Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Books of 2013

Well, I beat the 78 record of The Books of 2012 with 79 total books read in 2013. My ambition years ago was to read 100 books in a year. Not even close. I'm getting more fussy as I age. I toss far, far quicker than I used to if a book is not to my taste or interest or just badly written.

The short list of the very best were:

Austerlitz - W.G. Sebald
The Two Minute Rule - Robert Crais
Bel Canto - Ann Pritchett
A Virtuous Woman - Kaye Gibbons - I read it again, I love it so.
The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman
The Book of Ruth - Jane Hamilton
Fidelity - Michael Redhill
Saints & Sinners - Edna O'Brien
Three Junes - Julia Glass
Home from the Vinyl Cafe - Stuart McLean
Amy & Isabelle - Elizabeth Strout
We need to talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver
Mr. Sandman - Barbara Gowdy
The Hidden Mountain - Gabrielle Roy
Swamp Angel - Ethel Wilson
Friendship,Hateship, Loveship, Courtship,Marriage - Alice Munroe - again for Book Club and honouring her Nobel.
Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout

I am so pleased to see that many are Canadian. This was unintentional. Most are also female writers. Also unintentional. I read the choices of my book club, recommendations of others, and family-friends gifts/loans.
The best, by far, was "The Hidden Mountain" by Gabrielle Roy. Lyrical and beautiful. I would read again. And again. And anyone to whom I've recommended it are astounded by its beauty. Summary: 16 out of 79 were superb. Not a bad ratio.

Here is the complete list:

(1)Two Girls From The Bay - Helen Best-Colgan* Lecturing/reminding the reader,awful editing. Sad, sad story deserved much better.
(2)Martin Sloane - Michael Redhill****
(3)On the Natural History of Destruction - W.G. Sebald****
(4)What we all long for - Dionne Brand****
(5)Summer of Hate - Chris Kraus****
(6)Brick Lane - Monica Ali(gift)***1/2 too long
(7) (8)An Intimate History of Humanity
(9)Sweet Tooth - Ian McEwan**Huge construct with no payoff
(10)Hit Parade - Lawrence Block - dropped, pathetic 0
(11)Charade - Sandra Brown oddly compelling **
(12)The Great Fire - Shirley Hazzard****
(13)The Two Minute Rule - Robert Crais*****Brilliant
(14)Saint Maybe - Anne Tyler****
(15)The Reconstruction - Claudia Casper**
(16)Bel Canto - Ann Pritchett*****Brilliant
(17)A Virtuous Woman - Kaye Gibbons***** (2nd Reading loved it both times)
(18)Left Bank - Kate Muir***
(19)The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman{BC}*****
(20)The Monkey's Raincoast - Robert Crais*Oh Bobby what happened to you? I'm now officially offya.
(21)The Book of Ruth - Jane Hamilton*****Extraordinary
(22)A Pale View of the Hills - Kazuo Ishiguro***lovely but unfinished?
(23)The Secret Stones - Dee Holmes**
(24)Vertigo - W.G. Sebald
(25)I, Fatty - Jerry Stahl***(fascinating story of the origins of Hollywood and the movies)
(26)No Fixed Address - Aritha van Herk(thanks Daughter)Marvellous****
(27)Fidelity - Michael Redhill*****
(28)The Time In Between - David Bergen**
(29)The Cat's Table - Michael Ondaatje***{BC}
(30)Saints & Sinners - Edna O'Brien*****
(31)Quench the Lamp - Alice Taylor****wonderful memoir of a Cork childhood
(32)Home from the Vinyl Cafe - Stuart McLean*****laugh out loud funny
(33)Three Junes - Julia Glass*****fabulous,complex{BC}
(34)Amy & Isabelle - Elizabeth Strout*****Stunning
(35)Bad Dirt - Annie Proulx
(36)We need to talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver*****riveting, appalling
(37)The Good Mother - Sue Miller(did I read this back in the day?)**never got to care for this character, selfish almost narcissistic
(38)The Red Room - Nicci French****excellent for its genre
(39)Sweetwater Creek - Anne Rivers Siddons**all filler no meat
(40)The Chosen One - Carol Lynch Williams****made me cry
(41)Where She Has Gone - Nino Ricci****
(42)Fear the Worst - Linwood Barclay**formulaic
(43)A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again - David Foster Wallace***
(44)The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell***
(45)The Badger Riot - J.R. Ricketts****(a period in NL history beautifully captured)
(46)The Summons - John Grisham*(unread book supply needs massive transfusion)
(47)The Stories of Eva Luna - Isabel Allende
(48)Girls Like Us - Sheila Weller****
(49)Reconstructing Amelia - Kimberly McCreight**** (unputdownable)
(50)The Salt Road - Jane Johnson
(51)The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison{BC}***(not as impressed as most)
(52)The Redeemer - Jo Nesbo 0 - who recommended him? Scenes and characters jumping around even on the one page. Could not finish. Awful
(53)Priest - Ken Bruen****
(54)Mother - Linda Ann Rentschler
(55)Mr. Sandman - Barbara Gowdy, what a wonderful read! Thanks Daughter!*****
(56)Six Metres of Pavement - Farzana Doctor disappointing structure, poor editing**
(57)Bring up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel - thanks, bro. Don't understand The Booker or the fuss**
(58)The Magdalen Martyrs - Ken Bruen - can't get enough of this author****
(59)The Age of Hope - David Bergen*** {BC}
(60)A Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling - thank you Grandgirl!503 pages!****
(61)A Door in the River - Inger Ash Wolfe**Disappointing 3rd book in a series.
(62)The Hidden Mountain - Gabrielle Roy*****Lyrical, gorgeous writing - TY Daughter
(63)The Guards - Ken Bruen****
(64)Hungry Hill - Daphne du Maurier - thanks, bro!****
(65)Defending Jacob - William Landay{BC}****Unputdownable!
(66)Icy Sparks - Gwyn Hyman Rubio* FAIL
(67)Places Lost - Scott Walden*****
(68)The Dramatist - Ken Bruen***
(69)Headstone - Ken Bruen**
(70)Castaway - Elin Hilderbrand***
(71)Swamp Angel - Ethel Wilson*****
(72)The Black Box - Michael Connolly***
(73)Friendship,Hateship, Loveship, Courtship,Marriage - Alice Munroe(again)*****(BC)
(74)Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (again&again)still hate it
(75)Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout*****
(76)The Year of the Flood - Margaret Attwood - dropped 2/3 in, not a fan of later Maggie
(77)White Heat - M.J. McGrath****
(78)A Death in Belmont - Sebastian Junger****
(79)Caught - Lisa Moore**** (thank you, Grandgirl!)


