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.



16 comments:

  1. Great list! Freedom made my top 10 a few years ago, and East of Eden and Crossing to Safety are among my all-time favorites. I thought Bernadette was a hoot, and plan to check out the rest of your titles.

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  2. That is the beauty of a feed reader. Whenever you post, it shows up magically so I never miss a post. Don't beat yourself up over it.

    I haven't even done a Best Of list and probably won't by the new year! I didn't read too many books that wowed me this year. Of course, my reading was down quite a bit. Fifty books. My lowest yet.

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    1. Hi Ti! Thanks for stopping by. I actually read less than 50.

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  3. Hi, Mrs B! Oh, we have a book in common in our list—Wonder! I love that book!

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  4. Up At The Villa is the only one of these I've read, but I'll be (nervously) reading this in 2014 for my book group. I've just come from Rachel/Book Snob and seen that she also loved Crossing To Safety as her book of the year, so I'm going to have to look out for that...

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  5. Hi Simon, I think you'll love Crossing to Safety so do try it.

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  6. Mrs. B,

    These are good lists, this one and your last post. I'll definitely keep them in mind. I've read a few of them, and many are on my TBR. I watched East of Eden on DVD earlier this year, and then Rebel With A Cause, for the first time. I was much impressed by James Dean. And Elia Kazan, another talent. I watched his Streetcar Named Desire with Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, which I think is an homage to it. As for Franzen's Freedom, I've that book for some years now, still haven't opened. Maybe I'll just do that soon. A Happy New Year to you and your family!

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    1. Hi Arti, Thanks for dropping by. Agree, Elia Kazan's movies are great and Dean was such an excellent actor. It took me ages to read Franzen too but glad I finally did. Now I have to read The Corrections. Happy New Year to you and yours!

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  7. Hi, Mrs. B! Aside from Wonder, I've also read Where'd You Go, Bernadette and Eleanor and Park. They didn't make it to my final top 10 list, but they were in the long list.:)

    I was laughing when I read the part in your blog post about having only 11 posts this year, because last night, I was just saying that I only posted 10 times on my blog for 2013. I completely, completely understand.:) But, like you, I hang on to book blogging because it makes me happy.

    I've heard many good things about Far From the Tree, and I'm also intrigued by East of Eden and the Maugham. Thanks for the recommendations! Here's to more reading for us this year!

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    1. Hi Honey, I guess we have both been slacking at blogging but I was very happy to see your best of the year list too. Hope to hear more from you in 2014.

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  8. I loved Up at the Villa, one of my very favorites by Maugham. And it's nice that it's so short, you can practically read it in one sitting. Hope to see more of your posts in 2014!

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  9. I thought Bernadette was great fun and have had Crossing to Safety on my tbr too long. I still can't bring myself to read East of Eden but I best try one of these days.

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  10. Please post again soon. I really enjoy your reviews and you've pointed me to a number of books that have been big hits for me. Am eager to hear what you have been reading lately. Hope all is well.... -- Caterina

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I really love hearing from people who read my blog. Would love to know which ones were the hits that I recommended. I've been posting more on Twitter or Instagram lately but I hope to get back to blogging soon.

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