Best reads of 2013

I grew up on a farm, out in the country with very few neighbors. Since our TV only got one station, my sisters and I read. We read before school and while riding the school bus. We read before supper and during supper and after supper. We read in the bathtub and while we were supposed to be sleeping at night.

I read voraciously, hungrily. Right before sleep I’d think of all the books I hadn’t yet read and I’d become anxious: What if I never had the chance to read them?

I still read, of course, I still have multiple books going at once, I still stay up half the night because I’m unable to put a book down. And I still sometimes worry about what books I would read or re-read if I only had a year left to live.

I decided to list my favorite books from this year. Many of them are re-reads; I tend to read my most loved books over and over until they become as familiar and worn as friends. I even tuck them beneath my pillow, the edges brushing my face and neck as I move about in my sleep, pieces of that story mixing with my dreams.

ab7Best memoir: I love memoirs, the more honest and raw, the better. And this year I discovered one so beautifully written that it almost hurt to read: The Still Point of the Turning World, by Emily Rapp. I can’t recommend this enough. Read it. Now.

Most inspiring memoir: Hands down it has to be the running memoir that was about so much more than running, that crosses the boundary between sport and addiction recovery. Running Ransom Road by Caleb Daniloff.

Memoir I wanted to like but couldn’t: I tried, folks, I really did. But I just couldn’t like I’m Not Saint: A Nasty Little Memoir of Love and Leaving by Elizabeth Hyat. There’s nothing wrong with the book or the writing, it’s just that I couldn’t warm up to Hyat’s narrative. I couldn’t warm up to her, which was a shame since this could have been a compelling read if the Hyat had added a little depth and vulnerability to her prose.

ab2Best short story collection: Oh, this one was so good, so rich and funny and ironic and well written and oddly wonderful that as soon as I finished the last story, I immediately turned to the beginning and started all over again. Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain by Lucia Perillo.

Best Novel: This was published years ago but I reread it again this past spring, once again marveling at the humor and grace. Women and Horses by Aussie author Candida Baker.

Best Fiction: The writing in this little gem is like no other, lyrical and poetical, each word lingering in my mouth. I read, and I savored. Ru by Kim Thuy.

aaa1Best Light Novel: Sometimes I want to read something light but still filling, something not quite chick-lit but not so deep as to cause me to ponder or wonder each time I set it down. The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café by Mary Simses was warm, filling and loaded with heart.

Best Indie Book: I don’t normally read indie books or at least I didn’t until this year. And while many lack editing and writing skills, many others are surprisingly top-notch. Which brings me to Yesterday Road by Kevin Brennan. The writing is literary quality, the characters lovable and memorable, the prose laugh-out-loud funny in places. What I loved most, however, is that the characters aren’t one-dimensional. These are flawed and scarred people, which makes them all the more real, and all the more endearing.

Did I miss anything? Let me know if there’s a book you think I simply must read for 2014. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

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10 thoughts on “Best reads of 2013

  1. Thanks for the great recommendations, Cinthia–none of these books were on my radar. My suggestion to you for a good read is Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea, who’ll be in Anchorage in April for a 49 Writers Crosscurrents. A book I’d never have found but for that fact. The story and characters stay with you for a long time.

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  2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is rockstar good. Also loved Broken Harbor by Tana French–cannot wait to read whatever she writes next. The Dominion of the Bear is pretty amazing: self, animals, landscape, Alaska, all in one stellar book that will haunt me for all time, Alice Hoffman’s memoir about breast cancer. For 2014, you HAVE to read Lydia’s Party by Margaret Hawkins. It is amazing.

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  3. My TBR tower is threatening to topple over me and the cats as I (very gingerly) add your favs to it 🙂 Early in 2013 I read Christopher Hitchens’ Mortality and Joan Didion’s Blue Nights. I’m not really a Hitchens fan but the design of the book was so lovely (a small hardcover) and his honesty about his struggle with cancer was so compelling, I couldn’t put it down once I started reading. Blue Nights is a harder read compared to The Year of Magical Thinking: much of it reads like fragmented memory. But I found it to be a beautiful and poignant homage to her daughter. Around the same time, I resumed blogging and soon found myself reading lots of indie books and Kevin’s definitely was the best of the bunch. Oh, and if you haven’t already, consider reading his other novel, Parts Unknown 🙂

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  4. I also experience that anxiety of too many books, too little time. I will be giving this list a closer look–in my down time at work tomorrow. As you do. 🙂 I’m curious also about Dolls Behaving Badly so I’ll add it to the list also. More books to add to the infinite list! Cue anxiety…

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  5. Incidentally I just finished reading The Last Island by David Hogan who is from the same stable as me (Betimes Books) but that’s not why I mention him. Very engaging, poignant and thought provoking book. Now I’m burrowing my way through The Goldfinch. Love exchanging recommendations!

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