best books of 2013

ImagesHave been thinking about my favorite books of 2013.  I have read many of the books on the countless lists that we all read at the end of year.  I know I am a big fan of the end of year wrap-ups.  I figured I would go through the books I have read this year and put together my best of list.

No particular order except my number one.  

1 – Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.  I have read all of Tartt's book.  The Secret History, her first book is a must read if you have not read it.  Her second book, The  Little Friend, was not great but I did finish it.  I was initially scared about diving into The Goldfinch a 784 page book but after reading Stephen Kings review of her book in the NYTimes I thought otherwise.  He summed it up best when he wrote "The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind….Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction."  Enough said.

A House in the Sky; a Memoir by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett.  There are few books that keep me up late into the night and this was one of them.  Lindhout grew up in Alberta Canada in an extremely dysfunctional family where she found solace reading National Geographic Magazines that she would find in dumpsters.  She grew up with a desire to travel to the world and see something outside the world she grew up in.  Slightly naive she embarked on a variety of travels after saving enough money working in high end bars in Canada before venturing out for months on end returning each time to Canada to fill her bank account to repeat the journey somewhere new and exciting.

She figures by going into Somalia she could make her mark and enter the world of journalism as she had begun to write for little known publications.  Her care free backpacker attitude did not truly understanding the risks that lie ahead.  Within two days of getting to Somalia she is kidnapped.  This memoir follows her story from begining to end when she finally arrives home safe.  Scary.

Two Boys Kissing; David Levithan  This is just a beautiful young adults book.  It reads like a long essay. In many ways this book is an ode to the many gay people who have been trapped behind doors including the many who died of AIDS as their voices are heard through this book too.  The main story is around two books who attempt to get into the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest kiss on record. That story is surrounded by a variety of characters who are struggling with their own sexuality.  I loved this book.

Men We Reaped; A Memoir by Jessamyn Ward  I have read Wards other books but this particular book is one that I believe will become more important as time goes on.  She writes about her own life growing up in rural Mississippi and the men she grew up with, her peers, who all die before they turn 30.  She gives incredible insight into the hardships of men growing up poor with few role models if any.  Each die from different circumstances yet there is a sad thread among each of them.  Very eye opening look about race relations in our own country.  It is a disturbing commentary on growing up black in rural America. Makes you wonder how we break that cycle.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer  In many ways this is a beach read but because it stuck with me I am putting it on my list.  A group of teenagers from different walks of life all meet at art camp in 1974. We follow their lives and their relationships with each other as they grow over the next 40 years.  There is something interesting about the baggage that each of them carry throughout their lives as all of us do.  Their insecurities, their successes and failures, the paths that they take.  I grew up at the same time as the characters in this book which is why I found the book a very interesting novel about my generation.

The Circle; Dave Eggers  I have read all of Eggers books.  The story here is not exactly that interesting or deep when it comes to the characters.  Regardless this book is a must read as he has written an intriguing as well as frightening book that is a social commentary about the world we live in today.  Many of the things that take place in this book are already taking place today.  Makes you wonder what would happen if Google ruled the world.  

That is my list.  I wish there were more novels that I loved but honestly Donna Tartt is such an insanely fantastic read that I might have to read it again in 2014.



Comments (Archived):

  1. Tom Labus

    I wavered a few times with The Interestings but always came back to read more and finally finish. I like Dave Eggers a lot. It’s good to see someone take a critical look at the The Valley and Tech

    1. Gotham Gal

      Particularly an outsider writing about a world that many of us breath daily

  2. Sherry Lombardi

    Great list – thanks for sharing, Joanne. I’ve had The Circle and a House in the Sky on my to-read list, so good to hear. I just started The Goldfinch and already don’t want to walk away from it.PS – not on your list, but on the side bar… I also love Liane Moriarty’s books. Have read them all and Moriarty is totally on my “people I’d love to have dinner with” list – or maybe that should be a “girls night out list” instead. Sounds more fun.Happy new year!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Good to know. Have not read any of those books. Will try

  3. kathryn jones

    Golfinch is next on my list – and you totally turned me on to Men We Reaped and House in the Sky – Thank you!- I just finished The Luminaries – if you haven’t read it I can’t recommend it enough – a long read, but fascinating and smart and mysterious and really fun…. and my sidebar shout out – Life After Life – one of my favorite experiences this year!

  4. denmeade

    I always enjoy reading your recommendations. Thank you for sharing them. The Goldfinch, The Interestings and The Circle were all on my list of good reads this year. Some of the other novels I liked – The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton), The Lowlands (Jhumpa Lahiri), The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan) and Americanah (Chimamanda Adichie).

  5. Susan B

    Stacie S. introduced me to your blog, a great find. Our taste in books is so similar–thanks for such great recos. But really, The Goldfinch is my Book Of The Year; it was quite a journey, some of it in tears, so moving, such incredible writing. And we are also fellow Wesleyan parents (and I’m married to a Wes grad.) Happy 2014!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Love Wes

  6. awaldstein

    Great list and thanks.Started this one after hearing an interview with Terry Gross the other day.Really fascinating guy and a view of earth and work that is obviously unique.

    1. leigh

      Christopher Hadfield is simply awesome. Got the book for xmas and going to dig in after i finish the Book of Negros and the new Joseph Boyten book the Orenda (which my 17 yr old just finished and she said to me, Mommy, isn’t it weird that we learn more about the French revolution than we do about the Native People of Canada in history class?)

      1. awaldstein

        Yup–Lianna has already started reading this and is driving a lot of interesting discussions.For an astronaut, details are everything and planning is a life saver. Makes an interesting philosophical flip on how you can both focus on the small stuff and not make it all about it.Have a great new year.

  7. dana

    I am reading Goldfinch now. Great holiday reading . Really fantastic writer. Thanks for this list Jo. Happy New Year.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Nice. A comment from Dana!!

  8. aweissman

    The Flamethrowers, Rachel KushnerHappy new year!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Interesting. I wanted to love it. I just did not love any of the characters. Why did you love it?

      1. aweissman

        I loved the writing, I was able to get lost in the words on almost every page

        1. Gotham Gal

          Appreciate that