My Top 5 books of 2013

It’s that time of year when newspaper and magazine editors choose their ‘TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR’ so with that in mind I have turned to my own list of ‘BOOKS READ IN 2013’ for my own Top Books.. 

I was quite shocked to see that I have not read as much fiction as I usually do.  I read anything between 20-40 books of fiction a year but this year I found myself reading a whole lot more non-fiction.  My Work-In-Progress has demanded it.  So instead of offering up a Top 10 I submit instead my Top 5 for 2013.  I hope you will share yours with me.

Please note my Top 5 is not limited to books published this year.  

1.  Mount Pleasant by Don Gillmor.  

A perceptive, relevant and hilarious novel about a married, middle-aged professor’s (Harry Salter) obsession with money, real-estate and status.  Absolutely brilliant.  For an excellent review read here.

2.  Secret of the Tides by Hannah Richell

This is the kind of book I love reading.  A beautifully crafted tale of a family torn apart by a dark secret.  

3.  Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

This is storytelling at its best.  Part fairy tale, part mystery.  For an excellent review read here.

4.  Dear Life by Alice Munro.

What can I say that hasn’t been said?  Besides 2013 will always be remembered as Alice Munro’s year. I am a huge fan and no list would be complete without her work in it.

5.  Hell Going by Lynn Coady

This story collection won the Scotiabank Giller Prize.  Nine piercing short stories about human foibles and obsessions.  

i love hearing from you!








3 thoughts on “My Top 5 books of 2013

  1. I know they frustrate some people but, for me, end of year lists are part of what makes December ‘the most wonderful time of the year’! I’m not organised enough to have thought about my own reading retrospective yet but admire you for finding time to do it already. How terrible that I’ve not read any of your top 5 books and actually hadn’t even heard of 2 of them! The Secret of the Tides and Mount Pleasant are new to me, I must find out more about them. I have Hell Going on my list of to-buy books. I always try to follow the Giller long- and shortlists, although many of the titles aren’t available over here, so sometimes it has to be enough to read about the books rather than read the books themselves.
    When I’m reviewing my own reading, I usually try to note other trends that the lists reveal. Had you read anything by these authors before? Were any of them real finds whose work you’ll look forward to in the future? How did you come by them in the first place – were they recommended by a friend? Did you read a review that intrigued you? Did you agree with the reviews after you had read the book? Did you buy or borrow the book? Did you give any of them to people as gifts? (I usually give a couple of copies of my favourite read of the year to friends and family as Christmas gifts – a self-generated book club if only they’d read them!) How does the list stand up to previous years’ reading? Will any of these titles be on a books-of-the-decade list, do you think?
    Nosy me obviously! I can never leave a list alone – it always ends up a spider diagram by the time I’m finished with it!

    • Wonderful questions Em! I am going to try to answer all of them so you may want to sit down with a cup of tea for this one. I too love the ‘Year End lists’ because as a writer (hoping to be published one day) I am very interested in what other people are reading. I suppose I am looking at trends – like the recent ‘mermaid’ trend in YA. However that said when it comes to actually choosing a book I don’t follow the newspapers although I do try to read all the prizewinners (Giller, Booker etc). I take recommendations very seriously especially those from friends who know my tastes. And I trust ‘my’ librarians’ who besides recommending books to me also have these wonderful ‘Must Read” shelves. Don Gillmor was a library discovery and no I had not read anything of his before but I have every intention of reading everything else he has written and will ever write. I went into a bookstore while on holiday in South Africa earlier this year looking for the latest Kate Morton and came out with Kate’s The Secret Keeper and Hannah Richell’s Secret of the Tides. You get writers and then you get storytellers. Hannah Richell like Kate Morton is a storyteller. Months after reading this book her characters are still with me like close friends. Incredible to think this was her first book. There are not as many family sagas or books in the vein of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca out there as I would like…I am sure I am not the only one who likes reading about dark secrets and dusty attics. I buy books for my husband because a) he is very particular and I seem to always hit the nail on the head with every choice I make for him (lucky me) b) he doesn’t use the library like he should (he reads the classifieds in a cozy corner). I buy books for my sons (why I bother I don’t know). Once a few years back – for Christmas – I bought copies of Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening for three friends because Oprah loved it and because it’s a series of daily reflections. Thinking back now I don’t believe my friends every mentioned reading it or reflecting on any of its ‘soul lessons’. I am loathe to buy fiction for others because what moves me may not necessarily (no matter how well I think I know someone) ring true for that person. It’s too easy to get it wrong. This does not stop me from recommending or lending books. So then it won’t surprise you to hear my friends buy me gift cards. My taste is apparently to ‘eclectic’. How does this list stand up to previous years’ reading? I read a lot more fiction in 2012 than this year. 25 books of fiction to be precise. My top 5 for 2012 = ‘Olive Kitteridge’ by Elizabeth Strout, ‘Housekeeping’ by Marilynne Robinson ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn and ‘The History of Love’ by Nicole Krauss. I read a lot of short story compilations this year. Lots. I think last year’s list is stronger but by stating that do I not diminish the brilliance of this year’s selection? I hope not because yes these titles will be on my decades list. I am looking forward to your Top 5!

      • Thanks for taking the time to indulge my curiosity! I think one of the joys of internet communities (said as someone who is very new to to the whole concept) is that it seems possible to make friends here who share your interests in a different way to your ‘real-life’ friends, some of whom who might enjoy your company in spite of your reading passions rather than because of them! (Speaking as someone who is far too familiar with that particular concept!)
        I’m lucky enough to still get to spend time with friends from my school-days and it’s so interesting to see how our tastes have diverged over the years. One of the reasons why we all became friends in the first place was a shared love of literature and now we all have such different relationships with the written word. One is now fluent in Russian and can read the classics as they were originally written, another is a professor of American literature and seems to read only disgruntled middle-aged men, yet another reads only on planes and then there’s me, trying desperately to pass on my best books of a year to anyone who’ll read them. We too tend to exchange book-related items, rather than books themselves, as gifts.
        One element of end-of-year reviews that always fascinates me is that of re-reading. I know many people don’t return to a book once they’ve turned the final page, but I love re-reading favourites. It’s always reassuring when a book which may have been on my best-of list a decade ago still makes it onto a current list. Disappointing of course when one doesn’t, but I suspect that’s more about me than the book. How wonderful to think that while a book and I may have grown apart over the years, it once said to me exactly what I wanted to hear exactly when I needed it. Of course, considering the value I place on them, I should probably dust my treasured ‘friends’ a little more often!

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