Thursday, January 2, 2014

The best books of 2013

I'm a huge fan of reading (if I were left up to my own devices and had a good book to read or TV to watch, the good book would win out every single time), and thus am a huge fan of Goodreads.

I've reconnected with old friends and made new friends through my reviews and theirs.  I've gotten great recommendations and have been directed to books that I never otherwise would have though to read.  It's a great community.

I also love being able to keep track of and evaluate what I read.  Every year Goodreads has a self-dictated Reading Challenge.  You set a goal at the beginning of the year and then try to read as many books as you've shamed yourself into.

This year my goal was 75 and I barely squeaked by.  There were a few months there where I was way ahead of pace, but then the holidays hit and some mind-numbing medical scares, and I felt way behind.  It took until New Years Eve to finally reach 75 (I was absolutely determined).  Phew.

In 2013 I read 75 books.  That's 25,831 pages and a boatload of commuting time.

I tend to read a lot of YA (especially in the last year or two when I've been dutifully taking notes on what I think works and doesn't work in preparation for attempting to write my own).  That is to say, a lot of these are quick reads and are not to be considered "fine literature" by any means.

So, without further ado, I give you my top ten favorites of 2013 (in no particular order):

1.  The Raven Boys / The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Do you ever read a book that you desperately with you'd been the one to write?  Well, Maggie Stiefvater does that to me every time.  These are so creative and well-plotted that they're impossible to put down.  I adore the characters and live their adventures along with them.  Plus, they're based on Celtic folklore, so they've got a great folksy, slightly magical feeling.

2.  Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
I read this at the absolute perfect time - it made me laugh with every turn of the page.  It was great to get caught up in Mr. Gaffigan's lightheartedness and I appreciated how he refuses to take things seriously.  If you liked Bossypants and/or Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me, I can promise you'd love this.

3.  The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Oh Shannon Hale, how I love thee.  Her books are a great illustration of why I love YA literature so much.  They deal with heavy issues, but always end up happy.  Good always triumphs over evil.  The girl always gets her prince in the end.  There's just something about the innocence of her stories that captivates me.

4.  Wonder by R.J. Palacio
One of my favorite books I've read in the last few years.  I think this should be required reading for every junior high school student on the planet.  I read this on the plane on the way back from Thanksgiving at my parents' house and cried multiple times.  The woman sitting next to me probably though I was nuts as I kept sniffling and wiping my eyes with one hand while I held my kindle in the other.  It's a great story of love and triumph and compassion.  I dare you not to like it.

5.  The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan
I feel like I had a fairly balanced education when it comes to the Middle East.  Because I studied Arabic in college, I had a lot of Muslim professors on one side of the aisle, while the majority of people at BYU were (and I'm generalizing here, so forgive me) much more pro-Israel.  The Lemon Tree is about an Arab who is exiled from his home in Palestine and the Jew who moves into his childhood home.  It's a fairly balanced look at the Israel/Palestine conflict and it made me ache for both sides.

6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
If you can stand a few thousand f-bombs and c-words, then I can't recommend this book enough.  All I can say is - holy twist, batman!

7. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
I'm a barefoot running, chia-seed eating convert thanks to you, Mr. McDougall.

8. Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
I cannot get enough of Flavia de Luce and her harebrained adventures.  This is another series where I wish I'd thought to write it myself.  Flavia is one of my favorite characters in all of literature and the writing is impeccable.

9.  Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Again, if you aren't bothered by language, you absolutely have to read this book.  It's one I haven't been able to stop thinking about since I read it several months ago.  In fact, it's been the subject of a blog post all its own.  I think it's one that will stick with me forever.

10.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
I don't usually read a ton of science-minded books, but I loved this one.  I found the whole cell and gene research world fascinating and could hardly believe that most modern research has been done from the cells of a single woman.  I loved learning about Henrietta's background and the historical picture it painted. Now that I know about HeLa cells, I'm noticing the term much more in my reading.  Funny how it's everywhere, but I never stopped to wonder what it meant.


  1. You read 75 books?! I am so impressed. Seriously. I feel like a slacker. I'll add these to my list.... and probably finish 1/3 of them.

    1. Lots of metro's a great time to read :)