Thursday, December 26, 2013

Best Books of 2013

I had a terrible blogging year having only posted 11 times! No excuses other than being generally busy with life and two kids (ages 8 and 2). Thanks to those of you who still drop by once in a while to read what I have to say. I do read every comment and I do follow the links to your own blogs. When I started blogging in 2009 there actually weren't that many book blogs but the market has since exploded with new ones everyday.  After four years, I can honestly say that I still visit my favorite blogs (see my blog roll) as often as I can and still think highly of their book recommendations. I hope to blog more often in 2014 so do stay tuned.

So here it is - my ten best of 2013. In this list, there are two non-fiction books (one about parenting and one about a true crime), three classics, two young adult novels, a comedy, two novels by two Nobel prize winners and two books released in 2013. All in all it's been a pretty good reading year. Although I always wish I'd read more. Again they are in no particular order, however the first five were the best among the ten. Happy New Year and see you all in 2014!

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen 
I never thought I would like Franzen's novels so I never read one till this year. I loved, loved Freedom. I know this is a book people either love or hate. It's flawed and imperfect but maybe that's why I found it endearing. Loved his writing, the dialogue, the myriad plot and the journey and growth of his dysfunctional characters. For me this was a rich and rewarding read.

Crossing to a Safety by Wallace Stegner - I absolutely loved the perfectly written Crossing to Safety, our book club read for May. Though not much happens in this novel of two couples who meet during the Depression and form an instant and lifelong friendship, it's actually quite deep. The book resulted in a very interesting and thought-provoking discussion. For a quiet and gentle novel about ordinary lives, there was surprisingly so much to talk about. 

Wonder by RJ Palacio - This is truly a rare and unexpected gem, one that reminds us once again of what it is to be human. August Pullman is 10-years-old and has had 27 surgeries in his young life to correct his facial defect.  The book begins when Auggie enters middle school after being home schooled for most of his life. Here, Auggie comes face to face with the beauty and sometimes ugliness of his peers. A truly moving book that transcends genres.

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi - Horrifying, fascinating and completely absorbing in ways I never imagined. This certainly doesn't glorify the killers at all but is an interesting first hand account by the prosecuting attorney of the search for the killers, their arrest and trials. What I found compelling is how this terrible man was able to influence these young middle-class youngsters to just do his bidding. 

East of Eden by John Steinbeck - As a teenager I loved the James Dean movie so I was afraid to touch the book. I never knew that Elia Kazan's film is based only on the latter part of this story that covers three generations. I loved this book all the way through till the last portion. Somehow the part of the book covered in the film was done better than in the book...or maybe it was just Dean's outstanding performance as Cal. James Dean was Cal Trask and no amount of imagination while reading the book could beat that. But still East of Eden is a powerful and beautiful novel and I'm so glad I finally read it.

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing - My first book by Nobel prize winner Doris Lessing. Brilliantly wtitten, horrific and disturbing. This isn't a horror novel in the supernatural sense at all. It's about a perfect family who's fifth child turns out to be strange and without empathy and how this ultimately breaks the family apart.
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
Solomon writes about real families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, prodigies, children conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. This is an important book, one that enlightens us on how these parents cope daily and as time passes with a special needs child. 

Where'd You Go Bernadette? By Maria Semple - I totally loved this! This was such a breath of fresh air. It is a quirky story with kooky characters. Bee's mother, Bernadette, has disappeared so Bee sets out to find her using letters, blog posts, emails, FBI documents, etcetera. I don't think I've ever read anything like this before and I wish there were more books of Bernadette and her family. Nothing really deep here just fun, fun, fun!

Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham - Mary Panton walls up her desires in a beautiful villa high up in the hills above Florence. But a single act of compassion begins a nightmare of violence. Beautifully written. No wonder it's a classic. 

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - Sweet, simple, and lovely. This is exactly what I needed after reading about the Manson family. Eleanor and Park are two sixteen-year-olds in 1986 from different backgrounds who fall in love while riding the bus to and from school. They exchange mixed-tapes, X-men and Watchmen comic books and gradually fall in love.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Books Read in 2013

These are the books I read in 2013. Forty-seven books so far so that's four more than last year. I've included children's books I read aloud to Lucas, my eldest son, rereads, nonfiction and a graphic novel. The ratings are based on my ratings in Goodreads. Stay tuned for my top list of 2013.

Books Read in 2013
  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (reread)  *****
  2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck *****
  3. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce ***
  4. Where'd you go Bernadette? by Maria Semple *****
  5. The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer **
  6. Wonder by R.J. Palacio *****
  7. Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger ***
  8. The Melt Method by Sue Hitzmann ****
  9. It by Stephen King ***
  10. Never Mind by Edward St, Aubyn ****
  11. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter *****
  12. A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson *****
  13. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett ****
  14. The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1) by Megan Whalen Turner ****
  15. Wool by Hugh Howey ***
  16. Bad News by Edward St. Aubyn *
  17. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe ****
  18. More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl **
  19. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid **
  20. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner *****
  21. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster *****
  22. Anne Hereford by Mrs. Henry Wood ****
  23. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser ***
  24. Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell ***
  25. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani **
  26. In the Woods by Tana French (reread) *****
  27. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi *****
  28. Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary  ***
  29. Otherwise Known as Shiela the Great by Judy Blume (reread) ****
  30. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell ****
  31. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe **
  32. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen *****
  33. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor ***
  34. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien ****
  35. The Never List by Koethi Zan **
  36. Everyday by David Levithan ***
  37. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan **
  38. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman ****
  39. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling *****
  40. Night Film By Marisha Pessl ****
  41. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon ****
  42. They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple *****
  43. Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman ****
  44. Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham *****
  45. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion ****
  46. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing ****
  47. Heartburn by Nora Ephron ***
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