  1. I am glad that you separately wrote down a list of the very best because that will make it easy for me to find books when I go back to reading fiction. Job well done, WWW.

  2. I can only bow down in awe. I am SUCH a slow reader! Happy New Year WWW! Lx

  3. I thought to do that this year, Irene, rather than having readers who are interested having to wend their way downwards.

    Thanks, my friend. I do hope you get back into reading fiction again. Great escapism :)


  4. Laura:

    Nothing wrong with slow at all. You probably have the benefit of a better recall than I do.


  5. Once again WWW, thanks for your list and ratings which I'll return to again and again when I'm stumped for something. I'm into non-fiction again for a while - Clive James, Denis Healey and Rosemary Dinnage. Loved the Two Minute Rule, anything with Elvis and Jo.....gripping.

    I must investigate Ken Bruen who crops up 3 or 4 times on your list...

  6. Pamela:

    I'm now officially "off" Ken. #1 brother didn't like him at all. so mixed reviews. I loved some of his and then the last one I read was a huge disappointment. Formulaic. The best of thrillers get that way after a while. A few on the list were non-fiction.
    Sebald's books (LOVE)
    And a really good one: Death in Belmont. About the Boston Strangler and the questions around it. Very well written.
    "Girls Like Us" was brilliant. Long but the stories of Carly Simon, Joni Mitchel and Carole King intertwined and told so intelligently. They led the way for female rockers.

  7. Where do you find the time? Perhaps it is time that you gave your readers a time table that you follow!

  8. Ramana:
    No teevee is one of the clues. None.
    Teevee bleeds time.
    I find the web enough of a distraction.
    I'm working on more balance. For example 1/2 hour of knitting every morning calms me and allows my thoughts to soar free of each other and not jumble up and panic or depress me. I will do a post, thanks Ramana.

  9. I have just ordered Gabrielle Roy's book. Thanks for the suggestion. I enjoyed reading your comments about some of the other books. Don't you find that so many books need more editing these days? What might have been sound and fine books can be ruined because no editor reined in overblown prose, questioned a break in logic that might have been repaired, or made suggestions to prop up a sagging middle.

  10. Linda:
    Let me know how you like G Roy's books.
    I agree on what you say. Poor editing can blow a book to smithereens. I am so nervous about my own completed novels. Finding a good editor to work with that doesn't entail mortgaging my house, etc. Also the silly things irritate me - anachronisms # 1 offender, recently a scene in the 1930s had a mother using a seatbelt in her car on her 8 year old son. Arrrgh!
    And plastic plumbing in the sixties. That takes me out of the story.
    Honour the reader.

  11. I am so impressed
    and I need to read more of the
    books piled everywhere in this cottage.
    Seems I stay busy inside
    doing other things
    that are really not necessary :)

  12. I couldn't begin to read 100 books in a year without seriously cutting down on either work or family or other activities. But in 2012 I took the Goodreads challenge and set my goal at 36 books and met tha/ This past year, I did 48, and this year I'm going for 50.

  13. OWJ:

    My sinful (or otherwise!) pleasure. As it is my daughter's and granddaughter's. We often love the same books which is an added pleasure.


  14. SAW:

    Well done you! I'm never without a book in my bag so it comes easy to me.


  15. I've read a lot of non-fiction this year, mostly political stuff. May make a short list of fiction favorites, though.

  16. Please do, Hattie, would love to read your recommendations.


  17. Yes, so many thriller writers become formulaic and I go write off them. I'll try Bruen's first book and see where I go from there.


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