Reads in 2013 (part 2)

Toward the end of 2013 I started to get inspired by all the different favorite book lists that were floating around the internet, particularly those that compiled favorites from different people (“Bill in Accounting loved Inferno; Barbara in Human Resources loved The Divergent series,” ;-)). So I thought it’d be fun to put together my own list.

I asked my fellow book club members in Literary Wives for their favorite titles from 2013 and also some of my book-loving friends. I do apologize for the dearth of male opinions here as I realized that the majority of my reading friends are women. 😦

Alexandra at Good Day, Regular People

My favorite book this year was one I read twice, it was so good, I had to have it again. The Slippery Year, by Melanie Gideon. Loved this book because I found myself in it on every single page. Melanie questions life, parenthood, marriage, aging, the passage of time, her friends, her choice to stay home, happiness, loving your children too much, all of it… and she never pretends that she has answers that others don’t. Her book is like finding that one friend who understands you without you ever having to explain. That one friend who accepts you, without judging, and finds you wonderful. She made me laugh out loud with her sweet honesty and trust, and each page leaves you feeling as if you’ve just been whispered confidences. Melanie leans in and trusts you with questions like Do people like her? How do you know people like you? Why don’t people like her? Is the school carpool lane this difficult for everyone? It’s impossible to not fall deep in love with Melanie Gideon, and even if you don’t have a close friend like Melanie in real life, you’ll always have the endearing friendship of someone who taps the ground first before she takes a solid step, whenever you open The Slippery Year.
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Melanie Gideon says it all in her books’ introduction, “I am one of the millions who is currently walking around in a daze, no longer recognizing herself, wondering ‘Is this all there is?’ The Slippery Year is about grabbing hold of yourself, before you slip away. This book is gorgeous, quirky, and pierced my heart with its tenderness.

Ariel at One Little Library

I think my favorite was I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan. I loved so much about this book. It was a beautiful, touching epistolary novel, with the two main characters writing back and forth to each other. And that’s how the authors wrote it: they wrote back and forth to each other and they’ve never met! I also love that there is so much timeless advice about love and life. The characters are everlastingly hopeful in the face of a terrible war. And they share recipes!

Click here for Ariel’s review of the book from June.

“Brother”

The editor of this blog has given me permission (i.e., begged me) to submit more than one book because male voices are so underrepresented in her post. Here are two:

I don’t know what this says about me but my favourite 2013 book was one written for nine year olds. It’s Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown, a graphic novel of sorts about a boy who longs to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother and become a fighter pilot. The pilot school, however, rejects his application and he ends up at the Jedi Academy, a place where he doesn’t fit in. It’s about experiences we can all relate to: dealing with disappointment, finding the people we’re comfortable with who become our friends, feeling a little flush when talking with a crush, facing bullies, and learning and growing as a person, in and out of class. Jedi Academy is a terrific book with life lessons presented in a witty, funny, light-hearted way in the context of the Star Wars universe (the gym teacher is a roaring Wookie who wears a whistle around her neck and Yoda muses that “hunger leads to anger.”)

Last year I was really into military history; the best of what I read was Blackhawk Down (1999) by Mark Bowden, about a small group of U.S. Special Forces dropped onto the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia to capture a warlord. What was supposed to be a quick mission became a debacle, with American soldiers being dragged through the streets by the crowds. Bowden does a masterful job of recounting the frenetic, harrowing, and heart-wrenching action of the ordeal. From the exact dialogue of the combatants to the description of sights and sounds like walls shattering above people’s heads from mortar shells, he makes you feel as if you are right there with them. At one point a soldier loses his hearing from all the shooting he and his partner are doing–just one of many, many details that makes this book come alive.

Carolyn at Rosemary and Reading Glasses

Of the books I read that were published in 2013, it’s difficult to pick a favorite. For beautiful, lyrical composition I’d go with Paul Yoon’s Snow Hunters; for structural inventiveness, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life; for brilliant creation of a new world, Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees. But best all-around goes to Anthony Marra’s haunting, disturbing, joyful debut, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.

Click here for Carolyn’s review of the book from December.

Emily at The Bookshelf of Emily J.

I have so many books that I loved this year, but if it is okay, I’m going to go with one that isn’t fiction. It was A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary 1785-1812 (1990) by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  I loved it because it is a glimpse into the past of a woman who was a professional.  The author is known for coining the phrase “well-behaved women seldom make history,” and this analysis of Martha Ballard’s diary is an example of how a woman didn’t make history, but her diary has survived all of these years to highlight the important contributions she made to her community through her quiet life of work and service.

Click here for Emily’s review of the book from July.

Kay at WHATMEREAD

My favorite would have to be Life After Life by Kate Atkinson because it is so inventive in its approach. Aside from telling an entertaining story, it makes profound comments about how small things that we do can affect much larger issues.

Click here for Kay’s review of the book from May. 

