2013 by the books

best-books-2013-1024x862Jamie of The Perpetual Page Turner has created a 2013 End of Year Book Survey, which I find terribly convenient. I drove from Vermont to Virginia yesterday, all by myself in my little Toyota Corolla, and the trip was very long and snowy. I’m still on vacation today from work – a perfect opportunity to write a end-of-year review post – but am quite happy to borrow someone else’s format rather than try to be original.

1. Best Book You Read In 2013?

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. This is epic storytelling, a long book where the pages just flew by.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. I was definitely engrossed by the first book, but found the last two books to be strangely tiresome.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013? 

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. I was preparing for this 1974 sci-fi classic to be a tough but good-for-you type of read. Instead, I found it to be very accessible and fascinating read. There are a few “hard science fiction” passages involving space physics that went over my head, but they didn’t dent my enjoyment.

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

There wasn’t a book I read in 2013 that I was heavily campaigning for this year, but I think The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley was the one I probably recommended the most, being somewhat of a “sure thing” due to its likability factor.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

I don’t read a lot of series and the word “discovered” is kind of laughable in light of which series I’m going to name, but here goes: The Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie. It’s true: I had never read them before this year!

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

Elizabeth Bowen. I read To the North this year and her dense but rewarding prose is something I’d like to experience again.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. It’s a 1973 book about economics – but many of Schumacher’s points are as relevant today as they were then.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

I’m cheating but it’s a tough call between these three: Lonesome Dove, Patrick Ness‘ The Knife of Letting Go or Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong. I was reading it for a book club and ended up speed-reading through it, which is really the wrong approach for the book. It deserves a more thoughtful re-read.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

I really liked the cover of The Forever War. I think the typography is what clinches it. Very simple. And the cover is probably a visual allusion to the Vietnam War, at least it seems to me.


11. Most memorable character in 2013? 

Not sure, maybe Janie of Lonesome Dove, though she’s a minor character. I don’t know why she jumped to mind first, when that epic offers up the like of Gus McCrae.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

For beauty, I’d have to hand it to Elizabeth Bowen’s To the North.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? 

I would usually be trying to think of the book with the greatest emotional impact, but I’m going to take a different tack and list two books that actually affected my actions. Mark Bittman’s VB6: Vegan Before 6 introduced me to several great vegan recipes that I’ve incorporated into my regular repertoire of meals, in my quest to eat more vegetables in my diet.

And although I already knew about the bystander effect, the refresher course offered within the pages of Situations Matter by Sam Sommers made me more alert to it than before. Early last month, when I saw a power line on fire after an ice storm while driving, I almost succumbed to the effect as I saw other drivers passing by, but then I pulled over and called it in to emergency services. After I finished the call (and the transformer exploded), another woman pulled up next to my car and told me that she had initially passed by it, but then saw me pull over and thought she should maybe go back and double-check on it. Bystander effect: it can happen to you.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read? 

The Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

McMurtry prefaced Lonesome Dove with this lovely epigraph by T.K. Whipple: “All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.”

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest at 112 pages: Fifty Fashion Looks that Changed the 1960’s by Paula Reed, Design Museum

Longest at 945 pages: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?

There’s a scene where several likable characters are horribly killed in Lonesome Dove and that just rocked me.

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

The general camaraderie in The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Saving Grace by Lee Smith. She’s an author I can count on for a good read.

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Most of my reading list is composed of recommendations that I’ve picked up around the blogosphere, but I’ll throw out The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway since I haven’t mentioned that book yet in the survey.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Couldn’t say – I think I was all over the place as far as genre this year.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Nobody really fits the bill, but I thought Trevor from Kristan Higgans’ Just One of the Guys was pretty nice.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?

Only three of the books I read this year qualify for this category, but Bee Ridgway’s The River of No Return wins, followed closely by Jeff Chu’s Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, leaving Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half in third, or last place, I guess.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

Loved the world-building in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The post-battlefield scene that depicts the meeting of Madrigal and Akiva was almost cinematic, for instance.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming. Fleming’s account of his 1930’s trip to the Brazilian interior is intelligent and humorous. I was reading sections out loud to my family over Christmas.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

The Knife of Letting Go and Lonesome Dove.

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out? 

All the books I read that were published this year are pretty well-known, and I don’t know what the reception was like for the rest.

Book Blogging / Reading Life 2013 optional questions

Favorite review that you wrote in 2013?

Perhaps not my best-written review, but I guess I’m proud of the one I wrote for Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs. It’s the seventh book in a series, so not a likely candidate for a good review, but I took notes while reading it and after, and that helped make the review pretty decent. It’s a reminder that maybe I should take reading notes more often.

Best discussion you had on your blog?

I appreciated the advice given by other bloggers in my first post of the year.

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

National Book Festival in Washington D.C.

Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

According to WordPress stats, my most popular post written this year was the review of VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00, which make sense as far as which books I reviewed would likely have broad interest to internet searchers. (An old review of The Hunchback of Notre Dame had the most views – no doubt thanks to all the students out there trying to write papers on it.)

Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

As Jamie of Perpetual Page Turner said in response to this question, review posts tend to get the least amount of love, a trend across the book blogosphere. This makes sense because people may be reluctant to comment if they haven’t read the book and thus when I review books that are from authors’ backlist or are more obscure, I have learned not to expect too much. For instance, my reviews of Saving Grace by Lee Smith, Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs, and To the North by Elizabeth Bowen were all comment-less. But the review that surprised me for having little response was my less-than-positive review of the Chaos Walking trilogy. Considering how well-loved this series is, I was surprised that only two people commented. I was thinking it was the type of post that would draw readers out of the woodwork, but maybe there is not as much overlap between my blog’s readers and lovers of that trilogy as I thought.

Looking ahead:

One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?

In September 2013, I started Taylor Branch’s award-winning Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954 – 63. I like the book but I’m only at page 112 of the 1062 page book. Eep. I’m borrowing the book from a friend so I do want to finish it or at least make an honorable attempt to do so.

Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014?

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen.

One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?

I hope to read a bunch of books from my own collection as part of the TBR Triple Dog Dare.

Reading Stats and Final Notes

Number of Books Read: 39 (14,494 pages according to my Goodreads stats)

Nonfiction / Fiction: 15 / 24 (non-ficton reads were over 30% of books read)

Interesting note: I’ve often felt that my knowledge of world events and ideas is a bit fuzzy between World War II and the 1980’s – a timespan recent enough to get short shrift in high school history, but too old to be part of my own memory (I’m in my early thirties). Somewhat accidentally, a number of books I read this year were either written in that time period or were about that time period: Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden (about the 1979 – 1980 Iran hostage crisis); Fifty Fashion Looks that Changed the 1960’s; The Forever War; Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright; and Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher; and what little I have read of Parting the Waters. Perhaps I’ll be more deliberate about my reading in this regard, and seek out more books from and about the time between 1945 and 1990.

Whew! So there it is, 2013’s reading in review. I still have a some books left to review from 2013, like Gone Girl, Hyperbole and a Half, Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming, Torn by Justin Lee, Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu, and a slew of Golden Age mysteries. I have their reviews planned out, if not written yet.

What was your reading life like in 2013?


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10 responses to “2013 by the books

  1. What a wonderful list of books (and great introduction to your blog). I love that you just discovered the Miss Marple series.

    p.s. Vermont to Virginia… quite a drive!

  2. I’ve been wanting to read both Lonesome Dove and the Miss Marple series. Perhaps 2014 will be the year.

  3. Looks like you had a great reading year, here’s hoping 2014 is as good if not better. I have Susanna Kearsley’s The Shadowy Horses on my TBR pile. I am looking forward to it 🙂

  4. Letizia – Well better late than never re: Miss Marple series! 🙂

    Linda – Don’t let the size of Lonesome Dove deter you – I didn’t find it slow reading at all. Enjoy your 2014 reading!

    Jessica – The Shadowy Horses is a great summer read (it takes place in the summer). Hope you pick it up this year!

  5. Of all the choice things to comment on here, I have to hone right in on the Elizabeth Bowen. A favorite author of mine but not to everyone’s taste. I think her writing is gorgeous and full of unspoken things that give an almost unbearable weight to some things she wrote. I hope you get to more of her works this year! You have reminded me of some re-reading I would like to do.

    • Thanks for honing in on the Elizabeth Bowen. I really liked her writing and was hoping someone would chime in about her. I assume you have read To the North? What would be your recommendation for the next read by her?

  6. Aw, how nice to have discovered Miss Marple this year! I have a bunch of Agatha Christie books on my shelf this year (acquired them for about fifty cents apiece at a book sale) and am looking forward to rediscovering Miss Marple & Hercule Poirot.

    Looking forward to your review of Does Jesus Love Me? That one’s on my list too!

    • The wonderful thing about just getting into Miss Marple is knowing that there are a bunch of those, not to mention of bunch of books by Agatha Christie out there that I haven’t read, but will likely enjoy.

      I took a lot of notes on Does Jesus Love Me? and the review of that book is going to be combined with two other thematically-linked books (one of which I haven’t finished reading). I have ambitious plans for that review, in other words.

  7. I can see I really *am* going to have to read Lonesome Dove! I did order it and it now sits on my reading pile. I just need to finish a few other books and clear the way, so to speak. I really like Susanna Kearlsey-Shadowy Horses is one of the unread books by her I own and I hope to fit one in this year. She is reliably good, isn’t she? I need to read more Elizabeth Bowen, too. I tried to read The Heat of the Day, but I got bogged down and didn’t finish. I would still like to go back and read the rest, but perhaps I should try To the North instead! 🙂

    • Shadowy Horses was the first book I’ve read of Kearsley’s. I plan to read more in the future though! And for Bowen, from my experience with To the North, I’d say you definitely have to be in the mood for some patient reading, where you can let her writing sink in.

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