2013 was a good year for us as a family. I finally got a job and it’s a wonderful job with great colleagues, lots of challenges and I love it! My boyfriend got a promotion and he’s so much happier with his new job. Both girls are happy and healthy and fighting just the right amount for us to think that everything is as it should be. And we have added three bunnies to the family, something I’ve wished for for a long time.
When it comes to books, it was also a good year. I met my goal of reading 52 books (finished the last one at 2 am on December 31st!) and I read some amazing books. So here’s a breakdown of the best reads of 2013.
I was going back and forth about what my favorite read was – but the last book of the year proved to be it. For me, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was an eye-opener. It is one of those books that make you realize how important books and reading are and it blew my mind. It was so so good and I want to read it again as well as read books discussing it’s worth and importance. This book was published in 1953 but still it comments on our current media consumption, the decline of reading and the way we live our lives, focusing on entertainment. It is so important and everyone should read this book! It is just 159 pages but on almost every page, there’s something quote worthy. For me, it was a perfect read.
But even though this was such a shining star, there have been other wonderful reads this year.
I have separated Classics and Fantasy from this category but still. It’s so very hard to choose a winner – or even which books belong in this category or in one of the others so I will just immediately say that there will be more than one winner in both this and the Classics category!
Whether you consider Fahrenheit 451 in this or the next category, it is of course still a winner but since it has already been highlighted as my overall favorite, I will talk about some of my other 5 stars reads from this year.
Despite reading both John Irving, Martin Amis, John Updike, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates and many more, there are two books that stood out the most.
First of, there’s a reread. I first read Richard Adams’ Watership Down many years ago and liked it, but didn’t love it. When I reread it this year, I absolutely loved it. I would sit in the garden, looking at our bunnies play and read about Fiver, Hazel and all their friends and their struggle to establish their own warren after a long, harrowing journey. It was absolute bliss. Richard Adams manages to write these rabbits in a way so they still feel like rabbits. Their way of behavior is spot on and there are hardly any humans in the book. I was in love from the first page and it just continued throughout the entire book and it went straight to my favorites shelf. What a wonderful cozy read!
Another favorite novel this year was Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning Beloved. There was nothing cozy about this one but it was still oh so very good. It’s a devastating tale of what a mother will do to keep her children safe and it definitely made me question how far I would go to keep my girls safe. I am not sure that I could go so far as this mother but then, her circumstances was very special and her life was so different from mine. Morrison’s writing is perfect for this story – I had to reread certain key passages over and over to fully grasp it all – and to fully grasp the horror of what was happening. Such a special book.
2013 was also a good year for classics. I read Wilkie Collins, Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh – but the following three deserves special mention.
Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is so many things at the same time. It’s a biography on the surface – but it’s also a love letter, a critique of male dominated history and the biography genre and much more, and then it’s just fascinating and intriguing and like nothing I have read before. And this is only in part because the main protagonist changes sex during the book and that he/she lives to be 400 years. It takes quite a lot of time to read even though it’s such a short book but that’s in part because my edition, at least, came with a lot of footnotes and I needed them to put Orlando’s history in perspective and get the connection between Orlando, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.
Another favorite read was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I had never read this book before or watched any movie version so I didn’t really know anything about the story. Even though I expected much more swash-buckling and sword fights, I really enjoyed it. The count is a very conflicted character who are mistreated by both his peers and betters and who has his life ruined by being thrown in jail. When he escapes and acquire a vast fortune, he seeks revenge on those that wronged him. This is indeed an example of the old saying that revenge is a dish best served cold – or not quite, since the count does have a few misgivings about mistreating the families to the men who mistreated him. It doesn’t stop him though and since he is generous and caring to the people who helped him and who he loves, he is indeed a many facetted character who feels very real. A very interesting book.
