So, 2013 was another good reading year for me- I was introduced to some brilliant new debut authors and also made a concerted effort to try and read some more ‘classic’ novels too. Looking back at my reading list it does tend to be slightly more fiction-heavy than perhaps I would have liked, though I did squeeze in some excellent non-fiction reads in the year, some of which were decidedly hefty books.
I completed 239 books in 2013; not a bad total by any means though certainly less than I read in 2012. I attribute this to the fact that I read a lot more chunksters in 2013- something I am going to be doing a lot more of in this upcoming year, too. Of these books, 34 were nonfiction; not too shabby, though I’d definitely like to read more nonfiction in 2014 if I can. I do tend to always have at least one piece of nonfiction always on the go in conjunction with a fictional read, though as I keep those kinds of books mainly on my bedside table and reserve them for reading purely before I go to sleep, they do take me a bit longer to get through.
So, on to my favourite reads….!
Without a doubt my favourite book of the year was Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. I don’t usually have a guaranteed favourite novel, but this fictionalised account of a real-life murder in 19th century Iceland was both heartbreaking and powerfully written and definitely a stand-out read. It is probably the best novel I have ever read by a debut author and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I wait with eager anticipation to see what Kent comes up with next.
After becoming slightly obsessed by Stephen King and re-reading a lot of his earlier novels this year, it is no surprise that he features in my top ten list more than once. I finally got around to reading The Shining after having the bejeezus scared out of me watching the film at a sleepover when I was a kid. The book terrified me, obviously. I loved it though, and immediately moved on to read its recent sequel, Doctor Sleep– a brilliant conclusion to Danny Torrance’s story which started at the Overlook Hotel so many decades ago. Reading the books in close succession was a fantastic- and frightening- reading experience.
Talking of frightening, I also savoured Dark Matter by Michelle Paver- a truly scary ghost story. Again, this isn’t a genre I read particularly often, but the story was spectacularly told and beautifully atmospheric, which compensated for my fear!
2013 was the year that I finally began the TimeRiders series by Alex Scarrow, a young adult series about three kids who travel back in time. Now, time travel confuses the heck out of me, but there is something so appealing about this series. It’s smart, well-written and also manages to impart historical facts in its pages. Educational and entertaining is always a win-win situation for me. I’ve read four books in the series so far and don’t want to get through these in too much of a rush so I’m trying to savour the rest, but you can read what I thought of books one, two, three and four if you want to know more. The first book is still my favourite to date I think, though book four was fantastic too.
Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain is one of the strongest books I have read by this author and I have experienced a lot of her writing. Her novels are always deeply thought-provoking and manage to pose some ethical questions and this one, exploring a rather dark period in America’s recent history, was no exception. It was harrowing and heart-breaking yet managed to make me fall completely in love with some of its characters. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult or Heather Gudenkauf then you will love Chamberlain’s books.
Speaking of Picoult, her mesmerising The Storyteller hit shelves earlier this year and was another engrossing read. It was a story of secrets and forgiveness set against the haunting backdrop of the Holocaust and moving towards the present day. I just don’t know how Picoult manages to weave such incredible stories time and time again, but needless to say, she remains one of my favourite authors and is one of the few whose books I will duly purchase in hardback the second they hit the shops.
Continuing the theme of thought-provoking reads, Lisa Genova’s Still Alice was a remarkable fictionalised account of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s. I read this at the start of the year and it broke my heart in its realistic portrayal of the illness. Though it is probably not a story for everyone and may upset those who have this illness in their own families, I found it to be an important, topical novel. It is the first book by Genova I have read, though I will definitely read more by her in future.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was a sublime debut by Jamie Ford, which I finally got around to reading after having it on my wish list since its release in 2011. It combines significant historical events with some amazing fictional protagonists and weaves together an engrossing story of romance, war and cultural identities.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes was a serial killer thriller with a difference- as it incorporated time travel. Surprisingly, it didn’t confuse me and I found myself unable to put it down. The pace was perfect, the characters remarkably well-drawn and it was such a worthwhile read. I can see why this book has generated so much hype- it is deserved.
I read quite a bit of dystopian fiction in the year and Wool by Hugh Howey and its subsequent sequel Shift were both thrilling reads, set amidst a community in an underground silo in a frighteningly realistic future. I still have the third book (‘Dust’) to read and I can’t wait to dive into it! Like TimeRiders however, I want to draw out the suspense for as long as possible.
There are of course a lot of books that I heartily enjoyed, reading merely for pleasure and escapism; a lot of chicklit for one and some pretty entertaining ‘bonkbusters!’ In looking at my analysis of 2013 though, I’ve realised that I tended to favour heavier, gritty reads this year than in other years, so it’s hardly surprising that some of my favourites are set within this genre. I can’t actually see that many humorous books on my reading list either (aside from a bit of chick lit), so maybe I will try and read some more light-hearted reads in 2014.
In the next few months I’m really looking forward to tackling the stack of books I got for Christmas and getting through some others that have been sat on my shelf for a while. I’m off to Amsterdam in February and have Beautiful Ruins put to one side to take with me for the plane- if I can wait that long before I read it! I also have some amazing classics that I’ve been wanting to read for a while- in particular some more gorgeous Virago Designer Classics that I can’t wait to distribute amongst my shelves.
What were your favourite reads of 2013 and why? I’d love to hear about them.