Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 in review: Books

Year number eight! Here are the books I read in 2013:

1. Insurgent - Veronica Roth
2. Just One Day - Gayle Forman
3. Keeping Safe the Stars - Sheila O'Connor
4. The Wind Through the Keyhole - Stephen King
5. Down the Rabbit Hole - Susan Campbell Bartoletti
6. Because I Said So - Ken Jennings
7. Battleborn - Claire Vaye Watkins
8. Clockwork Princess - Cassandra Clare
9. Decorate - Holly Becker & Joanna Copestick
10. Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
11. Boundless - Cynthia Hand
12. Tenth of December - George Saunders
13. Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls - David Sedaris
14. Mom & Me & Mom - Maya Angelou
15. The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes
16. The Busy, Busy World of Richard Scarry - Walter Retan & Ole Risom
17. Blasphemy - Sherman Alexie
18. The Repeat Year - Andrea Lochen
19. The Elite - Kiera Cass
20. Madison - Zane Williams
21. Joyland - Stephen King
22. The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes
23. The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau
24. Attempting Normal - Marc Maron
25. Dad is Fat - Jim Gaffigan
26. The Burgess Boys - Elizabeth Strout
27. Astray - Emma Donoghue
28. Sisterland - Curtis Sittenfeld
29. Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
30. Belle Epoque - Elizabeth Ross
31. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
32. I Wear the Black Hat - Chuck Klosterman
33. I Can Barely Take Care of Myself - Jen Kirkman
34. The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith
35. The Magician King - Lev Grossman
36. Doctor Sleep - Stephen King
37. Just One Year - Gayle Forman
38. Levels of Life - Julian Barnes
39. The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
40. The Circle - Dave Eggers
41. David and Goliath - Malcolm Gladwell
42. Hostage Three - Nick Lake
43. Paris, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down - Rosecrans Baldwin
44. One Summer: America, 1927 - Bill Bryson

Total books read: 44. That is ... less than half the number I read in 2012. Why the huge difference? I'm honestly not sure. I'd like to think that part of it, at least, was just less time spent sitting still and reading. But if I'm honest, I read a lot of magazines and such on the internet, too. I also saw a lot of movies in 2013.

Previously read: 0 (0%) Last year there was only one, and this year none of the books on my list was a repeat.

Marketed for children/teens: 10 (23%) Less than last year's 26%, but not by much. My reasoning from last year still stands: this has a lot to do with the nonexistent repeat read tally for the year. If I want read something and not think about it too hard, I'm going for something I've already read ... or a YA book. That being said, I'd recommend the two Gayle Forman books wholeheartedly, YA or not. I was so sad when I finished Just One Day and realized I had months and months to wait before Just One Year came out. On the face of it, the plots sound somewhat contrived (and somewhat reminiscent of the Before Sunrise films): girl and boy meet abroad, spend a day together, are separated, try to resume life but have a hard time letting go. But Forman makes it all seem plausible (at least while you're reading), perhaps because both Allyson and Willem are richly-drawn and complex characters.

Fiction: 29.5 (67%)
Nonfiction: 14.5 (33%)
A little more fiction-y than last year's 64%-36%. Why the half? Levels of Life, as the New York Times put it, "is part history, part meditative essay and part fictionalized biography." One of my favorite serendipitous moments this year was wandering into an exhibit of early European photography at the Detroit Institute of Arts and seeing one of Gaspard-FĂ©lix Tournachon's photos on display. I'd learned about him just weeks before in Barnes's book.
You should definitely read: Tenth of December by George Saunders. I enjoy short fiction collections, but it seems like the goal of many short story authors is to see who can depress me the most upon my finishing their books. (Jhumpa Lahiri and Claire Vaye Watkins, I'm looking at you.) I wouldn't call the stories in Tenth of December upbeat, by any means, but they actually contain some humor. They aren't relentlessly bleak! I suppose that in itself isn't a ringing endorsement, but George Saunders has written an imaginative collection of stories, eliciting a wealth of emotions that belie the stories' underlying darkness.

Don't bother reading: Billy Moon: A Transcendent Novel Reimagining the Life of Christopher Robin Milne by Douglas Lain. You may notice that this book doesn't show up on my list above. That's because I didn't finish it. I have to applaud the author for a cracker of an original idea here - kind of magic-realism-meets-historical-fiction - and I really tried to get into it. I wanted to love it. I can absolutely imagine some people really getting it, and most professional reviews are very positive. But somewhere around the middle of the book, my efforts to figure out what was real and what wasn't broke down when I realized I didn't actually care.

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