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Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. I love a good travel book, but this one is a combination of travel book and biography. Here’s a book that made me angry, frustrated, thoughtful, peaceful, and made me question how I understand life. Although I think Chris McCandless, the man this story is about, is an idiot for dropping himself in the woods without provisions or the right gear, I admired his world view and the simplicity with which he chose to live his short life.
Touch by Alexi Zentner. Storytelling is a beautiful art. This is a novel that combines storytelling with magical realism and the deep woods of Canada. I thought it was atmospheric and magical and can still picture parts of this novel vividly in my head.
Neptune’s Brood: A Space Opera by Charles Stross. I’ve read a bunch of Stross’s books this year, but this was definitely the best. What would space exploration and commerce be like without faster than light travel? Stross weaves a really interesting detective novel around just such questions. It’s probably the best book you’ll ever read about a forensic accountant. Yes, I’m serious.
Storm Front by Jim Butcher. This is the first novel in the Dresden Files series and it is a real treat. Harboiled detective fiction…with magic, and it really works. One reviewer described it as Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Phillip Marlowe playing the lead, which gets it about right.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. I love the time travel genre in general, and this book brought something unique to the mix--a time traveling serial killer. The protagonist is spunky, the antagonist is creepy, and the author wraps up the whole thing with a little time traveling bow.
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. This book was charming. Can I even say that about Stephen King? All I know is that this book comes at the end of a long illustrious career. In this novel, he writes about past demons, both real and imagined. His characters strive to defeat them all. So it was kind of a feel good book. A feel good horror story. Debbie Macomber meets Jeff Lindsay--you get the idea.
Can we sing the praises of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park enough here? This book was such a surprise; I had never even heard of Rowell even though she published her first book Attachments two years ago. I won’t bother reiterating why I loved it so much, but I will say that after finishing Eleanor & Park I insisted all my coworkers and friends drop everything they were doing and read it. I had to read it two more times before I could finally move on to another book.
2013 was also my year of Laura Ingalls, so diving in fully with Donald Zochert’s Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder was a highlight. Having internalized her Little House series from the countless number of times I read it growing up, I really enjoyed looking at it from an adult point of view and having the opportunity to parse out exactly which parts of her books are true to life and which parts were changed for narrative clarity.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I went into this book not expecting a lot, but it kept building and hooked me. Harold Fry seems tame at first, and his life is relatively boring, but for some reason, I couldn't write him off right away. Lucky for me, I didn't; I am still thinking about this book and I read it ten months ago.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. In my quest to read more children's books this year, I uncovered this gem. It truly surprised me, made me think, and made me feel (oh, the feels!). Auggie is a different-looking child, but just a normal kid; he likes Star Wars, hanging out with his friends, and ice cream. At age ten, he is starting school for the first time, and deals with the outside world on a daily basis. This brings insecurity, bullying, and true friends. It just stuck with me.
Written in Red by Anne Bishop. Humans are not the dominant species on Earth. In fact, if humans step off of their reservations, they become prey animals for the preternatural creatures that dominate the world. A very well written and engaging book with a different take on who is in charge.
Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo. A survivalist family takes to the oceans to try to survive the zombie apocalypse. This is a fast paced adventure novel pitting a family and a few marines against the end of the world. If you can suspend your disbelief for a moment, this book is a rip-roaring good time.
And what about you? What was your best book(s) of 2013?