Top Ten books you read in 2013

Last year’s thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=677746

Doesn’t matter when they were published, but you read 'em and loved 'em in the last calendar year.

  1. Genesis 1-11, by Edgar Good
  2. A Dance With Dragons, by George R. R. Martin
  3. Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin
  4. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
  5. Wanting Sheila Dead, by Jane Haddam
  6. Illegal Aliens, by J. Pollotto and Phil Foglio
  7. Forgery, by Bart Ehrman
  8. Jesus and the World: the Archaeological Evidence, by Craig A. Evans
  9. The Knights of the Cornerstone, by James Blaylock
  10. Binary, by Michael Crichton

The Son by Philipp Meyer
Home from the Hill by William Humphrey
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer
When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes by Lawrence Block
The Blood of Heaven by Kent Wascom
Okla Hannali by R. A. Lafferty
N0S4A2 by Joe Hill
Redemption Falls by Joseph O’Connor

Heartily recommend all of those, with a warning that The Son, The Sisters Brothers, Redemption Falls, and The Blood of Heaven are bloody and violent.

Honorable Mention:

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
The Fifties by David Halberstam

I read 43 books last year, down quite a bit from the year before. In the order I read them, here are my Top Ten:

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin - Big, meandering and messy, but still a great read on the intrigues and warfare of Westeros.

Justice in Blue and Gray by Stephen C. Neff - An interesting look at the legal issues raised by the American Civil War - secession, slavery, reprisals, looting, treason, blockades, etc.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - A strange but true tale of biomedical ethics, racism, research and healing.

Camouflage by Joe Haldeman - A very good sf novel. Two shapeshifting aliens come to Earth and have very different experiences over several decades before their fateful meeting.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Darkly funny maybe-murder whodunnit with lots of twists.

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow - An excellent bio of the first President - detailed, big but readable.

Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin - Fun, gossipy, engrossingly behind-the-scenes account of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson - Novel about an Englishwoman living her life over and over again, and learning a bit more each time, across the span of the tumultuous 20th century.

'Salem’s Lot by Stephen King - Classic horror novel of vampires taking over a small Maine town. Written in 1975; I first read it in the early 1980s. I’d forgotten how much King has to say along the way about Vatican II, feminism, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the American family, etc.

Churchill by Roy Jenkins - Very good, wry, witty bio of the great British leader, written by a retired top Cabinet secretary and MP.

And these juuuuuuuust missed being in the Top Ten:

Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein - An old favorite of mine. The absence of women is all the more striking now.
Doctor’s Orders by Diane Duane - One of the best Star Trek novels ever.
Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz - Funny, sometimes appalling nonfiction about the Lost Cause today.
Marsbound by Joe Haldeman - A teenage girl and her family are among the first settlers of Mars. Good stuff.

Here’s a list of the books I enjoyed the most this year:

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand - Non-fiction - survival in the Pacific theatre during WW II

Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey - Science fiction - dystopian world of a silo

A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute - Historical fiction - one woman’s adventures in the Far East and Australia in the middle of the 20th century

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - Young adult - compelling and entertaining story of teens living with cancer

Faithful Place by Tana French - Mystery - discovery of a body triggers an in depth examination of a Dublin family

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey - Mystery - final Alan Grant story (as good as The Daughter of Time)

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) - Mystery - old school PI set in modern times

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - Non-fiction - blend of science and black history

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen - Mystery - gritty police cold case investigation

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen - Non-fiction - US ambassador’s (and family) experience in Germany pre-WW II

The Rook by David O’Malley
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Impulse by Stephen Gould
House of Blades by Will Wight
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
Child of Fire by Harry Connolly (hugely disappointed he quit the “20 Palaces” series)

I read 134 books in 2013, which reflects how much time I had on my hands as work is still quite slow and there isn’t much on TV that I like. And there are several good used book stores nearby:

In no particular order:

Rocky Mountain Motion Picture Association, by Loren Estleman
11-22-63, by Stephen King
Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel
The Talbot Odyssey, by Nelson DeMille
In the Heart of the Canyon, by Elizabeth Hyde
Is Paris Burning? by Dominique LaPierre
The Devil in the White City, by, umm, I forget, and I can’t look it up
Buried at Sea, by Paul Garrison
Kahawa, by Donald Westlake
From a Buick Eight, by Stephen King

And for Turkey of the Year (not included are books I gave up on at about a fourth of the way through)…Arsonists’ Guide to Writers Homes in New England, by Brock Clarke. A sixteen pound oven-ready tom turkey if there ever was one.

