Love too big to stay in a tiny bucket: Top ten books read in 2013

I wanted to say of course I know that. I know all about tiny things. Proportion. I know all about love that’s too big to stay in a tiny bucket. Splashing out all over the place in the most embarrassing way possible. –Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt

I always geekily look forward to the top-ten time of year. It’s one of my most favorite things. I used to top-ten even when I didn’t have a blog. I shared it with no one. It was just for me, in case I wanted to look back and say, “Oh, in 2007, THIS was my favorite book.” I know. Dorky, right? Don’t even care. Lists are my favorite, just like Buddy’s favorite is smiling. (I have my top-ten lists for years hanging in my living room on a corkboard so I can look at them. I LOVE LISTS!)

I’ve been working on my top ten book list for weeks. Moving, removing, adding, subtracting, weighing pros and cons, comparing statistics about the final list as well as the year overall, seeing how I can change/improve my performance next year…yep. I’m an athlete of reading. NOW IT IS TIME FOR THE INSTANT REPLAY.

This year:

I read 111 books (which is about three times as many as last year…I’m well pleased with this.)

I managed to use Goodreads to rate all of them; because I did this, I know most of the books I read I rated 4 stars. (In case you’re interested: 2 books were one star, 11 were two stars, 31 were three stars, 46 were four stars, and 21 were five stars.) This might indicate I grade too highly overall, but that would be the wrong assumption based on that grade. Thing is, I’m super-picky about what I read. I read reviews, blogs, and blurbs; I go to the authors whose work I’ve liked the best in the past. I don’t go in blind to what I’m reading. (And the books I rated lowest were either review copies or books recommended to me that just didn’t work for me…I think it’s best I stick to what I want to read, with only occasional forays into the unknown. I’ve done very well this year, mostly because it’s the first year I didn’t allow people to tell me what I had to read.) Because I’m so picky, and I know what I’ll like, my grades tend to be higher.

I reviewed most of what I read; I’m also proud of that, because now I know I can go back to the reviews and see what I thought of the book, and that makes me happy. My memory’s not what it used to be. I need the reminder, honestly.

So, as I always warn people: my top ten of the year weren’t specifically published in 2013. They’re my top ten I READ this year. My TBR is very long; there are books on it from a VERY long time ago. There’s no shelf-date on books. It’s not like I’m going to read one and it’s expired. Books aren’t baked goods. They’re not going to go bad.

(However, this year is the first year that everything on my top-ten list was written in either 2012 or 2013. Usually I have a book from, like, the 80s sneak in there, or something. This year all the books are pretty current. I think I’m catching up on life a little!)

We’re going to start with #10 and count down to #1, like the big dogs do, and also to lengthen the suspense. Nice, right? Totally.

And just so I’m clear: there are a lot of books that COULD have made this list. I had a hard time leaving off four, that I can think of off the top of my head, and will list those at the end as bonus picks, how about that? They were the ones I tried to shoehorn in here and couldn’t leave any others off in order to do so. I really wanted to keep it a top 10. (Sorry this is so long. I was thinking of breaking it into two posts, but I like it being all in one piece.)

Click on the title to read my review, if you’re so inclined, for further information; I’m not going to give you a whole review when I’ve already written one, you know? The link will bring you to the Goodreads page, so I don’t clutter other blogs up with trackbacks, but please click through at the bottom of the review to the blogs; I’m sure they’d like the hits, and you can comment on the reviews, if you are so inclined, either on Goodreads or on the blogs.

This year we have three books by members of the same family on my top ten list; we have two books by the same person (who I just discovered this year) on my top ten list; and we have female authors outnumbering male authors 70%/30%. Which is ironic, as earlier in the year I was accused of being a misogynist who was bringing down the entirety of feminism by ONLY READING BOOKS BY MEN ZOMG SISTERS UNITE IN SISTERHOOD KUMBAYA!

#10

Dead Harvest: Chris F. Holm
February 2012, Angry Robot
384 pages, Fantasy

I found myself in the position of having to choose which of Holm’s Collector novels to put here. This was not an easy task. I read all three this year. Any of them could go here, as I adored them all. Do I choose the one that made me cry, or the one that made me cheer the most? Ultimately,  I went with Dead Harvest, and I’ll tell you why. It’s the one that introduced me to the series; it’s the one that made me fall in love with the series. I think there are things about the other two that are brilliant, but without this book, wouldn’t even have READ the other two…so I’m going with this one.

Treat yourself to this series, if you haven’t yet –  the characters make you want to meet them, they’re so flawed and realistic and heartbreaking, and the plotlines are so well-written you’ll zip through them without realizing where the time has gone. Plus Chris is an awesome human being I was lucky enough to meet this year, and I can’t recommend his work enough – how often is the person behind the words as cool as you hope he is?

