Sunday, January 19, 2014

my favorite books of 2013

I haven't been around much these days, but let's skip the excuses and get right to it!

While I haven't been posting regular book reviews and thoughts on this blog, I have still been reading and thinking. This year, I'm hoping to post more consistently than I did last year . . . I won't make any promises, but I would at least like to spotlight my favorite books as I read them and share ideas from time to time. To get things started, I thought I would share my favorite books of last year.

I read 36 books in 2013. A good variety, I think. There were 8 nonfiction and 18 fiction (some mainstream, some short story collections, some young adult). Of those 36, these were my favorites:


Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend (by Matthew Dicks)

This is one of those books that I feel safe recommending to a variety of readers, no matter their age or preferences (assuming they do read adult novels). It's a creative premise with an absorbing plot line that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Although I found the writing a little repetitive and I didn't love the ending, this was a great read overall.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (by Susan Cain)

I've only gotten into nonfiction books recently because in the past, I assumed they were all boring. "Quiet" is the perfect example of why I should have been reading more nonfiction all along. It's clear, well-researched, and full of information. Not once was I bored. Nearly every page contains some nugget of research you'll want to share with friends, family, and coworkers. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

Life After Life (by Kate Atkinson)

The premise for Life After Life is fantastic: Ursula Todd is born in 1910 in the English countryside. Moments later, she dies. But Ursula Todd is not an ordinary child. Her life rewinds and she is born again on that same night in 1910. This process of rebirth happens again and again throughout Ursula's life. I struggled to follow this book at times and I didn't feel a strong connection to Ursula, even though she was the main character. But the imagination of the concept and the brilliant writing made me very eager to read more of Atkinson's work. 

Black Swan Green (by David Mitchell)

"Black Swan Green" is a semi-autobiographical look at the life of a teenage British boy over the course of a year. Like Jason, author David Mitchell grew up in rural England during the Cold War, wrote poetry, and has a stammer. Each chapter focuses on an event in Jason's life and (if not for some links in between) could stand on its own. At first this was a little jarring and I wasn't sure I liked it. However, once I got into the stride of it, I really came to love it. It's a pretty simple coming-of-age story, but it's one I hadn't heard before. Jason is very easy to love and relate to, and after finishing the book, I felt glad to have met him (or should I say David Mitchell?).

Dark Places (by Gillian Flynn)

Gone Girl got me interested in Gillian Flynn, but Dark Places is probably my favorite of her books. It's about a woman whose mother and sisters were murdered when she was a child. At the time, she said that her brother was guilty (subsequently, he was imprisoned). Now, 25 years later, she's confronting the event again and trying to learn the truth. This is a very dark book with very unlikeable characters (both of which Flynn seems to be fond of). Don't check it out if you're not in the mood for a dark, intriguing, and well-written mystery.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir (by Jenny Lawson)

This is quite possibly the funniest book I've ever read. Let's Pretend This Never Happened is a "mostly true memoir" by Jenny Lawson. Many of the stories focus on themes we can all relate to--family, the awkwardness of youth, love, work, home, friends--but Jenny's experiences are more outlandish than your average American's. It moves quickly and I was excited to pick it up each day because I knew I was in for at least one laugh. If you're looking for a funny book (and you aren't easily offended), this is the book for you.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar (by Cheryl Strayed)

I love advice columns and am a loyal follower of Dear Prudence (on, but Sugar is my new favorite. While most advice columns follow the rules of propriety and logic, Dear Sugar is about the heart. This makes her advice unique, but the other reason her column is unique (and a large part of the reason I enjoyed this book) is that both her letters and her responses are very well written. The questions vary widely, and I'm certain that at least one will make you sit up straight and think about your own life a little. 

Sharp Objects (by Gillian Flynn)

Similar to Dark Places and Gone Girl because of its Missouri setting, central female character, disturbed family, and murders/disappearances, Sharp Objects is another great read by Gillian Flynn. It's fairly short and reads quickly, though (again) I would ward off any readers uncomfortable with dark subject matter. With the murders, Camille's cutting, and many bleak instances of drug use, alcoholism, sex, violence, etc., it's not a book for the faint of heart. I was introduced to Gillian Flynn last year, but 2013 was the year I became a huge fan.

Letter to a Christian Nation (by Sam Harris)

A wonderful, concise, and logical argument. This isn't a blog about religion, so I don't want to go into the details too much, but I really enjoyed this book and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in atheism and religion.

A Game of Thrones (by George R. R. Martin)

I'm a big fan of the Game of Thrones TV series but until recently, I had no interest in reading the Song of Ice and Fire books. They're all like a thousand pages long, I figured, and there are so many characters to keep straight. Plus, when the TV show's so good, why do I need to read the books? But I have to say, I'm so glad that I read this. The complexity of Westeros was fantastic and I loved getting a more in-depth look at the characters. I can't wait to read the rest of this series (though I'll admit, the length of them is making me a little reluctant!).

- - - - -

I don't know how many people will read this considering how long I've been out of the blogging game, but if anyone's out there, please share your favorite reads of 2013 in the comments below. I'd love to get some recommendations!

Happy 2014 everyone!


  1. Great list, Renee! Having read Gone Girl myself in the past year, I'm eager to check out Gillian Flynn's other books. And I didn't know about Black Swan Green! I think my To-Read list is about to gain a few entries :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Julie! So glad I could help you add to your to-read list (though I'm sure, like mine, yours is already out of control!). :-)


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