[ol]
[li]The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss (read it twice last year)[/li][li]The Wise Man’s Fear - Patrick Rothfuss (read it twice last year)[/li][li]Assassin’s Apprentice - Robin Hobb[/li][li]Royal Assassin - Robin Hobb[/li][li]Assassin’s Quest - Robin Hobb[/li][li]Fool’s Errand - Robin Hobb[/li][li]The Golden Fool - Robin Hobb[/li][li]Fool’s Fate - Robin Hobb[/li][li]The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch[/li][li]Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch[/li][/ol]

Why Yes, I do like Fantasy books and trilogies. Why do you ask?

Noteworthy is “A Tale of Dunk and Egg” by George Martin which is set in the same realm as “A Song of Ice and Fire”.

Another SDMB member mentioned the “Alan Lewrie” series of naval adventures written by Dewey Lambdin. I don’t remember who here it was…but THANK YOU! I’ve read the first eight books in the series. Good stuff! Enjoying it hugely!

The Deceiver - Forsyth’s best after The Day of the Jackal
Robots of Dawn - great Asimov robot novel, capping the first two (Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun)
The Hobbit - re-read it
Icarus Agenda - a Ludlum book I always wanted to read
The Negotiator - another by Forsyth though not as good as Deceiver
The Great Train Robbery - re-read it. Terrific read from Crichton (wish it stuck closer to truth)
Flowers for Algernon - re-read it. The first really good sob-story I read as a kid.

I only read 96 books in 2013, down from previous years. Here are the ones I enjoyed the most or found most worthwhile, in no particular order:

  1. Up Jumps the Devil, by Michael Poore. The highlights and lowlights of the long history of John Scratch on earth. Humorous, appealing.
  2. An Inquiry into Love and Death, by Simone St. James. Ghost story and mystery set in 1925 England.
  3. Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz can Change Your Life, by Wynton Marsalis. Learned a lot.
    4.Fear in the Sunlight, by Nicola Upson. Mystery involving Josephine Tey and Alfred Hitchcock. Usually I dislike mysteries that mix up historical people with fictions, but this was good.
  4. The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale, by Carmen Agra Deedy. Excellent children’s/YA about a cat striking a deal with the mice in a pub frequented by Dickens. A nasty street cat and a missing Tower raven come into the plot, and Dickens solves his case of writer’s block. Dickensian puns and allusions, but the best pun of all remains unwritten, so the reader has the pleasure of coming up with it him or herself.
  5. The Ghost Bride, by Yangsze Choo. This wonderful fantasy seamlessly integrates Malayan Chinese folklore and waking, dream, and otherworld realities.
  6. Elfland, by Freda Warrington. Characters and situations carefully built up, so that climaxes and resolutions are quite satisfying.
  7. The Jesuit’s Guide to (Almost) Everything, by James Martin. I confess, I wasn’t entirely open-minded about this when I began it, as I had a bit of prejudice against the Catholic Church. However, this is a stunningly good book, full of good advice on spiritual practice. I was surprised to see that there is more common ground between Buddhist and Catholic practices than I anticipated. Martin is down to earth and – bonus points! – quite funny, too. Looking forward to reading his book on humor and spiritual practice this year.
  8. Dying to be Me, by Anita Moorjani. One of the better books on NDE experiences I’ve read, by a woman from India.
  9. God Does Not Exist, and He is Everywhere, by Brad Warner. Consideration of the many meanings and concepts by the three-letter word, and their utility, by a punk rocker and zen teacher. Also with a sense of humor.

