Top Ten(ish) Books I Read in 2013

Reminder: This list refers to books I read in 2013, not necessarily books that were published only in 2013.

Best Overall

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

This heart-wrenching and eloquent book is one of the most moving books I’ve read in a long time. The story is memorable and the writing is luminous. Highly recommended!

tellthewolvesimhomers

Best Coming of Age:

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This book is just excellent. It’s a coming-of-age book about two very brave sixteen-year-old teens in 1986 near Omaha, Nebraska. Everyone raves about this one, for good reason.

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I also loved two other books of hers I read, Attachments and FanGirl.

Attachments could have been a light, knock-it-off-quickly sort of book, but Rainbow Rowell elevates the story to make this a book you want to hug, and take to bed with you.

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Fangirl is the endearing story of Cath Avery, a prolific and popular writer of fanfiction based on the novels about Simon Snow, which is a Harry-Potter-esque series.

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Most Affecting:

No contest here: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I laughed and cried. I felt hope and despair and elation and fear. At times I wanted to put the book in the freezer. [This analogy comes from the “Friends” episode in which Rachel offers to put Little Women in the freezer for Joey, who wants to stop something from happening and/or reading that it did!] I felt ALL THE FEELINGS.

Book Review Me Before You

Most Romantic – YA:

Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

This book knocked me out. The author reminds me of Melina Marchetta in the way she manages to make the characters so real and so affecting.  The characterization and dialogue are excellent, and and I was extremely moved while reading it.

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Best Post-Apocalyptic:

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

This is one of the most clever, suspenseful, and scariest post-apocalyptic books I have read to date, and I’ve read a lot of them! And yes, there are bits and pieces of a lot of other well-known books in this one, from Ender’s Game to The Stand to Divergent. But Yancey makes the tropes his own, and ups the suspense level enormously.

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Best Fantasy – YA:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman [FICTION]

I’m so happy to see this book get so much recognition, and so happy that the recognition pointed me to this book! Both Seraphina’s interior and exterior worlds are so richly imagined, and so remarkably creative, that I can’t compliment the author enough. Don’t let the idea that there be dragons here turn you off; think of them as metaphoric, which I believe they are. The characters are uniformly complex: by turns heart-warming, amusing, heart-breaking, fragile, stronger than they know, full of hurt, but full of hope.

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Best Non-Fiction:

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro

I can’t offer enough encomiums about this book, nor about the fabulous narration by Grover Gardner on the Brilliance Audio production. He manages to sound exactly like Lyndon Johnson when he needs to do so. There was not an instant of this story that fell flat or dragged. I was also incredibly impressed by Caro’s objectivity – he told you the good, the bad, and the ugly about both the Kennedy men and LBJ, and you never knew from one moment to the next where your sympathies would lie, because Caro never tries to push you one way or the other. It’s just the facts, maam, but delivered in a way that is riveting, exciting, nuanced and many-layered.

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Most Fun:

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

After reading this, I immediately emailed everyone I knew looking for a good book. This one is imaginative, funny, and poignant, with witty and penetrating social commentary that is right on target.

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Most lyrical:

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

This is one of those books that is like an unexpected gift; you know from the moment you open it up that it is going to be something special. It is beautifully meditative and deeply moving, written in the first person as a stream of consciousness.

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Good Dystopias Worth Mentioning

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

The plot of this book has been used a thousand times, from The African Queen to The Titanic. Yet still we don’t grow tired of it.

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Proxy by Alex London

This entertaining story adds new layers and creativity to the usual post-apocalyptic-dystopia mix.

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Best Series Continuations

Fuse by Julianna Baggott

Hands down the most creative post-apocalyptic series going!

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Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Fans of fairy tale retellings will love this dystopia series set in the future.

Most Surprising

Saga, Volumes 1 and 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

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This is a series in which the females are all formidable, amazing, powerful and tough, and the guys are sensitive, nurturing, and have “an appalling sense of moral relativism.” And that’s just one of the entertaining aspects of this remarkably creative and at times hilarious collection.

Other Authors I enjoyed this year:

Jo Nesbo
Maggie Stiefvater
Joshilyn Jackson
Kelley Armstrong

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24 Responses to Top Ten(ish) Books I Read in 2013

  1. Seraphina! Rainbow Rowell ❤

    You know what, I got Tell the Wolves I’m Home for Christmas *last* year and still haven't read that. I should fix that in January.