And finally, my third favorite classic of the year, is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. This was a wonderful book. It was so understated and lovely and Gatsby was so lost and desperate and it was just a beautiful story of a man who will do anything for the woman he loves – whether she deserves it or not. And luckily, this book is so short that it will be easy to return to it and read it again – and it deserves to be read more than once since it’s complicated main character will certainly yield more and more depth and insight with each read. I really want to watch the movies too … Just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
I didn’t read a lot of fantasy this year although it is one of my favorite genres. But in a category with contenders like Stephen King’s The Waste Lands (Dark Tower #3) as well as other Dark Tower novels, the first two novels in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series, there still was a clear winner.
Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) was just such a great read. I was drawn in from the very beginning and even though there was signs of inspiration from both Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and The Wheel of Time and more, it was a unique story, drawing on elements of Russian folklore – and I loved it. Fantasy often suffers from using the same ideas over and over – like a band of unlikely heroes or the one hero/heroine coming from unlikely circumstances and overcoming adversities. And so it is here – except the novel doesn’t suffer from it. It just works and I enjoyed it very much.
Biography & Non-Fiction
Even though I try to read more non-fiction, I mostly fails. Again this year, there are only very few books in this category. Four to be exact: Daniel Miller: The Comfort of Things, Amy Chua: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Nina Sankovitch: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. And this was a category where I never had any doubts about the best book.
Of course it’s Anne Frank. This is also the book, I’m most annoyed with having waited so long to read because I think it would have been a great book to read as a teenager, in my 20s and now again in my 30s. But now I will just have to settle for not having read it earlier – and with loving it. The diary is just so expressive. Anne Frank comes across as a teenager full of life and full of self-questioning. She is trying to figure out who she is and what kind of person she wants to be – and she uses her diary for that. At the same time, she writes about the hardships they suffer in their tiny rooms as well as what other Jews, the Dutch people and their helpers in particular suffer. She wanted to be remember and she definitely got her wish. It’s a wonderful book – even though it is a weird experience reading it and knowing she gets closer and closer to being discovered and sent to a concentration camp.
As it can be seen, either I read mostly very good books or I’m generous with my ratings. Either way, according to Goodreads I read 18.767 pages this year of mostly good and great books!
Women v. Men
My male to female author ratio on the other hand – not so good. 15 books by female authors – 36 books by male authors and one collection of short stories with both male and female authors.
Own books v. borrowed/rented books
I read 7 books that were either borrowed from friends or rented from the library. The rest were my own books, either e-books or real books.
Kindle books v. dead tree books
I read 10 books on either my Kindle or iPad this year – the rest was regular good old books. I prefer reading real books over Kindle books but I love that I can get books in just a minute or so – especially since the book stores are rather lousy in my town.
My Private Reading Challenge
I make my own reading challenge each year as well as challenge my boyfriend and my best friend to each read a book I choose – as they challenge me with a book each. This year’s challenge consisted of 24 books all in all including a few books from 2012 that I didn’t make it through then. Again this year I haven’t read all the books I wanted too but I did read the number of books I wanted – 52 books in all – and I’m very proud of that.
Another goal this year was to get my to-read list lower when the year ended than it was when the year began – that is, to buy fewer books than I read. And I did read more books than I bought – I just also read Kindle books, library books and books borrowed from friends.
So I didn’t get my to read below the 195 books I started the year with – but I got it back down to 195 books. So I ended the year at status quo and I’m okay with that.
I have a few books left over from the 2012 and 2013 goals I will try to make it through this year:
- At least one book by Margaret Atwood
- One nonfiction book
- Don DeLillo: Underworld
- Read all of Sherlock Holmes
- One non-fiction book about philosophy: Coppleston vol. 1
So these are the sort of left-over goals. In a later post I will write about my 2014 goals.
And I think this is it. I think I have said all I want to say about my reading in 2013 – oh, except that I’m going to do a post about the books I missed in 2013. But until then I just want to wish you all a Happy New Year and thank you for visiting my blog, reading my thoughts and commenting on them. I love this blog and I love all of you for making it worth it. Thank you – and Happy New Year!
- Third Quarterly Update of 2013
- Second Quarterly Update of 2013
- First Quarterly Update of 2013
- 2012 Year in Review