A few of my favourite books from 2013:

**A pirate of Exquisite Mind: The life of William Dampier **by Diana Preston; Adventure/history following the travels and escapades of William Dampier, the first man to circumnavigate the world three times
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster; Beautifully written, complex ‘detective’ fiction
**The Great Swim **by Gavin Mortimer; A dramatic history of the first female attempts to swim the English channel
Ghost in the Wires – My life as the World’s most wanted hacker by Kevin Mitnick
Nothing to Envy: Real lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick; An insight into the history of and current living situation in North Korea
**My life and Travels: An Anthology **by Wilfred Thesiger
**Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest **by Wade Davis
China: A history by John Keay
**Open: An autobiography **by Andre Agassi
**The Wild Places **by Robert McFarlane; A journey through natural history and our changing relationshiop to the outdoors.

The first six on the list were pretty easy to decide, but the rest were more difficult. I narrowed it down to those I would be most likely to recommend to others.

  1. I, Zombie, by Hugh Howey - Wool was what everyone was talking about last year, and while it was great, I thought I, Zombie was better. Howey takes us to a place we’ve never been: inside the heads of zombies. It’s so incredibly haunting.

  2. A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway - I’m never disappointed when I read Hemingway. A Moveable Feast is beautiful and funny and heart-wrenching.

  3. Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King - King’s sequel to The Shining. I was so afraid I wouldn’t like this, but I loved it. I felt King did a wonderful job of continuing Danny’s story and giving it closure.

  4. The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi - This was my first-ever graphic novel. It was amazing and I learned so much from this book.

  5. The Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon - This technically doesn’t come out until February, but I got it on Net Galley. It’s delightfully creepy and I couldn’t put it down.

  6. Wool Omnibus, by Hugh Howey - I wish I could go back in time and read this again for the first time. Wool I completely blew me away, and the rest of the omnibus is pretty awesome, too.

  7. Columbine, by Dave Cullen - I learned a lot from this book, too. I think everyone should read it.

  8. 11/22/63, by Stephen King - I have kind of a love/hate thing going on with Stephen King. I hated Under the Dome so much I swore I’d never pick up another one of his books. Then 11/22/63 came along. All is forgiven, Steve. :slight_smile:

  9. Iron Lake, by William Kent Krueger - I love authors from my state (Minnesota), so I can’t believe I’d never read William Kent Krueger before last year. Iron Lake is the first book in his Corcoran O’Connor mystery series. It’s a great story and he describes Minnesota so perfectly I almost felt like I was there. :wink:

  10. Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl gets all the attention, but I liked Dark Places better. Once again Flynn gives us an unlikable character, but she’s still sympathetic, and she grows throughout the book. I especially loved the Kill Club, the group obsessed with grisly murders.

Haven’t had a whole lot of time to read much but I was able to read 11/22/63 by King and I loved it. I’ll use this thread as a suggestion list. I’m eager to pick up Grisham’s new one.

Here’s mine
As I was making the list I recognized that it really wasn’t a good year for books.

Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo ( possibly the best contemporary novel ever )
The Unwinding by George Packer
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson ( my list must have a time travel novel )
Blindsight by Peter Watts ( Metaphysical sci-fi - not for everyone but I loved it )
The Violinist’s Thumb and other lost tales of Love War and Genuis as written by our Genetic Code by Sam Kean
The Mirage by Matt Ruff ( fell apart a little at the end but the alternate universe the novel is set in is brilliantly drawn )
Anathem by Neal Stephenson ( the only Neal S novel I’ve ever loved )
Arcadia by Lauren Groff ( wonderful atmospheric novel about growing up in a commune and adjusting afterwards)
Year Zero by Rob Reid ( hysterically funny satire )
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn ( Yes, it is a better novel than Gone Girl )

And two runners-up
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver — a little too YA for the top ten, but a deeply moving novel of a teenaged girl continually reliving the last day of her life.
Kingmaker by Christian Cantrell - missed my top 10 because it has some structural problems and is hard to follow at times, but it is thematically strong and hits hard.

A History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage - An examination of the historical and social impact of six very specific innovations; Beer, Wine, Distilled Spirits, Coffee, Tea and Cola.

City of Shadows, Arianna Franklin - The story of one of the most famous 'Anastasia’s in history, set against the background of Berlin’s descent into Nazism.

Fluke, Christopher Moore - An author I’d never previously discovered, who combines some of my favourite characteristics of Terry Pratchett and Tom Robbins.

Lost to the West, Lars Brownworth - the book version of the ‘12 Byzantine Emperors’ podcast, and a fascinating, overlooked period of history. Well told, too.

Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton - a great discussion of what religions have discovered about how humans deal with grief, tradition, social customs, etc. His central tenet is that atheists would be wise to examine what ideas to keep from various religions, rather than rejecting everything outright. While I found something I disagreed with at least once every five pages, the overall argument was quite compelling.

River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay - His most recent alternative history novel, this time set in China in the Song Dynasty.

The Classical World - an epic history of Greece and Rome, Robin Lane Fox - a great overview of the early origins of Greece through to the time of the Emperor Hadrian.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger - this was a great piece of modern fiction that left me with a two-day book hangover.
*
What Money Can’t Buy - The Moral Limits of Markets*, Michael J. Sandel - very much in line with some of the other modern economic thinkers I’ve been reading lately, like Dan Arieli.

Who’s my Bottom?, Christopher Gillett - this is a great autobiographical depiction of the day-to-day life of a working opera singer. Full of humour and charm, and yet, so accurate that it should be required reading in our university music and theatre programs.

I read about 110 books last year. My top ten:

Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham.

Watership Down, by Richard Adams. I was dubious, but this book about rabbits really is surprisingly good.

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. I thought I’d had enough of the Tudors, but I fell in love with the unusual writing style of this book. The sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, is also good.

Cyteen, by C.J. Cherryh. I’m planning to read a lot more Cherryh books this year.

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. A novel about a 20th-century Englishwoman who is living her life over and over again, where slight differences significantly alter the course of each life.

Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth. The first of a trilogy about the author’s experiences as a midwife in London’s East End in the 1950’s. The BBC series of the same name is based on these books.

The Wine of Angels, by Phil Rickman. This is the first in a paranormal mystery series about a newly ordained female Anglican priest assigned to a rural parish in England, near the Welsh border. A bit like a dark version of The Vicar of Dibley. This is not my usual genre, but I really love Rickman’s writing. I read several more of this series this year, and they are continuing strong.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller. A fascinating memoir about a British woman’s childhood in colonial Africa in the 1970’s-80’s.

Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson. Isaacson is the author of the recent Steve Jobs biography, which I haven’t read, but I did enjoy his biography of Benjamin Franklin.

Three in Norway by Two of Them, by Walter J. Clutterbuck. A humorous travelogue published in 1882, this was the inspiration for Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

I read this last year, too, and I agree completely. It’s something I never would have picked up if not for my book club, and I’m so glad I did! It didn’t quite make my top 10, but it definitely gets an honorable mention.

I only read 53 books last year; still, that’s up from 2011 and 2012.

  1. Code Name Verity I’m so glad I read this book at a time when I could get through it all in one sitting. And when I finished it, I took an hour or so to recover a bit, then picked it up and read it over again. It blew me away.
  2. The Rook
  3. NOS4A2 Almost like reading his dad, except Joe hasn’t given us any stinkers yet. :slight_smile:
  4. Joyland
  5. The Golem and the Jinni Why can’t they all be as smooth as this one?
  6. The Hollow City
  7. Flashman on the March, also Flashman and the Tiger
  8. One-a them Lansdale books, of which I read several this year. They’re usually a whole lot of gory fun, but don’t stick with me long. I’ll say The Thicket, because y’all would think there was something wrong with me if I said The Complete Drive-In.
  9. Gulp: adventures on the alimentary canal
  10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Honorable mention: Doctor Sleep, The Forgotten

I remember that I loved reading ‘Watership Down’ in the late '70s. Was ‘Shardik’ as good? It rather disappeared without a trace…