#9

The Goldfinch: Donna Tartt
October 2013, Little, Brown and Company
784 pages, Literary Fiction

I’m not much of one for these huge literary behemoths, unless I know and love the author, but this one called out to me, and I gave it a go. I’m so glad I did. I fell in love with this story: lost Theo, going from home to home with the precious stolen painting like an albatross around his neck, and the cast of supporting characters surrounding him. I loved the locales – my New York City, already beloved, but Vegas, glittering like a cheap paste diamond, and Amsterdam, full of water and mystery and fog. I love an author that can make a location as important as the people. I’m glad Tartt is on my radar now; I’ll be sure to be reading more of her work in the new year.

#8

Save Yourself: Kelly Braffet
August 2013, Crown
320 pages, Literary Fiction

I can’t let these characters go. I have such a thing for lost, broken people; I want to save them, I want to watch them save themselves, I want to learn from their mistakes. Everyone here is so lost, so broken, so heartbreakingly real in their struggle to pull themselves up and out of the mess they either have made of their lives, or were born into…their struggles became mine, for the time I was in their world. I bought this book as a gift for a loved one for Christmas, so I could share it with her. I would have bought it for more people, had I the money to do so. I want everyone to experience this. I want YOU, reading this, to experience this.

#7

NOS4A2: Joe Hill
April 2013, William Morrow
704 pages, Horror

I didn’t review this one when I read it, for various reasons that no longer matter; I’ll try to catch up on that one of these days. So, sorry for the lack of a review, here. That’s the reason I review things as soon as I read them; I have the worst memory. I don’t know that I could write an intelligent review of this book right now. It’s been seven months since I read it.

I do know that Joe Hill is one of the best horror writers working today; I loved this book to pieces. I was also petrified, because scary teeth upset me, and losing your loved ones upsets me, and I fell in love with the characters, and yes, it was a wee bit too long, but I was loving it so much that I didn’t mind. It was innovative and creative and intelligent and frightening and claustrophobic and terrifying, and I can’t wait until his next novel comes out. (This book has made a LOT of top ten lists this year, I’m glad to see. Good for Hill. He deserves that. Hopefully that will lead to extended success for him; I’d like him to keep writing for years to come. I’m selfishly hoping for another book of short stories; I really love his shorter work, and hope how good he is at longer work doesn’t mean we won’t see any more short fiction from him.)

#6

Fangirl: Rainbow Rowell
September 2013, St. Martin’s Griffin
448 pages, New Adult

I fell crazy in love with Rowell’s writing this year. It’s intelligent and sassy and heartbreaking and relatable, and Rowell herself seems like a fantastic human being, and I want to read everything she ever writes, ever. (I still have Attachments left to read, and will be reading that in the new year…and Landline comes out in 2014, and I couldn’t be more excited.)

Rowell’s writing is everything I wanted John Green to be, but wasn’t, for me (sorry, John Green fans…I don’t dislike the guy, but there’s so much sap in his books I get stuck like Br’er Rabbit.) People in her books make mistakes, and talk like real human beings might talk, and do things that real human beings might do, and you love them more for it. You root for them and you cheer for them and you weep for them and you think back to when you were that age and you hope you handled yourself as well as they did (and probably you didn’t, but that’s ok. You tried.)

#5

Eleanor & Park: Rainbow Rowell
February 2013, St. Martin’s Griffin
336 pages, New Adult

BOTH books I read by Rowell this year made the list! I like Eleanor & Park a bit more. Possibly because I read it first, and I relate to fierce, bullied Eleanor and her wild hair, and I wanted a Park to love me like that. (I still want a Park to love me like that. I’m endlessly optimistic about such things. It’s a fault.) This is an amazing book. This book broke my heart and made me hopeful and brought me back to that terrible age when I was also 16 and I didn’t know that I wanted to go there, but it helped me forgive some of the boneheadedness of that age, and I thank it for that.

There were many tears and many laughs and many happy sighs and I can’t recommend it highly enough, except I think I’ve already made everyone I know read it. Tell your friends, people. Let’s make it a movement. Let’s carpet the globe with Eleanor & Park and the people who love them.

#4

Doctor Sleep: Stephen King
September 2013, Scribner
544 pages, Horror

Three books by the King family! (Kelly Braffet is Stephen King’s daughter-in-law.) It’s a total coup!

I loved this book. It was the perfect sequel to The Shining that I didn’t even know I wanted. I loved catching up with an adult Dan; I loved that he was going through some very relatable things; I loved meeting Abra; I loved the references to the past, I loved the redemption. This was King at his finest. I was so sucked into this book for the time it took me to read it I didn’t want to be doing anything else. This book came with me everywhere I went, including work, the theater, my bed, and any time I had when I was early for anything (I read a lot in my car. While it’s parked, of course; don’t worry. I’m not obsessed enough to read and drive. YET.)