  2. sandynawrot says:

    What a great list! Most of the ones I’ve read from this list are because of you and did end up on my list as well. I still have Seraphina loaded on my iPod…I’ll give it another chance at some point when I’ve got my head in the game. One of my book clubs is reading Wolves in January, and I’m quite pleased about that!

  3. bookmammal says:

    I’ve read and enjoyed several books from your list!
    “Eleanor & Park” was probably the best book I read this year–I haven’t read YA in years but I find that I’m still thinking about those characters. I enjoyed “Fangirl” almost as much. “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” was laugh-out-loud funny in some spots. And, on a totally different note–I simply LOVE Robert Caro’s set of enormous LBJ biographies and am anxiously awaiting the last in the series. Last but not least, “Tell The Wolves I’m Home” is sitting on my nightstand right now!

  4. Beth F says:

    Fuse almost made my list! I love those books. I haven’t yet read Wolves. I loved Saga, Dog Stars, Bernadette. Must read Rowell and Seraphina.

  5. Great list Jill. The first 2 were favs of mine last year and this year. Those kids books look awesome as well. gezz, more books to add to my list:) Happy New Year

  6. Heather says:

    Such a great list! Lots of these will be on my best-of list too. I LOVE that you included all of Rowell’s books – she is amazing.

  7. We have a lot of favorites in common. I know what you mean about wanting to put Me Before You in the freezer! And I have Eleanor and Park waiting on my to-read shelf. 🙂

  8. sagustocox says:

    What a stunning list of books, and I just put a bunch on my Pinterest to-read list.

  9. Stefanie says:

    Yours is the second best list I’ve seen with Eleanor and Park and Seraphina on it! I’ll have to keep those in mind for future reading possibilities.

  10. aartichapati says:

    I am just so thrilled that you read and enjoyed a fantasy novel that I can’t even stop smiling. YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS, DON’T YOU? Your defenses against Terry Pratchett have all just come tumbling down. Muahahaha.

    I need to read Me Before You, but I would probably do it in audiobook and really just can’t go into work sobbing due to someone with cancer.

    And yes, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is so good! Happy 2014 🙂

  11. Ti says:

    I love how you broke them down into categories. Lots of good ones here that I want to add to my list for the new year.

  12. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    lol i haven’t read any of these and want to read all of them. Why can’t I have more time?

  13. Kailana says:

    So many books that I either loved myself or really want to get to in 2014. I really wish I had got around to Tell the Wolves I am Home. I got it for 2012 Christmas and hoped to read it before this one, but never got to it. 😦 I am reading Fangirl right now.

  14. BermudaOnion says:

    Several of those books are on my list too. I read Bernadette in 2012 and loved it as well. I have Attachments here and need to get to it!

  15. stacybuckeye says:

    Love your list. I’ve only read two but many of the others are on my wish list because of you! I;m not sure if I can spare all of the feelings in Me Before You but I so want to read it!

  16. I love your choices — we have some overlap! & also I am glad Tell the Wolves did indeed end up being your best overall. I am a bit sad I didn’t get it for Christmas and will now have to steal my mother’s copy to reread it. :p

  17. Rita K says:

    Jill
    I haven’t read all of these. My favorite of what I have though is definitely “Me Before You.” I will have to try some of the others now.

  18. Brooke says:

    A great list! I had Me Before You and Seraphina on my list as well. Happy New Years!

  19. Athira says:

    We DO have some similar favorite books here! I felt almost deja-vu’d! I am going to check some of the others!

  20. You’ve just added a bunch of books to The Girl’s to-read list! She just jotted them down while reading over my shoulder, lol. She really, really can’t wait to read The 5th Wave. She just finished Divergent yesterday and absolutely loved it.

    Happy New Year!

  21. I liked the way you summed up your best list, most lyrical, most fun etc. Original. Me Before You made my list too. I have a few of the books on my wish list. I’m reading These Broken Stars in January.

  22. Trish says:

    Where’d You Go Bernadette is high on my list for audiobooks to listen to. Actually, I guess I can thank you for enabling me to burn two of my audible credits today (don’t worry, I needed to use them). And I’m kicking myself for passing up Tell The Wolves I’m Home so many times. Happy New Year Jill!

  23. litandlife says:

    I absolutely MUST get around to Me Before You soon – and, apparently, Tell The Wolves!

  24. Rachel says:

    Now I have even more books to add to my TBR list! 🙂
    I saw Rainbow Rowell speak a couple of months ago and she was super funny and charming, just like you would think she would be. I loved Eleanor and Park too – I think it was my favorite book that I read in 2013.

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