2013 was my best reading year in quite a while. I finished everything I started, and at least appreciated, if not outright loved, everything I read. In fact, I think it would be difficult to name a Worst Book of the Year. I think the best I can do this year is “Most Forgettable”. There was definitely a small handful of books that were fine while I was reading them, but had zero staying power.
As always, the stats and write-ups below are for everything I read in 2013. Books may have been published at any time. You can find a complete list of books I read this year here. For past Books in Review posts, check out 2012, 2011, and 2010.
Total Books Read: 82
Total Pages Read: 31,945
New Books: 71– A new record since I’ve been keeping tabs!
Longest Read: 28 days for The Mapmaker’s War, by Ronlyn Domingue
-Other long hauls: 24 days for Marilynne Robinson’s Home, 22 days for Jerry White’s A Great and Monstrous Thing, and 20 days for Joyce Carol Oates’ Bellefleur
My average time spent reading each book was about 4.7 days, though most commonly I took 1 or 2 days to finish a book. I counted as 2 days any book that carried over into the next day, even when the total time spent reading was less than 24 hours.
Best Books Read in 2013
In the order in which I read them:
The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt: Just so much fun. I tore through it so quickly my first time around that I hope to get back to it soon to fully appreciate its wit.
The Queen’s Gambit, by Walter Tevis: Another one that was memorably fun, though not comedically. I enjoyed the economy and pacing of this book about an orphan who becomes a world chess champion, but moreso, I loved the buzz of reading a book in which a character I cared about intensely came out of the gate kicking ass and just kept going.
The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud: Despite the acclaim for this book, there was a vocal minority of haters who were turned off by the naïve, querelous, and resentful protagonist, who becomes somewhat obsessed with the new family in town. I loved the Messud’s embrace of her heroine’s anger, and the way she used Nora’s experiences to expose a kind of neediness and sense of inferiority most of us feel at some point, but are often disgusted and embarrassed by.
Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell: Believe the hype. It’s a first-love story told with a fresh voice and a pair of protagonists you’ll root for till the last page. It’s cliché to say, “I laughed, I cried,” but I did both and would do it again. Rowell’s writing evokes the kind of memory you feel all over, like whatever it was is happening to you again right now. You forget the writing itself because the experience is so immediate.
The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope: Oh, 19th century Brit-Lit, you just keep giving. This was the first year in a long time I didn’t pick up at least one Dickens novel, but Trollope gave me the Victorian fix I needed. His unsparing portraits of people jockeying for social prestige, wealth, and power are tempered by the fully-rounded personalities he delineates. He understands these people. He’s bitterly critical, but the title of the book still says, “We”, not “You”. He’s one of us. And, by the way, still could be. To make a rather obvious point, The Way We Live Now is, in many ways, still the way we live now.
Canada, by Richard Ford: The kind of book that quietly overtakes you with its unfaltering commitment to its tone, purpose, and characters. Ford is never not in control of his vision. The events of the novel are sensational in and of themselves, but Dell, our narrator, relates his struggles in a way that reminds us constantly that for some people, this is just life. His story is not an attempt at self-revelation or exhibitionism. He’s just trying to make sense of things for himself.
Most Forgettable Books: The Drowning Girl, by Caitlin Kiernan. I read it a month ago and seriously can barely remember anything that happened in it or any emotional reaction I might have had… I think it was okay? And The Lord of Opium, by Nancy Farmer, which was so disappointing after its great antecedent, The House of the Scorpion. Another disappointment was last year’s much-hyped The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker.
My mind is a blank right now! I might even take a break from reading… you know, till 2014. 🙂