#3

Six-Gun Snow White: Catherynne M. Valente
February 2013, Subterranean
168 pages, Fairy Tale

It’s no secret I’m obsessed with fairy tales; updated, re-tooled fairy tales are some of my favorite things to read. They’re also something that can go very wrong, and something that it’s very easy for an author to be lazy about. Valente does this book right, and I’m crazy in love with it. There’s so much magic in this story, so much poetry. It’s utter perfection. The words were so evocative you felt you were there; you were riding with Snow White, the grit in your teeth, your stepmother at your back. This is a fairy tale for those of us who cut our teeth on them and continue wanting that magic as adults.

#2

Safe as Houses: Marie-Helene Bertino
October 2012, University of Iowa Press
164 pages, Short Stories

It’s actually ironic a book of short stories made my top ten list; I’m not a huge short story fan. A collection of short stories needs to be really, really stellar to make the top ten. Bertino’s collection delivered – it delivered amazing writing as well as one of the best literary sob-fests I’ve had all year. So many broken people. Such lush, poetic language. So much beauty and so much sorrow and so much love. I immediately bought myself a copy once I returned the copy from the library. I needed to own this one. I needed it to be there if I needed to read it in the middle of a long, dark night when I couldn’t sleep. Do you have books like that? I both hope you do, and hope you never need such things.

I can’t wait to see what Bertino comes out with next. She’s a brilliant writer, and she owns me. I’ll read anything she publishes for all of time, based on this collection.

#1

Tell the Wolves I’m Home: Carol Rifka Brunt
June 2012, Random House
355 pages, Literary Fiction

It’s funny – when I read this back in February, I was sure I’d read something else that would beat it for the top spot. And I read a lot of amazing books this year…but this one stayed with me. I bought myself the book in hardcover so I could own it; I gifted it to a loved one for Christmas. I never quite got over this book. It made me cry harder than anything else I read all year; I related to the characters and the situations more than anything else this year; the writing was more beautiful than anything else I read all year. When people ask me what they should read next, I tell them about this one. I guess the race for first place was over two months into the 2013. Sorry, all other contenders! This one had you beat. (Sincerely. Read it. Highest of recommendations.)

And, as promised, the books that didn’t quite make the cut, but were so, so close! (In alphabetical order by author only…no preferential treatment being given here. This was a tough year for decision-making. I read a LOT of good books!)

The Big Reap: Chris F. Holm
The Wrong Goodbye: Chris F. Holm
Double Feature: Owen King
Breadcrumbs: Anne Ursu

There. Ten (plus four bonus!) books for your reading pleasure, which run the gamut genre-wise so there really should be something for everyone.

It really was an amazing year for books. I feel very blessed. Here’s to 2014, another year of beautiful words, gorgeous cover art, and ideas so brilliant they do happy dances in my brain and make my eyes leak tears as I read the final page.

Happy New Year, all! And happy reading!

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10 comments

  1. ScorpionGlow

    Good post. I’m astounded that someone has broken my personal Goodreads record, but I also think it’s a good thing. 🙂 I did 73 this year, but my best was 91. I like using Goodreads to keep track too.

  2. becomingcliche

    I’ve lost count of which books on your list I have now reserved at the library. “NOS4A2” is high on the list. I read “Eleanor&Park” on your recommendation, and “Fangirl,” too. “Fangirl” gives me the happy sighs, but I loved them both. I thought “Attachments” was just okay, but it was her first novel, so I forgive her. I think she’s more solid in YA/NA than in Adult contemporary.

    I hope your Park finds you.

    • lucysfootball

      Ooh, I look forward to discussing NOS4A2 with you. Do you like scary? Have we discussed this?

      I loved discussing Rowell with you this year! Here’s to more of that next year! And here’s to my Park getting here post-haste – I’m not getting any younger, here, Park!

  3. A. Pope

    I was amazed at how many of these I’d read, but realized I’d read about them on your blogs (except the Joe Hill–found that one on my own). Have requested “Fangirl” from the library. Thank you!

  4. cynthiaw

    Ooh… I loved all of the Chris Holm books and I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite, too. I might go with The Big Reap because that one made me cry buckets at the end.

    • lucysfootball

      Yeah, that was my thought, too – they all had something that made them stand out, so it was tough to choose just one for the top ten. “The Big Reap” was my weepy one, for sure!

  5. Charleen

    I wanted to read Save Yourself, but I had no clue the author was part of the King family. Even if she doesn’t have the genes, there must be something there for her to fit in with that bunch. Now I want to read it even more!

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