Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bests of the Reading Year 2013

Time again for the yearly roundup of favourites... I like to wait until the very last minute in case something spectacular pops up at Christmas... and I also like to create a statistical summary of my year for interest's sake. Mostly my own interest, and I do hope that no-one thinks that reading should be competitive -- Nymeth wrote a great summary of "why stats" in her yearly roundup post, and I think it describes my take on stats pretty closely as well. 



Total Reading: 163

Authors

Female: 108
Male: 53
Nongendered (multiple authors): 2

Genre etc.

Fiction: 119
Non Fiction: 41
Poetry: 3

In translation: 

French (Quebecois): 2
French: 1
Portuguese: 1
Hungarian: 1
German: 1

My Own Books: 78
Library Books: 85

Review Copies:  16
(Last year I was  feeling that I'd taken on too many review copies, as I feel obliged to read all of the books I ask for ... this is nearly half of last year's total & much more manageable!)

Rereads: 8
E-reads: 11

As usual, I seem to have twice as many female authors than male; a balance between library books and my own; a handful of rereads; and I heavily lean toward fiction. Not many surprises there! I have fallen in the number of translations I read this year, and have read fewer e-books as well. Not sure why for either of those things -- just the way things fell out this year. 

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And now for my Best Reads of the Year! This year I found a widely varying range of reads. I read some that I've owned for years, some new releases fresh from my library, and a few 'required reads' for various projects that were a mixture of good and meh.

Here are my favourite reads of the year, based on my personal enjoyment of them. Whether it was the writing, the characters or some special element of the story, each of these books was memorable in its way. They are not ranked in any order, except for order of reading.


Fiction


Okay, these were my 2 absolute faves!

Speaking From Among the Bones / Alan Bradley

I love Flavia de Luce and this volume of her adventures was particularly thrilling -- I am so eagerly anticipating the next one in this series, out shortly, to follow up on the cliffhanger ending of Speaking From Among the Bones!


Sir Charles Grandison / Samuel Richardson

I finally read this door-stopper of a novel, inspired by my Postal Reading Challenge to take it down off the shelf. Despite its excessive size, it turned out to be one of my very favourite reads of the year. It had humour, adventure, great characters, astonishing relevance (despite its 1753 publication date), and was such a great read! Since it was so very long, I wrote about it in segments: First Thoughts, and then Second Thoughts, and lastly, Final Thoughts!

Astray / Emma Donoghue

I don't often love short story collection; admire, yes, find interesting, yes, but this collection I really did love.  Donoghue writes tales sparked by historical incidents and with the exception of one story, I was drawn in and dazzled by this collection.

When I Was Young and In My Prime / Alayna Munce

This was my most unexpected discovery of 2013, and a wonderful one. A poetic and highly individual narrative about a girl, her family, and memory, this packed an emotional wallop and beautiful writing as well.

A Tale For the Time Being / Ruth Ozeki

This was probably tied with Sir Charles Grandison as my favourite read of the year. It's great, everybody says so ;) After a bit of a slow start, I couldn't stop reading this and was surprised and astonished by how it all turned out. Excellent, excellent book.

Life After Life / Kate Atkinson

I'm in the camp of those who loved this book. One to read all in one go, I think, to get the full immersive experience of Ursula's birth, death, rebirth, death, etc. etc. Even with its flaws, I thought this was a masterful tale and extremely memorable too.

An Unsuitable Attachment / Barbara Pym

My favourite Pym from a year of multiple Pym readings. This one was just my thing, as much of it takes place in a library, and the action, characters, and sly wit all amused me greatly.

The Golem and the Jinni / Helene Wecker

A book recommended by bloggers, I enjoyed this long, imaginative novel about a golem and a jinni in turn-of-the-century New York. It brought up issues of identity and belonging along with its fantastical premise, blending it all into a thoughtful story.

The Antagonist / Lynn Coady

A modern epistolary novel told in emails, this screed by Gordon "Rank" Rankin to an old friend, now novelist, who has co-opted his life story (as Rank sees it) crackles with energy, angst, pathos and a touch of aggression as well.

My Ghosts / Mary Swan

I'm actually quite surprised that I haven't heard more about this Canadian novel yet -- published in September it seems to have just quietly appeared. It's an excellent, thoughtful look at families down the years. Who are we and what part do our memories play in our identity? And what happens when you don't know your forebears but you are so much like them? It is beautifully written, a slow moving study of the tangled branches of a family tree.

Brown Girl in the Ring / Nalo Hopkinson

For sheer imaginative power I think this tops nearly anything else I've read this year. Apocalyptic Toronto, magic, spirits, street kids, gang members, drugs, unhealthy love... while it might sound like the headlines this year, this book was a fascinating imaginative journey.




NonFiction 



Threading Light / Lorri Neilsen Glenn

Such a gorgeous, tiny read. Grief, poetry, carrying on; all are themes in this powerful book.


Comfort Food for Breakups / Marusya Bociurkiw

This set of essays really caught me this year; all about food, family and identity, they reveal a reflective mind at work, capturing big ideas in small, daily moments.