Lynn at Smoke & Mirrors

Historical Fiction novels enthralled me the most in 2013: The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin and A White Wind Blew by James Markert were my favorites. The former has been the recipient of much well-deserved praise, whereas the latter hasn’t had as much press… All our book club members appreciated this story about the Waverly Hills TB sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky, following WWI. Although broad in scope, A White Wind Blew presents issues of the day through finely honed characters and a sense of place that make for an unforgettable novel–these people are real to me!!

Lynn has a review of The Aviator’s Wife here.

Kathryn

Sonia Sotomayor’s “big-hearted” autobiography, My Beloved World was my favorite book of 2013.

Sotomayor’s story is awe-inspiring, ongoing, hopeful. Her words jumped from the pages directly into my heart. I felt like a superficial cheerleader in some parts, wanting to chant support alongside; while in other areas, I felt less personal but more drawn to see what one individual could do for an entire nation of people.  She squashes the cliche that everyone can make a difference. It’s true!

I have always enjoyed the human interest side of news when we hear about someone who overcame extreme obstacles and reached a goal. Sotomayor would be the most unlikely to succeed on a reality show today, and she has come to hold a seat in the most powerful positions in the US.

Max

My favorite read was a volume of 8 books called Ryoma Ga Yuku by Ryotaro Shiba, about the visionary leader Ryoma Sakamoto who contributed to the formation of modern Japan. This was written unlike anything I had ever read in history classes during school. I read these in Japanese and think it is a shame they are not translated into English. However, you can also find works written in English about Sakamoto.

Ryoma Sakamoto was a low-class samurai who was able to foresee Japan’s need to modernize and to open itself up to the rest of the world. He helped overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate, ending Japan’s feudal structure, and paved the way for modern Japan. I learned many things about my country of origin for the first time, since I hated the way that history was taught in Japanese schools. I also came to understand why the Japanese think and act the way that they do. I recommend reading about Ryoma Sakamoto to anyone who is interested in modern Japan.

Ngan at Ngan Made It

My favorite book I read in 2013 was Anthony Marra’s debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.  I enjoyed Marra’s expressive writing style and play with chronology as much as I enjoyed the story itself.  It is a beautifully written tale chronicling the plight of a local doctor who rescues an orphan girl in war-torn Chechnya.  This book left an indelible mark on me, not for its darkness and weight, but for the hope and renewal that pulsed beneath the surface of this tale of strangers fighting to survive together in uncertain times.
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Click here for Ngan’s review from May.
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Rudri at Being Rudri
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Heartfelt vignettes in Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things pierce through the reader’s heart in these essays about love, life, and loss. Strayed’s advice not only brings you to tears, but also lingers with you months after reading the book. I find myself revisiting some of these essays and rereading passages that I’ve underlined. If therapy is not an option, don’t walk, but run to the nearest place for this book. You will not regret it.
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The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is my fiction pick. In this debut novel, we learn that a seismic shift changes the way that time operates on Earth. The days are becoming longer and longer and this change is seen through the perspective of a young teenage girl named Julia. We see how her personal world unravels and how she struggles to preserve her life despite how everything around her, literally, is crumbling. Haunting prose, human truths, and an interesting premise will keep readers engaged in learning how the protagonist makes sense of her life. Through Walker’s writing, we also get a glimpse of how so much of our lives are gripped with uncertainty and the actions we take to keep holding on. I read this book in one sitting because I just could not leave Julia’s life. It felt like I, too, would abandon her.
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Sharon
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My book pick of 2013 is The Cuckoo’s Calling.
What impressed me was J.K. Rowling’s ability to write well in both the fantasy and mystery realms. Written under a pseudonym, Rowling left no stone unturned with “The Cuckoo’s Calling”. A detective is hired to investigate the death of a famous model. Was it a suicide or was she pushed off the balcony? I could not put it down once I started. I have to admit I picked up the book for two reasons: it was written by Rowling – I loved the Harry Potter series – and I am a sucker for mystery novels. I loved the characters in the book as they were well-developed and utterly believable,  and the writing was witty and flawless.
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If you still can’t get enough of 2013 book lists, here are some more, at the following blogs that I enjoy:
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And if you missed the post of my personal favorites, here it is: Favorite Reads in 2013 (part 1).

34 thoughts on “Favorite Reads in 2013 (part 2)

    • It was fun! And after I started putting this together I thought of more people I could’ve and should’ve asked! Maybe next year I’ll need to do a 3-part series 😉

  1. This was such a great idea! I love reading about everyone’s favourites. I must think about this for next year. And thanks for including my little list- it was my very first pingback (is that what it’s called?). 🙂

    • Thanks, and thanks for your contribution, Carolyn! Fred’s favorite last year was the Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan. He finished the final book in the series at the end of last year and kind of went through withdrawal 🙂

  2. Pingback: My 2013 Favorite Reads | ngan made it

  3. What a great idea, Cecilia to round up the favourites of your friends! I really enjoyed this list and see so many titles that appeal. Thank you for including a link to my list as well. I appreciate it!

  4. I can’t wait to read Tiny Beautiful Things. It’s on my list this year! I loved Wild, so I am anxiously ready to love this one. Thanks for the reviews!

  5. Pingback: A Selection of Great Blog Posts January 2014 | Consumed by Ink

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