Friday, January 3, 2014

Top Ten Books of 2013

I'm a big end-of-the-year list kind of guy. I read as many as I can, and I've enjoyed doing my own book and movie lists. I haven't been blogging much lately, but I feel like the top ten lists are a tradition I need to continue.

I read 46 books in 2013, down from 58 in 2012. No real reason for such a drop, just the way it went I guess. The books on my list weren't necessarily published in 2013, just books I read this year.

10) behind the beautiful forevers, Katherine Boo:
Journalism at its best. Boo examines the effects of global capitalism on the lives of Indian slumdwellers. This book captures the purity and determination of the human spirit.

9) The Book of Jonas, Stephen Dau: The only debut novel on the list. Jonas is a young Muslim boy whose fate is tied to an American soldier. Their story provides an unflinching look at the cost of war on both a personal level and a societal level.

8) Transatlantic, Colum McCann: The beautiful journey of a family that brings to life the fragile, random, unrealized connections that bond human beings over time, space, and history.

7) May We Be Forgiven, A.M. Homes: The main character, Harold Silver, may not be an admirable man when we first meet him, but he's not giving up on the possibility of becoming one.

6) The Round House, Louise Erdrich: Set on the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, this is a coming-of-age story reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird.

5) Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg: Men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in this country, and Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, offers advice to empower women to reach their full potential. This book wasn't without controversy, but as the father of two daughters, I found it incredibly important.

4) Son of a Gun: A Memoir, Justin St. Germain: The first book on the list that I read digitally, on my phone. St. Germain's mother was killed by her husband, and this powerful memoir details his struggle to find peace and keep her in his life.

3) Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple: Great story of a woman fading out of her own life and the love that brings her back.

2) The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, Jonathan Evison: This is the second book I read on the phone. Actually got it as a free download from Starbucks. Ben Benjamin is a lost soul who finds a way to keep going with help from some very unlikely sources.

1) The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer: This is Great American Novel stuff.  Wolitzer chronicles the lives of six unique and, dare I say, interesting, characters. This is the kind of book that uses the lives of individuals to comment on broader society. It's not easy to pull that kind of thing off, but Wolitzer does it brilliantly.

Let me know what you think of my choices. I'd love to hear what other people enjoyed reading this year in the comments, might give me some ideas for 2014. Your top book, top 3, 5, 10, whatever works for you.


  1. I have to tell you that as I began reading, I wondered if your list would include more than one woman author. :) A while back, another man blogger made a list of the best authors throughout the generations and there was not one woman on it. I asked him why and he responded by mentioning Flannery O'Connor (I think) as a favorite of his. I know the name, but not her work.

    Anyway, yours is quite a mix genres. I would say you're qualified as "well read."

    I am disappointed to say that I did not read much in 2013. I'm sure I started 20 books, but probably finished about 10, if that.

    I watch Book TV (c-span) on the weekends and I think I saw the Lean In book there. Wherever I saw it, I made a mental note to consider reading it. Currently, I'm reading Where'd You Go, Bernadette; just a little into it so far, but liking it. I'm glad you have it on your list because someone else thought it was overrated.

    Three books that I have read this year are State of Wonder (Ann Patchett), Loving Frank (Nancy Horan), and The Signature of All Things (Elizabeth Gilbert). All were good reads, though the last one did not end as well as I would have liked. And yes, all are women authors, so now I've got to eat my words and read a male author. I was in the book store today and considered one of Malcolm Gladwell's books. I read The Tipping Point a few years back. Today, I bought The Book Thief.

    As you can tell, I love books... more than I read them, unfortunately. Good for you to manage 46!

    Happy New Year and Happy Reading :)

    1. I would agree that being well read means reading male and female authors. With all the great female writers out there these days, it shouldn't be hard for the guys to find writers they can appreciate.

      Hope you like The Book Thief, it's one of my all time favs.

      Happy New Year

    2. I finished Where'd You Go, Bernadette, and found that it was a fun read.

  2. That's quite a list and, me being the illiterate dough-head I am, I haven't read one of them. (heheheh)

    1. I guess our tastes didn't overlap this year.

      I saw your post about reading up and coming authors.That's a great resolution for the new year!

  3. Your list is very eclectic. This year I read a lot of YA. It is very popular right now and I have been considering writing a YA novel. However, it is recommended that you become EXTREMELY FAMILIAR with what is popular in any genre before you even begin such an endeavor. I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of really good material out there.

    1. I did read a number of YA titles last year. I liked Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine a lot. It was one of the last books I cut.

  4. I read:

    The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America by James Wilson

    Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hillburn

    Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

    And then a whole lot of 'crashing on the shores of ecstacy' kind of books. :-)

  5. I was wondering about your annual list. Great reading ideas here bud. Mine is scheduled to be published tomorrow. One of my 2013 favourites: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese.