Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Favorite Books of 2013

I read 42 books this year, one less than my son who, three minutes before midnight on New Year's Eve, completed the book that would bring him to victory in the 2013 reading contest. Some folks party on New Year's Eve, our new tradition is to pile onto the couch in front of the TV and read as hard and as fast as we can until midnight. {No judging please, we are who we are and it seems we cannot be helped.}

After losing the 2012 reading race (also by ONE book), I was determined not to lose the 2013 event. I made a list of books I planned to read, so did my opponent. I read a few of the books on the list, so did my opponent. I read many books not on my list…and…so did my opponent. 

We were serious about victory. Too serious? Never. Our competitive natures served to spur us on to reading accomplishments that nearly doubled our last year’s efforts.

I read all over the map in 2013, fiction, memoir, essay, non-fiction, books with beautiful writing, books with less-than-beautiful words, others with fast moving plots, some instructed, some entertained, others educated, and one or two of them actually made me hungry but all of them, each and every one, left a mark of one sort or another on my world. 

Books are good for that...

These are the ones I finished:

Here are some of my favorites:

Best Fiction:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty ~ This is the chick lit book that was so much more. A story of choices and their consequences of motherhood and of marriage and family.  It was a page turner that I shared with many friends. Alice was so well written that she seemed like a real person. Read more about how much I liked this book here

Gilead by Marilynn Robinson ~ My affection for this book runs deep. A story of an aging pastor nearing the end of his life. Written in the form of letters to his young son who was born to him late in life. Never sad or sentimental, this book is instead a rich and rewarding read. Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005, is the book I'm encouraging my Man to read this year. I listened to it while I ran and can attribute many extra miles to the excellence of the narrator's performance. Such a wonderful ,wonderful book. {Audiobook HIGHLY recommended.} 

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett ~ I read two books by Ann Patchett this year. This excellent, original novel, and a memoir, both were great reads. State of Wonder takes you to the South American rainforest and keeps you on the edge adventure for the length of your visit. This book is both rich in character development and full of action, a lovely combination which makes it a fast and thrilling read. 

Something Missing by Matthew Dicks ~ I began this book in 2009 and set it down for a reason I cannot fathom. I enjoyed the writing, I loved Martin, the quirky main character, I cared about what was going to happen to him. I even carried the book in my bag of books for vacations intending to finish it year after year but ended up letting Something Missing gather dust until the clock on 2013 was winding down and I needed a short book to add to my tally. I was over halfway through this book  already and had only to double back about 30 pages to refresh my memory and the pages flew by so enjoyably to a lovely finish. Don't miss this gem of a novel about a burglar who is charming, eccentric, and a little bit OCD.

Best Memoir:

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Neiquist ~ This part memoir-part cookbook was the third book by this author that I inhaled this year. Bread and Wine is easily my very favorite book of 2013. There is so much to love about Neiquiet's writing and even more to love about the food I've learned to make from her collection of essays and recipes. Read more about why this one is my favorite here in an earlier post. Also very highly recommended are this authors other two books Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet

Jesus, My Father, and the CIA and Me: A Memoir of Sorts by Ian Morgan Cron ~ I finished this book in the spring while my Man was at a conference. This book was perfect company. There were lessons to be gleaned from its pages, events to ponder, and a scene in the family car that made me laugh until the tears rolled. Throughout, the writing was warm and wonderful.

Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle ~ This book about mothering and its glories and challenges is written in such a way that you feel you've been visiting with a pal over coffee, swapping tales of horror and hilarity sometimes even in the same moments. This was a treadmill book for me. And while running and reading (thanks to enlarged font on ebook) I began laughing so hard that I nearly fell off the belt and had to slow down until I regained my composure. I'm sure I was a sight to behold to my fellow gym-goers! Shankle has another book due out in February on marriage called The Antelope in the Living Room and I'm eager to take it to the treadmill.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon by Sophie Hudson ~ Written by one of my favorite bloggers { } , this book was one big warm smile-maker after another. Sophie writes about her friends and family with a distinctly Southern voice in such a way that you feel as if she is writing about your friends and family. I took this book with me on a visit to my Mom and Dad's just to read a chapter aloud to my Mom about how folks dress for funerals among other things. After I read it to her, she ordered two more copies for herself and for her sister. This book may well qualify as my favorite book of 2013 too. {Aren't books like kids? You simply can't pick favorites.} Molly wrote a bit about this book HERE. Please, go make Sophie's acquaintance, I'm confident you will find her a delight.

Best Non-Fiction:

Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, & the Joys of Motherhood by Rachel Jankovic ~ This is the very best book to give to a mother of young children as was Jankovic's last book Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches. Slim enough for a mother of littles to actually finish but weighty enough to make it worth a busy mamma's time. Excellent.

Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics by Charles Krauthammer ~ This book made me think and laugh and stand in awe at the author's ability to write about any subject with wisdom and wit. I thoroughly enjoyed this books tone and scope. Krauthammer writes about NASA, chess champions, Israel, his pets, his past, and his political biography. His best, most charming writing he saves for his pages devoted to baseball which were so well written that even though I'm not a fan of the game I enjoyed them most of all. 

Favorite Cookbooks:

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman ~ The ultimate kitchen reference. I learn something new every time I open it up and usually it's the very simplest thing that makes the very biggest difference in a dish. Bittman has written many books that are all wonderful. This big one is worth the shelf space!

Keepers by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion ~ This cookbook is the perfect salute to family dinner. It's becoming my go to when planning menus and hauling ourselves out of familiar ruts. A current favorite is Japanese-Style "Meat & Potatoes" and on the menu for next week is Pork Tenderloin with Double-Apple Sauce. Using normal, everyday, every pantry ingredients Keepers delivers what its title promises! 

I've put together my tentative To Read List for 2014 which you can view on my Goodreads page here. For more about the other books I read but did not highlight in this post, click here. Do you know about It's a free, online site that helps you keep track of what you read, what you want to read, and what others are reading. It's a super place to get recommendations based on what your reading tastes are.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!


micahmouse said...

I didn't know you use Goodreads! It's such a great tool! I see The Book Thief in Cole's book pile. That's a beautiful piece. Has he finished it already?

Happy reading in 2014!

Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy said...

I love seeing everyone's pretty Goodreads tiles! Love yours (and that you have a 2014 to-read list).

I also really loved Gilead. I haven't read anything else by Robinson, but I'm thinking of reading Home in 2014. Read it?

Thanks for sharing your favorites with us!

Gretchen said...

Cole has not finished the Book Thief yet, nor have I. It's been on my list forever but never moves to the top for some reason! Your recommend will give it a boost!!

Gretchen said...

Hi Anne!
I'm going to read either Home or Housekeeping this year. I've not decided yet. Thanks so much for the link-up opportunity. I read nearly 90 of the blogs linked to yours and got some super recommends for 2014. Happy reading in 2014!

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