I have read some excellent books in 2013. Some I have reviewed here on my blog. Others I have just recommended to people in person. As I make my list of the best I've read in 2013, I have to point out that they were not necessarily released in 2013 but were read by me this past year. Some were bits of fluff and some were serious books. All had a way of touching either my heart, soul, or brain in some way. I hope that you all will take the time to read some or all of these books and then share, in the comments section, the books that made your Best of 2013 list.
I branched out and read genres that I don't normally read. I have never been a fan of non-fiction but this year I read several excellent non-fiction books. Here are the four that stand out:
- Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan - The author was working as a reporter when she started to show signs of psychosis. After waking up in a strange hospital bed having no memory of her month of madness. She pieces together what happened to her when her immune system attacked her brain and caused her to swing back and forth between violence and catatonia. A scary and fascinating story.
- The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida - This book gives great insights into the autistic mind. As a person with multiple family members "on the spectrum, this book was inspiring and extremely moving. If you ever wondered why an autistic person acts the way they do, this book, written by a 13-year-old autistic boy, will give you insight and useful tips for dealing better with those around you who are on the spectrum.
- Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly - As a struggling Catholic in a world that revels in bashing Catholics, this book has been a great handbook for getting excited about my religion again.
- Karma Gone Bad: How I learned to love mangos, Bollywood, and water buffalos by Jenny Feldon - I am not a fan of self indulgent, whiny autobiographical books like Eat, Pray, Love (probably one of my least favorite books) and it's "poor me"-isms. Karma Gone Bad is not that kind of book. I have reviewed this book in a previous blog (read it here). I really enjoyed this book and have recommended it highly.
I was all over the place with my fiction reading this year. From murder mysteries to juvenile fiction, there was nothing out of bounds. Here are the ones I found most memorable:
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio - Yes, I am starting with a juvenile fiction book. I can't help it. I loved this book. Working in a library certainly does open me up to books that I normally wouldn't read. Wonder by R. J. Palacio was one of those books. It has been a long time since a juvenile fiction book has mesmerized me in such a way that I feel compelled to tell people to read it. The last book to do this was "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls. Wonder is the story of 10-year-old Auggie, who was born with severe facial disformities. His parents decide, after years of homeschooling, that Auggie should go to school. Auggie is both excited and afraid. We then have the pleasure of following Auggie and his classmates through his first year at school. I could NOT put this book down and lost several hours of sleep reading it. Sad and triumphant, this book is...a WONDER.
- Inferno by Dan Brown - I loved all of Dan Brown's previous books. Inferno made the list this year because I was so excited when I heard that it was going to be released and it was such a disappointing book. Mr. Brown is either loosing his touch or trying to pull a "Patterson" by riding on the coattails of his previous EXCELLENT books. The puzzles and symbolism that made his previous books so great were sorely lacking in this installment. I actually wanted to get my money back on this one.
- The Walk by Richard Paul Evans - Let me start this by saying I hate sappy books. I have always put Mr. Evans' book in the Sappy Crap category. At one point during the Summer, I was without a good book to read and The Walk was a Kindle Deal. I went for it. The main character, Alan Christoffersen, decides, after a series of personal and professional set backs, to walk from Seattle, WA to Key West, FL. It, of course, has a "cliff hanger" ending which made me read the next book in the series (Miles to Go), the third (Road to Grace), and the fourth (A Step of Faith). I currently am hanging there waiting to read the fifth and hopefully last of the series (Walking on Water) which is scheduled to release in June 2014. While they are not great literature, they were pleasant books that kept me involved and interested enough to want to read the next book.
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - I waited until the hype died and broke down and read this book. What stands out about this book is the fact that there is not one likable character. Even in the most horrible stories you can normally pick one sympathetic person that you can identify with. In the end, I wished that they had all killed each other.
- Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman - I have always been a fan of myths. Each culture has it's own myths, from the Native American's to the deepest jungles of Africa. Mr. Gaiman has a magical way of telling updated stories of these myths. Anansi Boys tells the story of two brothers, Fat Charlie and Spider. They meet after their father Mr. Nancy, dies. In typical myth fashion, Spider takes over Fat Charlies life - from his job to his girlfriend - and the two get discover and get tangled in a coworkers embezzlement scheme and a mythic struggle between good and evil.
- Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter - A struggling inn on the Italian coast is visited by a beautiful young actress, who is there to rest because she is "dying". Pasquale, the innkeeper, falls in love with the actress, Dee Moray. She, unfortunately, is involved with the famous husband of a famous actress in the movie in which she is an extra. A thoroughly entertaining book which the characters interact with two Hollywood legends.
- Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth - I know, I know...not another YA (young adult) dystopia (noun. An imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror) triliogy. This trilogy follows the story of Beatrice Prior from her Choosing Day ceremony in which she chooses which of the five personality based factions she joins. She can choose the faction she was born into (Abnegation) or one of the other four (Amity, Candor, Dauntless, or Erudite). I enjoyed the first two books so much that I actually pre-ordered the third book. Divergent has been made into a move which comes out in March 2014.
- When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey - Nine-year-old Leah's invisible friend starts telling her to paint pictures that predict things that are to happen. From the winning lottery numbers to a storm that will change the lives of those in her new town. Is her invisible friend God or something sinister? This question is asked by those around her.
- While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax - The story of the residents of the swanky Alexander apartment building forge a bond while watching the weekly episode of Downton Abbey. Not my normal type of book but I was missing Downton Abbey. While I wouldn't give it high marks for literature, it was a pleasant book and will kind of give you a Downton Abbey fix.
- The Fault In Our Stars by John Green - There are some young adult authors who are NOT writing clique novels about rich guys and girls who have everything they want and still want more. John Green writes books about realistic teenagers and their lives. My favorite of his books is The Fault In Our Stars, the story of Hazel and Augustus, who meet in a Cancer Kids support group. Moving and well written, I advise you to keep the tissues handy.
- 11/22/63 by Stephen King - I decided to read King's fantasy about time travel and the Kennedy assassination when everyone was talking about the 50th anniversary of the assassination. What would happen if you could go back and stop the assassination? You might be surprised at King's take on the idea. Great read.
That's all I can think of now. If I think of any additional books I forgot, I will add in the comments.
Please share your favorites of 2013.
Thanks for reading.