Books: 2013 Round Up

imgresEach year I like to highlight some of my favorite reads from the last year. I love books. In fact, I think I like books more than I like most people. I have a book in my bag at all times, I get nervous without a book handy. I read a little in every genre from historical fiction to non fiction and memoirs. I love books about history, and I love to read mystery and horror. I’m just a fan of good writing. Here are the highlights, the best of what I read in 2013!

  • I Am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley – Flavia De Luce is an eleven year old girl who has a penchant for poison. And chemistry. And solving murders. She is a lot of fun. This is the fourth in a series, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything starting here. It takes place at Christmastime in 1930’s england, and a film crew suddenly camps out at the De Luce home. Of course there is a crime, but that won’t stop Flavia from trying to catch Father Christmas on Christmas Eve. She’s hilarious, and a lot of fun to read.
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman – If for some reason you have not read this book then stop what you are doing and go find a copy. I got mine for a dollar in a used bookstore. If you adore the film, then you’ll love the book even more. I laughed out loud the entire time. I laugh every time I read it.
  • The Dinner by Herman KochdinnerIf my first two selections are fun, quick reads, then this is a serious, quick read. This little book packs a powerful punch. It takes place over one dinner (with subtle flashbacks) and two families are put to the test over love, loyalty, morals and decision making. I loved the way the book was written – I love food – and there is a lot of focus on food, restaurants and what going out to eat really means. I don’t want to give too much away, because it was a fun mess to untangle. If you have kids, remember it’s just fiction.
  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell – I picked this up on vacation in L.A. and finished it before touchdown in Texas. LOVED it. So much fun, and such clever writing. The story follows Ava Bigtree, the youngest in a family of alligator wrestlers in Florida. It’s kind of a fairy tale mixed with a coming of age story. I’ve never read a book quite like this one, and the characters stuck with me long after I finished the novel.
  • Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?  by Jeanette Winterson – This book was life changing for me. This is a memoir written by novelist Jeanette Winterson. It tells the story of who she is, and what it is like to grow up adopted. Something I know about first hand. She puts into words so eloquently (and often times hilariously) what it’s like living in a place where you don’t belong, and trying to come to grips with who you are in the process. It is heartbreaking, honest and funny.
  • The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeensundeen-the_man_who_quit_moneyAnother biography that changed my outlook on life. It tells the story of a man who stopped taking, earning or using money in any way. It is a truly amazing and inspiring story if you are open to hearing it. People might find him radical, but I get it. The world is a loud, noisy place. I want to quit too. The book takes into account religion, politics and government, and ultimately makes you question all of it. An outstanding read.
  • Dearie by Bob Spitz – I’ve read two previous biographies about Julia Child and I still found this one enthralling. She is a personal hero of mine and I find her life story fascinating. I feel like I’ve been following in her footsteps without even knowing it. After I read “My Life in France”, I knew I had to know more about her growing up in Pasadena, California (like I did) and what made her want to have adventures and move abroad (like I did). Dearie delves into the character of Julia Child more than any other book I’ve read about her. I loved reading about the courtship between her and her beloved Paul.
  • Duma Key & Joyland by Stephen King – I’m a King fan. When I finish reading a heavy book, there is nothing better than a nice, fat Steven King book to disappear into. Duma Key is that book. An accident takes a man’s arm and changes his life forever. But that’s just the beginning. He moves to Florida for a fresh start and takes up painting. Now the fun really begins. There are good scares in this book, and a lot of tension. Great fun. Joyland  is a pulp-fiction detective story about a college student who gets a job working the funhouse at the amusement park on the pier. Needless to say it might be a haunted  amusement park. This is a short, fun read that will have you flipping pages to see what happens next.
  • I Married Adventure by Osa Johnsondust coverOsa Johnson and her husband Martin were pioneering explorers, photographers, filmmakers and authors, who documented the lives of the indigenous people and wildlife of the South Seas Islands, Borneo, and East and Central Africa. Their films serve as a record of these cultures and a wilderness that no longer exist today. And they did this is the 1920’s. This was a fascinating book! I loved reading her accounts of native people and customs, and it made me really, really, thankful for airplanes.
  • Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams – Another memoir about an adventurer, although this one is a novice. A man decides to walk the original trail to Machu Picchu. It is both fascinating and hilarious. And inspiring. A good read.
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – I know. Everyone has this on their “best of” lists. For good reason. It is incredible. I have read all of Murakami, and this goes to the top of my list. I won’t try to tell you plot because it won’t make sense. Just know it is a crazy adventure that takes place in two worlds. Nothing new for Murakami. This journey is fun, scary, confusing, funny and endearing. I fell in love with Murakami again. And don’t read “reader reviews” of this book. Some people are just, um, too dumb to get him. Sorry, but it’s true. Anyway, he’s rad if you like weird. And I just so happen to LOVE weird.
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides – A modern love story. What does that mean? Well, that means a discontented wife and mother, a husband who realizes he has become everything he hated, a musician “man child” who refuses to grow up, and of course the teenagers who have to watch their parents realize that they probably fucked up more than a few times in raising them. It’s a funny and sad commentary on relationships, and how we raise families here in the states.
  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough3412I try to read at least one classic every year, and this time I went with The Thorn Birds. I had fond memories of the TV movie, so I figured the book would be fun. It was. It was almost 700 pages long, but paced quite well for an older book. It’s an epic saga of a family rooted in the Australian sheep country. It centers around Meggie Cleary, who can never possess the man she desperately adores, a priest named Ralph de Bricassart. Steamy. The characters are fully thought out, and I really cared about what happened to poor, put upon Meg.
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3 thoughts on “Books: 2013 Round Up

  1. Pingback: The American who quit money to live in a cave « BGTV MEDIA ONLINE

  2. Thank you for this list, Alicia! I’ll be putting at least a few of these on my must-read list. I do have one question: your synopsis of The Marraige Plot sounds an awful lot like Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. I read those back-to-back this year and have conflated some of the details from the two books in my head. I wonder if you did the same…or am I completely confused? 🙂

    • They ARE a lot alike. The authors are actually not only contemporaries, but friends. The books are similar! Very… I just remember that Marriage Plot has a rock star plotline and I think I can keep them straight. 😉

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