The Best Books of 2013

Bookish Stuff / Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Well now that we’ve started 2014 and I’ve had the time to really reflect on my reading experience of 2013, I feel that it was pretty darn mediocre.  I’d hoped to read more books that would wow me but that wasn’t the case.  It was if I chose my books because they just fell in my lap.  That’s not how I want to proceed with my book choices this year.  You’ve already seen a select few of the big books I plan on reading this year, but just know that there will be more engaging and thought-provoking titles added to that list.

My reading goals of 2013 comprised:

1. reading more works of people of color

2. reading more classics

3. reading graphic novels

4. reading out of my comfort zone

I guess two out of four ain’t bad.  I managed to do one and three, but only really read one book that was a little out of my comfort zone.  So I know now what I need to concentrate on this year.  I’d like to have a well-rounded reading year but most of all I want to read more books that really speak to me, move me.  2014 is the year of quality! I hope.

So, in no particular order, let’s take a look at my top ten best books of 2013:

Firstly we have the books by authors of colour or about people of color:



Well as you can see that’s half of my favourites list.  All I can say is these five books really stuck with me and enlightened my reading experience as well as taught me some things.  I was taken aback by the passages in Black Like Me.  The descriptions written by John Howard Griffin, a white man who was just being a black man for a few months struck me to my core.                                   If Beale 


Street Could Talk weighed on me heavily as well reading about the injustices of the seventies, while in the back of my mind knowing these situations are still happening today.  Cutting for Stone was that epic African novel that surprised me at every page.  I really couldn’t anticipate what was going to happen next or where the author was leading me.  I felt like I’d traveled stretches of kilometres to Africa to  meet and follow Marion and Shiva from their beginnings to adulthood.  That was a rich and informative reading experience that taught me a lot about Ethiopia, a country that I almost visited over sixteen years ago.  Kindred took me back to the days of slavery, filling me with fear and disorienting me in a world where the codes didn’t correspond to me or Dana the main character.  Lastly, but not least The Cutting Season brought me back to my home state of Louisiana. The story brought out anticipation and fear of the unknown – who killed that young woman on the plantation grounds called Belle Vie?  I could feel the heat, the humidity, and smell the earth.  Darkness engulfed me and Caren the main character.  Running through it for fear of what she might find or worse what or who might be waiting for her.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman was the only classic I read last year.  That is if you don’t count Harry Potter and the Philosopher’ Stone and If Beale Street Could Talk.  Those two could technically be considered modern classics.  Ok enough of me trying to stretch my non-existent list of read classics.  In spite of it all,  I can thank my 56034book club for choosing this one.  For without them, I’m not really sure when I would have read it, in spite of it being on my physical and mental TBR for aeons.  I could also place this one under number four of my reading goals because it definitely got me out of my comfort zone.  In the beginning I didn’t think I’d make it through, but at the halfway mark something changed.  I became more invested in the story, not to mention that the writing style changed for the better.  I also started to get used to those omniscient footnotes that lead me through the story that was going on above like a dog on a leash.  Undeterred by it all I finished and loved it!  Now that doesn’t often happen to me.  I usually give up if I can’t get into a book by page 150.  It was a worthwhile reading experience and I persevered to the end!  So I definitely have to read more classics this year.

1261125351GiFItYmkLThe next two novels were my comic relief of the year.  I don’t often pick up comical books and that’s probably because it’s not a genre that I’m really familiar with.  I was compelled to pick up Where’d You Go Bernadette  since everybody was talking about it in the blogosphere and about its unorthodox style of being written in email and letter form.  I like epistolary so I thought why not.  It turned out to be a great choice.  I read it in one afternoon and laughed out loud a bit.  Oh Bernadette! She was a mess!  I liked her though.  Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff Christ’s Childhood Pal was the same.  It took me longer to read but boy did I have some laughs.  The wittiness of that novel is just simply brilliant!  It’s a must read if you haven’t gotten to it yet.

Now you know I’m not that over the moon about Young Adult novels and any time I read one it’s so that I can41WvR8-CBUL suggest it to the students I tutor in English or to my daughters, and of course because I suspect it might be good.  I ran across Speak because I saw a couple of bloggers talking about it.  I read it in one sitting and fell in love with the way the story was told but most of all with Melinda’s voice.  Superb!  A reader couldn’t ask for a better narrator, especially a young adult reader.

12280827Last but not least, my absolute favourite and best read of 2013 was The Sense of an Ending.  What a fantastic way to talk about memory!  I got so much from this little tiny 150-page book.  Unbelievable! There are so many themes packed into this book.  I was asking myself what took me so long to pick up a novel by Julian Barnes.  Nevertheless, I finally did and it was also thanks to my book club.  Book clubs can bring out the best and sometimes the worst in one’s reading however in my experience it’s been great at 100%.  Check out this wonderfully woven story of middle-aged Tony after school, marriage, children, and divorce.  Memory can be deceiving after the fact and at times spot on…

Well that’s my wrap up of my top ten books of 2013.  I hope you enjoyed reviewing some of them with me.  Clicking the titles will take you to the reviews.  So how about you guys?  Was your reading year a 3.0-3.5 like mine or better?  Let me know below and don’t forget to include your favourite books of the year.  I love getting recommendations from you!  Happy reading y’all!

