These are the books that I think have best stuck with me this year-though there are definitely others.
#1 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. This was just a beautiful love story. I can’t find the words to describe it so here is the Goodreads blurb.
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.
This was the kind of book that makes me do a happy dance. The characters are well written, the story surprises you and I found a new author with a collection of books to look forward to trying. I loved seeing Will and Lou first see each other as more than they appeared and then finding out how strong they each were. Read this!
#2 Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta. This is the conclusion of Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles. At my polite request (ahem), Holly just read and reviewed Book #1, Finnikin of the Rock which is also a 5 star book for me. Quintana wraps up the Lumatere Chronicles beautifully and this is another book that made me cry. Read them!!
# 3 My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor is just freaking amazing. She’s brilliant and she rose into her position against pretty overwhelming odds. My friend Kara said in her review of this book, “She is what America is about;” which is a perfect summation. I feel good having a woman like this on the bench. I hope she can write another memoir to share what her years as a judge were like.
#4 Chimes at Midnight by Seanan Maguire. This is book 7 of Maguire October Daye series, which I highly recommend if you like urban fantasy/paranormal. October is a changeling, half human and half fae and is something of a detective in the fae world. The series has only gotten stronger as it continues and this last book brought me to tears– I didn’t know a pie could break my heart let me tell you. Its really hard to say something about just one book of a series! So I’ll just say to give Toby a try. She’s not perfect, but she is a champion at heart. Rosemary & Rue is the first book so start here!
Honorable Mention – The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. I heard the author on the NYT Book Review podcast discussing how she wanted to write a love story intermixing her culture with that of her husband. And so Chava -our golem and Ahmad-the jinni were born. I loved the movement of this book, from Europe to New York, from ancient Syria to 1899 in New York again. Clearly I like fantasy books, but I didn’t find this to be too “fantastic”. There was so much realism brought out I thought in the setting and in the cultural influences of Judaism and the Syrian immigrant community. I recommend this for just a really different book-also a good story of of how strong relationships can be and what love is like even without the physical. (Pssst – Goodreads is giving this book away -sign up! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/72308-the-golem-and-the-jinni)
When Amanda said, “oh, we should write a post on the best books we’ve read in 2013,” I had to really think about what I’ve read this year that I loved. This was a much easier task for Amanda, I’m sure, because a) she reads books basically by osmosis, so she’s got a plethora of books to choose from for the year, and because b) she tracks everything on Goodreads. I, on the other hand, read a fraction of what my sister does in a year, and just started to get the hang of Goodreads sometime in the last few weeks (admittedly, I am now hooked).
So, what did I read this year that really stood out to me?
# 1 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I LOVED this book. When I finished it, I posted something on Facebook about how I was probably (as always) behind the times, but that if you hadn’t read this book yet, you should. I got lots of agreement from friends about how fascinating the content is, but also some mixed reviews about the writing style. I however, was completely drawn into the book, and I appreciated the mix of science and personal narrative that Skloot used, including her discomfort as she got more and more involved with the Lacks family. Do I have to add that Amanda was the one who told me to read this book? I swear, she is (almost) always right-on. You should listen to her too.
#2 Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. I know I have already waxed poetic about how much I loved Devil in the White City, and I never would have picked up Thunderstruck if not for my complete obsession with that book and Larson’s writing style. This one is different, and it did take a bit to get into, but this book has definitely stayed with me. What I love about Larson’s books is the level of detail about people and places and trends during the period he’s writing about. I started Thunderstruck just after reading Alice I Have Been (a novel based on the girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland), and I remember noticing (and recognizing) a reference to Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) as the book opens with an 1894 (I did not remember this fact 6 months later…I had to look it up) scientific lecture in London, and Dodgson was a member of the hosting body. I appreciate the facts and all the context, though looking at reviews of this book on Goodreads, I see things like “an interesting book but often slowed by side journeys into minutia,” so I guess that’s not for everyone. I say, bring on the minutia!
#3 Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Since I just told you about how much I love this book, I’ll spare you the details – but I will link to my review! Just read it, because I am not going to shut up about this one anytime soon. Or ever.
Honorable Mention – The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster. Yes, after writing a pretty awful review of Jeneration X, I am giving The Tao of Martha an honorable mention for my best of 2013, and I’ve even rated it 5-stars on Goodreads. I really liked this book, and I’ve given unsolicited recommendations of this one on more than one occasion. One of my best friends went through a phase of being fascinated with organizing – not actually doing the organizing, but wondering why there are so many organizing gurus and organizing step-by-step workbooks and organizing professionals who will manage your life and your closet, etc. And this book, through Jen’s style of writing memoirs about her (repeated) attempts to not be an asshole, gets to that point – that having yourself slightly pulled together in one area of your life, often makes other areas work better. That’s a pretty solid message for the end of one year and the start of a new, no?