Enjoy the lazy days of a holiday vacation?
Sun, slopes … or just sitting on your own couch—if you’ve got time to read, chances are it’s a precious few moments. Don’t waste it on a bad book—here are my favorites—the best books of 2013:
The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt) On just about everyone’s “best” list, Tartt’s exploration of Theo Decker’s coming of age is long, intense and highly entertaining. Does he not get anything right? Is everyone in his life a sleazebag? It’s a beast of a book, so now’s the perfect time to crack it open.
The Reason I Jump (Naoki Higashida) An intriguing look into autism from the other side—in this case, a young boy who’s unlocked the ability to communicate, thus sharing his perspective on living with the disorder. An interesting read, especially if you combine it with the chapter on autism in Andrew Solomon’s 2012 book, “Far from the Tree.”
Help for the Haunted (John Searles) A bit of a ghost story wrapped around a heap of family dysfunction—my kind of book! Sisters Sylvie and Rose are on their own after their parents are gunned down in a church. Sylvie knows there’s a man who’s taking the rap that shouldn’t be—it’s just a matter of figuring out who should.
Nine Inches (Tom Perrotta) One of my favorite authors and a spectacular collection of short stories—all about the relationships we have with friends, family and ourselves. For me, the thread that tied them altogether was a tale of redemption.
The Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling) Not an ounce of magic in this expertly written crime novel—just a private detective asked to catch the killer of a celebrity who killed herself. Not the easiest case, and not the only drama going on for Cormoran Strike. Can’t wait for the next one.
Masterminds and Wingmen (Rosalind Wiseman) For all you moms and dads of little men—drop what you are doing and read this now. Fantastic insight into the minds of pubescent middle- and high school-aged boys. I found out I was trying to talk to my boys in all the wrong ways. Not sure if I’m doing it right yet, but it helps to know … there is a better way.
The Measures Between Us (Ethan Hauser) This is a quietly moving book, and I had a little trouble with the continuity—yet, the story of a young woman struggle with depression was engrossing, and Hauser’s writing makes you feel as if you are within the book’s pages. So detailed without being over the top. Lovely.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman) Magical. Beautiful. Poignant. I let my 12-year-old read it and she too, found it incredible. Gaiman is a genius. That is all. Great weekend read—or even a long and lazy afternoon.
The Light in the Ruins (Chris Bohjalian) Like Ethan Hauser’s book, Bohjalian also has this incredible ability to transport readers to a different environ, using just the right words. In this case, we’re taken to Italy and then shuffled back and forth between two times, and two cities, all while there’s a murderer on the loose.
Life After Life (Kate Atkinson) Here’s another tome that’s perfect for a vacation—it’s going to take some serious one-on-one time with this book to finish it, and then more time still to process it. A brilliant piece that gets us wondering what different paths our lives can take with just a simple change to what appears to be meaningless decisions. And if you could die and then get a do-over, what would you do differently?
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (David Sedaris) One of my favorite humorists and in top form, as always. A great book of essays that can be read all at once or in chunks over time.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ben Fountain) So sad and so poetic. I think of Billy every time I’m either at or watching a sporting event and the PR people introduce a veteran to be honored. Are they like Billy? Are they struggling? Do they have to go back? What’s their real story?
The Death of Bees (Lisa O’Donnell) Another orphan sister tale, albeit a bit stranger—but like “Help for the Haunted,” these girls are determined to fend for themselves and keep their secret—even when their biological father returns for them.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Maria Semple) Take a trip to crazy town with Bernadette, a once-promising architect who’s gone a bit around the bend (oh, how my heart ached for her when you read the reason why), taking her husband and daughter with her.
After Visiting Friends (Michael Hainey) An introspecitve memoir from GQ editor Michael Hainey, as he heads back to the streets of Chicago to uncover how and where his father really died. Intensely personal—but not so voyeuristic that you feel bad reading about his father’s foibles. It left me with an understanding there is peace to be found in any broken relationship, even after one of you is long gone.
Motherland (Amy Sohn) Oh. My. God. If urban/suburban crazy moms and crazy characters are your thing, this book is epic. Take a trip to Park Slope with Amy Sohn, but have a sandwich and go to the bathroom first because you will not be able to tear yourself away.
Of the almost 40 or so I knocked off this year, those were my favorites—I’ll be posting the complete list (as I do every year) in just a few days. If you want to read it sooner than later, type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
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Filed under: Book Review