25 Replies to “The Best Books of 2013”

  1. I had a pretty good reading year, only a couple of books I ended up wishing I hadn’t spent my time on. I also have quite a fair mix of genres, managed quite a few classics, got a bit of fantasy in there, some non-fiction, a memoir or two, some young adult, historical fiction, a few graphic novels and even a children’s book in there.
    My fave’s that I read in 2013 are: ‘A Clash of Kings’ by George R.R. Martin (I just can’t get enough of this series), ‘Teacher Man’ by Frank McCourt (Finished the memoir trilogy, moving as always), Jimmy Corrigan, ‘The Smartest Kid on Earth’ by Chris Ware (very interesting graphic novel), ‘At Home’ by Bill Bryson (LOVE Bill Bryson), ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams, ‘Food Rules’ by Michael Pollan (this s a must for anyone interested in food, and very quick read), ‘Noah Barleywater Runs Away’ by John Boyne (just very very cute!), both ‘Atonement’ and ‘Saturday’ by Ian McEwan (My new favourite author), ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson (absolutely hilarious) and Salman Rushdie’s autobiography ‘Joseph Anton’.
    My absolute favourite book I read in 2013 would be ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’ by David Mitchell, which introduced me to the world of historical fiction and also to David Mitchell. Just amazing, loved it!

    This year my main goal is to read more in general. Also I would like to read a bit more classics than last year and I would like to read more authors I haven’t read before.

    1. Well it looks like you did really well last year. Thanks for some recommendations! I read Jimmy Corriganat the beginning of the year along with Blankets and liked them both. I just need to do a post on them. I’ve already read Saturday and I thought it was good but I couldn’t rave about it, however I haven’t read Atonement yet. There’s something about McEwan’s writing that I find stifling. I haven’t read any Bill Bryson either. As for the The Song of Ice and Fire series I’m late to that game, but will be starting it at some point, although I’m not sure I’m going to like it. Have you read Clod Atlas yet? When I heard stream of consciousness I didn’t even bother. That style of writing sometimes gets on my nerves. I haven’t come across that style of writing in a novel yet that I can appreciate. I’m still searching though. Good luck this year with reading more authors and thanks for taking the time to comment! 🙂

      1. I understand what you mean about McEwan’s writing, I think that’s one of the reasons I like it.
        I haven’t read Cloud Atlas yet, no, it probably will be the next one I pick up of his though. I saw the film, but didn’t really know what I thought about that :P.
        I seem to like stream of conciousness up to now (Saturday), but I haven’t tried any of the really famous ones yet, like Ulysses. Ulysses kind of scares me! Apparently James Joyce doesn’t have such a good reputation under literature students, although my teachers all rave about him. Now I’m just scared. But I won’t knock it until I’ve tried it 😉

        1. I’ve read some of Ulysses and thought it was interesting. Mostly because I had an excellent English teacher. I probably should read that one completely. There’s also Virginia Woolf. Ugh! To the Lighthouse was such a ball ache! I’m still trying to pick up something from her. I hope to get to Orlando and Mrs. Dalloway this year too. I say try new things and don’t expect anything in particular. Just let it flow. 🙂

      2. Oh and Song of Ice and Fire, I was a bit late catching on to that too, but I absolutely love it. It’s pretty clever, Martin manipulates your mind. 😛 How come you don’t think you’ll like it? Just not into fantasy or something else? 🙂

        1. I have this thing about series and I’m not that big of a fan of fantasy although I loved The Hobbit last year. I’m going to give it a go definitely this year. And when is Martin planning on finishing this fantasy masterpiece?

          1. Haha I understand. I’ve started wondering if he will even ever manage to finish it. There were going to be seven booms but he’s added an eighth one now. Also the date for the sixth book which he’s writing now keeps getting further delayed. I hope I’ve not begun something I won’t be able to finish :p

  2. I have the same reading goals as you, especially #1 and #2. I had a “just okay” reading year as well because I didn’t choose carefully enough. I want to focus more on my “must reads” for 2014. I think it does help to have some general reading goals as a road map. Last year I simply worked toward a certain quantity of books, but this year I am putting the focus on themes rather than quantity.

    1. Yeah a lot of people just try to read a certain quantity of books but all it seems to produce is mediocre reading choices. I know better. I’ve mdd my reading goal for Good reads 55 books to keep me on the straight and narrow, but ultimately I’m focusing on meaningful worthwhile books. Good luck Cecilia! I’ll be keeping a close eye on your blog to see how you’re doing. Who knows maybe we could buddy read something?

  3. It’s thanks to Goodreads that I can look back on my books for 2013. Just as an aside… you’ve read SOME OF Ulysees? Me too. But the question is, has anyone finished it? None of my reading friends, apparently. While I remain in France, my reading choices have been governed by what I can get hold of without resorting to Amazon, whom I won’t use at any price. I noticed Gingeralicia loved ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’. I read it too, but thought it lost its way part way through and until she reminded me, I quite forgot I read it. I’ve had a bit of a Peter Carey moment, reading the very different from one another ‘Parrot and Olivier in America’ (set in France and America just after the French Revolution) and ’30 days in Sydney’, which takes a very idiosyncratic look at Australian history. What else? Richard Yates’ ‘Eleven kinds of loneliness’, which has made me resolve to read more short stories. What polished little gems they can be when they’re good, as his are. My book of last year may be Kent Haruf’s ‘Plainsong’. This beautifully written, spare, stark book takes as its theme the loosely intermingled lives of various abandoned souls who live in the imagined town of Holt, Colorado. I read it last April but it stays with me still. I’d better shut up. This is in danger of becoming quite simply a list. A list with few classics. This must change in 2014. I love your blog, by the way. Lots to think about, and fun too. Thank you.

    1. Well thanks Margaret! I appreciate your support and your comments! Ulysses, huh well not I didn’t finish it, but will someday have to read it cover to cover. I think we’re all going for classics this year since it seems I’m not the only one who was slack on that. Will have to maybe pick out a few to get me started. Yates’ Easter Parade is on my list although I’m not sure he’s really my thing yet. To be continued….

  4. I love your choice of books. I loved Cutting for Stone too. I am not very familiar with Ethiopia and this book really was an eye-opening experience. The Sense of an Ending is one of my all-time favorites too.

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