Thursday, January 2, 2014
The Best Books I Read in 2013
I love a good excuse to have a book wrap-up! Let's bid adieu to 2013 bookish style!
Thank goodness for Goodreads because I used it all last year and everything I read is in one place. So many books I would have forgotten to talk about! You can follow me on Goodreads too if you so desire, because book stalking is a thing!
Lets get to it!
Best of the Best
I like to think I have some fairly high standards when it comes to books that I would wholeheartedly recommend. They can't just be beautifully written but dead boring. They have to have a decent plot and if not likeable characters, at the very least interesting characters. Books that I really love usually have amazing writing. The kind of prose that breaks your heart with its deft turn of phrase and beautiful capturing of the English language. Books I love also usually speak to something deeper than the surface of the story it tells, usually in a surprising way. These are some books that I not only enjoyed but would recommend to anyone who appreciates good literature and a good story.
The Shoemaker's Wife - A tale of a lifetime of love between two immigrants to America. I enjoyed this book the more I read and think its a rare story that both tugs at the heartstrings but remains realistic.
The Language of Flowers - A beautiful telling of a mother's devotion and how motherhood effects us in surprising ways. Another beautiful story,
The Secret Keeper - I thought Kate Morton was chick-lit so I started reading her books in the last throes of pregnancy where all I could do was wallow on the couch. I was so pleasantly surprised by the well crafted writing and characters. This novel was my favourite.
A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion - Ron Hansen's latest work about a doomed love affair that turned violent in the 1920's. Hansen is simply an amazing writer. His writing remains firmly Catholic even when the content is far from overt Catholic themes. This novel deals with themes of sin, grace, and repentance and is worth the read.
Memento Mori - I love Muriel Spark. I find her quirky and interesting while at the same time being able to hit upon such deep truths. In a way she's a British Flannery O'Connor in that she approaches Catholic ideas through strange and unusual stories and characters. Momento Mori is another strange tale of strange people dealing with their own mortality. A story that stays with you.
Bel Canto - Ann Patchett successfully creates a parallel universe which completely envelopes the reader. She brings to life another world where relationships, language barriers, and love all intersect in what seem to be impossible ways.
Jayber Crow - I finally dove into Wendell Barry and his famous tale of a man's telling of life, community and the wisdom he finds living a simple life. I think this is a book that will come back to me in many ways. It is a beautifully written ode to what's really important. Very Chestertonian.
I am all over the place when it comes to non-fiction. I love strange topics and discovering things I would never have known through non-fiction books. It's really because I'm a giant nerd. Do any of these strike your fancy?
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking - I found this book interesting because I enjoy learning about personality, but at the same time I couldn't help but feel as if this book preached a little too heavily on how amazing introverts are. I'm a ridiculously balanced person when it comes to introversion/extraversion so I didn't exactly relate to how great it is to be an introvert and what a cross it is to be an introvert in a world where people communicate with each other all the time. I feel the repurrcusions of this book have made everyone believe they're that very special introvert who needs to be catered to and appreciate for all their "special" abilities. Haha, now I just sound bitter. It really is quite the interesting book.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - This book blew my mind. I'm not too into scientific discoveries and would never have known what has gone on in the field of genetic research in the past century if I hadn't read this book. I found it completely engrossing. It put a personal face on medical technology and its myriad of implications, as well as proving the Church's important teaching on scientific studies completely right on.
The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton - A wonderful introduction to the most important foundations of Chesterton's thinking and how it explains our world. Well written and easy to read.
My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir - Before I read this book I had this vague impression that it was going to be an overly sentimental and pious spiritual memoir that I would find boring and annoying. Thank goodness I was wrong in every way! A touching, relatable, and wonderfully told memoir of a modern woman encountering holy women in the Church.
Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life - I didn't find this book completely revolutionary like many purport, but still really enjoyed it. I agree wholeheartedly with her thesis that home is the most important place in our lives and deserves time and attention to make us happier. Worth the read for sure.
A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy - I'm a huge British monarchy nerd and love a good royal biography like nobody's business! This book was a very interesting look at the relationship between Victoria and Albert and how his death helped create the Victoria of history.
Dad Is Fat - Absolutely hilarious and a treat to read! I was in tears in so many different parts and could have sworn he was writing about my life. Anyone with kids will relate, but anyone with more than 3 will be in stitches!
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child - A little long winded in sections, but overall a complete manifesto on how I want to raise my kids. It really opens your mind to how our world has changed the way children learn and how it has impacted our children's moral development and childhood.
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise - Ruth Reichl is an amazing food writer and this book was a pure pleasure to read. I loved being invited into her interesting tales of being a food critic.
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary - An incredibly well-written tale of the strange way the Oxford English Dictionary came into existence. What's that? A book written about people writing a book sounds boring? Well, this will completely change your opinion of that genre!
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex - Because a tale of cannibalism is a great way to get perspective on a crappy day spent with toddlers! But really, an amazing story and a well-done history. I regaled stories from this book to my husband who thought I was making it all up.
Pope Awesome and Other Stories - I can't recommend this book enough. If you're looking for a book to encourage your own heart in faith and family, or to open the eyes of a friend I'd suggest this book every time. A well written tale of a modern woman finding faith and family in a world that tries its best to stifle both.
Books I Hated and Books I Thought Were Just Alright
Sometimes its just so much fun to complain about bad books amiright? Here's some that were atrocious that I somehow finished out of my compulsive must-finish-every-book-I-read disorder.
Gone Girl - I honestly don't understand how this book is such a raging bestseller, but I'm going to blame the general uneducated state of society today. This book was sloppily written, had the most unlikeable characters, and had a twist ending that anyone could see coming from about 12 miles away. I honestly shouldn't have finished it, and I'm still bitter I won't get those hours of my life back. Horrible!
Still Alice - This is a book that I didn't hate per say, but didn't live up to my expectations. A story detailing the heartbreak of alzheimer's disease, this book seemed to be building to being a great book but never quite made it there. I found the prose clunky and a little cold as well.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and The Paris Wife - I went on a bit of a kick where I could only read novels based on the lives of wives of famous writers from the 1920's. They were both decent, although I didn't love the books. The Paris Wife was the better written book which details the life of Ernest Hemingway's first wife Hadley, while Z tells the tragic life of Zelda Fitzgerald.
Austenland - I'm not a fan of fan fiction generally, and this proves me right yet again. I honestly thought this book was terrible. The movie might be entertaining as it tells of a young woman trying to understand love by going to a spa-come-Jane Austen re-enacting-theater of sorts.
The Night Circus - I'm still fairly angry that this book wasn't better edited. With some crafty editing, say chopping the book by a good 100 pages, this would have been a good fantasy. As it exists today its a best-selling disappointment. I plodded through the book hoping for an interesting resolution only to be tortured by chapter after chapter of crazy descriptions.
Someday, Someday, Maybe - This was a book I thought I was going to hate but was pleasantly surprised with. It's not high literature but for a chick-lit book written by an actress its surprisingly entertaining. A good easy and fun read!
Ok. I need to stop talking about books don't I? I think 2013 turned out to be a good year for reading, and I'm fairly happy I read so much even when I had a baby in that time period! I'm looking forward to hearing about your favourite books of 2013!
And if you're in the mood for more of my book opinions here's my Best Books of 2012 post.
Linking up with Haley's great book link-up!
And joining Modern Mrs Darcy with most Best Book links!
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