You know where you can find me at 1:30 a.m.? The same place as always: Snoring, drooling, most likely passed out face down on top of my Kindle after reading a few chapters in a book. This is my routine, same as brushing my teeth and putting on my coziest lounge pants.
This is how I managed to read 50 books in a year. Not because I’m a binge-reader (at least not all the time), but mostly because I never deviate from my routine. Just a few chapters, I would promise myself. And mostly it was just a few chapters. But sometimes, as I neared the end of a book, it was more, because I couldn’t stop myself. I needed to know how it ended, and I didn’t care if I was up till 3 a.m. finding out.
Hemingway wrote about how to write in “A Moveable Feast.” That the best way to begin a story is by writing “one true sentence.” This always resonated with me, and I realize now that the books that hold a special place in my heart are the ones that feel true.
I read a lot of good books in 2013. A lot of true books. Not all of them were written in 2013, so I apologize if you’re looking for the definitive list for awesome books published in this year. But I will vouch for each and every one of these and fight you on their merits!
My Top 10 Books in 2013
1. The Book Thief
File under: Soul-searching, gut-wrenching, beautiful
One-sentence plot: Death (yes, Death) narrates a tale of a foster girl in Nazi Germany whose saving grace is books, and the words inside.
Quote: “I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
2. The Age of Miracles
File under: Suspense, apocalyptic, coming of age
One-sentence plot: Earth’s rotation is slowing down, and a preteen girl must deal with the repercussions of the end of the world at the same time as the end of her own innocence.
Quote: “But among the artifacts that will never be found — among the objects that will disintegrate long before anyone from elsewhere arrives — is a certain patch of sidewalk on a Californian street where once, on a dark afternoon in summer at the waning end of the year of the slowing, two kids knelt down together on the cold ground. We dipped our fingers in the wet cement, and we wrote the truest, simplest things we knew — our names, the date, and these words: We were here.”
3. Tell the Wolves I’m Home
File under: Coming of age, self-exploration
One-sentence plot: 1980s-era teen has to come to grips with her feelings after her uncle dies of AIDS and she ends up forging a secret bond with the man she blames for her uncle’s death.
Quote: “I used to think maybe I wanted to become a falconer, and now I’m sure of it, because I need to figure out the secret. I need to work out how to keep things flying back to me instead of always flying away.”
4. Life After Life
File under: Metaphysical, philosophical, circle of life
One-sentence plot: Ursula is born on a cold and snowy night; she lives, she dies; she is reborn again on a cold and snowy night.
Quote: “What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
5. Where’d You Go, Bernadette
File under: satire, quirky, whimsical, mystery
One-sentence plot: Oddball mom goes missing and no one thinks she’s still alive … except her daughter.
Quote: “‘That’s right,’ she told the girls. ‘You are bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”
6. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
File under: whimsy, wonder, fantasy, magic, childhood, good vs. evil
One-sentence plot: A man remembers magical adventures and deep knowledge from his childhood that he has been repressing.
Quote: “‘How can you be happy in this world? You have a hole in your heart. You have a gateway inside you to lands beyond the world you know. They will call you, as you grow.”
File under: horror, hope, suspense, the heartache of parenting, kinda based on a true story
One-sentence plot: Five-year-old Jack helps Ma in her plot to escape the only home he has ever known: a room in which they’ve been held captive his entire life.
Quote: “When I tell her what I’m thinking and she tells me what she’s thinking, our each ideas jumping into the other’s head, like colouring blue crayon on top of yellow that makes green.”
8. The Wednesday Wars
File under: coming of age, sweet, comedy
One-sentence plot: In 1960s Long Island, a seventh-grader learns to broaden his horizons when he’s forced to spend time with a teacher who makes him read Shakespeare.
Quote: “I handed the test in five minutes before the end of the day. Mrs. Baker took it calmly, then reached into her bottom drawer for an enormous red pen with a wide felt tip. “Stand here and we’ll see how you’ve done,” she said, which is sort of like a dentist handing you a mirror and saying, “Sit here and watch while I drill a hole in your tooth.”
9. Dark Places
File under: horror, murder-mystery, family drama
One-sentence plot: The sole survivor of a massacre that claimed her entire family when she was just 7 years old discovers that she possibly pointed the finger at the wrong person — and the true events are too twisted for words.
Quote: “I am, I guess, depressed. I guess I’ve been depressed for about twenty-four years. I can feel a better version of me somewhere in there – hidden behind a liver or attached to a bit of spleen within my stunted, childish body – a Libby that’s telling me to get up, do something, grow up, move on. But the meanness usually wins out.”
10. Please Ignore Vera Dietz
File under: coming of age, mystery, right vs. wrong, life, humorous
One-sentence plot: A teenager’s ex-best friend/love interest dies, and she struggles with whether to take action to clear his name.
Quote: “Because with Charlie, nothing was ever easy. Everything was windswept and octagonal and finger-combed. Everything was difficult and odd, and the theme songs all had minor chords.”
It took an awful lot of work to whittle this list down to 10. Here is a quick glimpse of the books that almost made the cut:
Eleanor & Park
Quote: “I just can’t believe that life would give us to each other,’ he said, ‘and then take it back.’
‘I can,’ she said. ‘Life’s a bastard.”
Quote: “That’s me, giving myself a tough-love speech. I’m going to start doing that more often, I’ve decided. One might as well put his inner monologue to good use.”
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
Quote: “You can never visit your own funeral, but if you want to see how people feel about you, commit a crime.”
Looking for Alaska
Quote: “Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It’s very beautiful over there’. I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”
The Dog Stars
Quote: “Can you fall in love through a rifle scope?”
Quote: “This is what happens when you live in dreams, he thought: you dream this and you dream that and you sleep right through your life.”
Quote: “Some folks locked the doors of their hearts when they lost someone. Others kept the doors and the windows open, letting memory and love pass through freely. And maybe that was the way it was supposed to be, Harold thought.”
Code Name Verity
Quote: “I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can’t believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant. But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old.”
The Light Between Oceans
Quote: “You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering the bad things.”
Shades of Earth
Quote: “If it’s a matter of dying here or dying there, I think I’d like to at least see the world first.”
What was your favorite read last year? What should I read in 2014? Suggestions?