An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth / Chris Hadfield

I worried needlessly that this would be a fluff book -- instead it turned out to be a solid read with great life advice: work hard and enjoy the journey. While not perfect, it was still a great read by a fascinating character who we all wanted to know more about this year.

23 comments:

  1. I need to get to Life After Life and A Tale for the Time Being in 2014! The Nalo Hopkinson sounds great too - I've enjoyed some of her other books but haven't read that one yet.

    Happy New Year and happy reading in 2014!

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    1. You would enjoy them both, for sure. Such good reads. Enjoy your New Year!

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  2. I need to read Speaking from Among the Bones! I just finished the 4th book in the series and now need to get to the 5th. I have done the whole series thus far in audiobook and really love the format and narrator, so I am going to stick with it for now. But, ooh, a cliffhanger! I want to know more :-)

    I need to read more Pym! I only read A Glass of Blessings by her this year but I think I have An Unsuitable Attachment on my kindle...

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    1. You will be glad that you can get #6 right after #5 -- the ending is AMAZING

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  3. Looks like you had a great reading year! I love to do stats just to see what my reading patterns are like. One year I think I only read three books by men! I like it when I see more variety because of course I'm always hoping to read across genres, etc. Anyway here's to a great reading year ahead!

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    1. Yes, I do like to see the patterns and changes (or no changes!) over the years. Next year's should be fun with the Century of Books challenge...

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  4. I loved A Tale for the Time Being, too! It's such a fun read. And congrats on reading 163 books. That's awesome. I hope you find even more great books to read in 2014. Happy New Year!

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    1. It was fabulous, wasn't it?? I hope I can find some new books in the new year that will bowl me over, as well!

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    2. If you do, be sure to share so I can read them too. :)

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  5. Because of your reading challenge I think some of your favourites will be on my lists in 2014. I am reading The Antagonist right now. It was 4.99 at Kobo the other day and I have liked previous Lynn Coady books. Good to hear about Astray. I didn't put it on my list because I didn't like her other short story collections, but if you don't normally either that might work for me after all. I have A Tale for the Time Being, but I can't figure out how to get it on my new e-reader. :( I need my tablet back, but still no word on where the heck it is! I got Chris Hadfield's book for Christmas. I am glad you liked it!

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    1. Oh, I'll be interested to hear your opinion of the Coady. As for Donoghue, I've not read her other short stories, so I hope this one will appeal to you!

      The Hadfield was a good read, not quite what I expected; and Tale for the Time Being is just wonderful. Hope you get your tablet back soon, I know that I read nearly all my ebooks on my tablet now rather than my older e-reader.

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  6. Great to see the overview.
    I too like to see the overview and am always surprised at something I see. I've enjoyed some of your favourites and others are sitting on my shelf waiting for me. Looking forward to seeing what you are reading in the new year.

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    1. Yes, a yearly overview is a useful thing to help us recall our reading year, I find. So many great books getting shared all over the book blogs this week!

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  7. Oh dear, I have read none of 'em, though almost every end of year list seems to include the Kate Atkinson, so I really must read it in 2014, if I can fit it in alongside my Century of Books (I was just reading an old comment of yours saying you'd join in for 2014.... ;))

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    1. I know, next year's reading is going to be different because of the Century of Books -- can't wait to get started -- oh, wait, I did start, at midnight! ;)

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  8. I haven't read any of your favorites, but I definitely hope to! I found lots of fodder for my wish list, even a few I'd never heard of. Looks like you had a great reading year, hope your 2014 is also filled with excellent books!

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    1. It was a great reading year -- some unexpected greats, which is always nice. Hope to repeat that in 2014!

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  9. You are so rough on my TBR! It just keeps getting longer and longer. You're right about the Mary Swan being so quietly released; I hadn't twigged to it until I saw your thoughts on it, but I've ended up purchasing it as a Christmas present for a couple of people. Hoping at least one of them will lend it back ;) but if not I can get it from the library.

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on Sir Charles. I'm not sure I'll get to it... doorstoppers scare me, since I read so slowly right now... but I'm very tempted.

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    1. Yes, all these end of year lists have just added as many books to the tbr as I'd managed to get read this year...homeostasis is preserved... ;) I hope more people will get to read the Mary Swan, it is a beautiful book. And if you ever get to Grandison, I think you'll really get the humour in it!

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  10. Life After Life has been showing up on a lot of year-end lists. I am definitely going to have to read it in the coming months!

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    1. Well, I would certainly recommend it. It's wonderful, frustrating, and thought-provoking all at once!

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  11. It sounds like a great year! Yay for Sir Charles Grandison! I'm glad you liked the Ozeki so much, as I hope to read it before too long. Also Life After Life.

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    1. Grandison was wonderful! I'd say that the Ozeki & Atkinson were the other two that stood out as two that I knew would be top reads while I was reading them. Convoluted sentence but real recommendations!

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Thanks for stopping by ~ I hope you will leave your comments and reflections to let me know what you think!