Monday, January 6, 2014

Top 10 Books I Read in 2013

Every year I set little reading goals for myself.  Last year, I wanted to read at least 5 classics and 2 Hemingway novels, which I did.  Yay! I loved one of the Hemingways and hated the other.  (Okay, it was For Whom The Bell Tolls.  I love all his other books but I had to make myself finish that one. Sorry, certain pals.  You know who you are.) I started 2013 with reading gusto, devouring several classics in a row.  I ended 2013 with several Stephen King books and an attempt to finish Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace before the end of the year.  (It's over 1,000 pages long and I made it about 200 in. Oops.)  For 2014, my reading goals are to read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.  I'd also like to read some Raymond Carver, get up on some Nora Ephron and maybe tackle the The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.  We'll see about that last one.  There are 20 books in the series!  Oh, and I guess I should tack "Finish Infinite Jest" on this list too.  So, yeah, that.

But back to 2013!  Here are the Top 10 books I read in 2013.  Well, mostly.  I left out a couple because of this post, where I'd already listed a couple of them.  I thought you guys would appreciate 10 fresh books instead of the same ole, same ole.  It was a pretty good year, reading-wise! (Not that every year isn't a good reading year.  Please don't be offended, old lists.  To read the 2012 Best-Of post, click here.) Okay, let's do this.

1) The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
This is one of those books I never had to read in school but everybody else did so I was curious to see what it was like. I went into it expecting it to be similar to The Sun Also Rises or A Farewell To Arms (two of my favorites) but it was very different.  I still enjoyed it, though.  It was shorter and sparser even than his normal stuff but there's so much emotion in it, it's almost sentimental. The book is also super surreal and moody.  I liked it and I recommend it but it's far from my favorite Hemingway novel. (Sidenote: Is it a novel or a novella?  It seemed so short!)  Read it if you want to read some Hemingway but you don't have much time or if you're into old men or seas.

2) Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess
This is a book of personal essays written by a socially awkward blogger from West Texas.  How strange that I would read this much less put it on my favorites list!  Obviously I found it very relatable, y'all.  Well, except for all the taxidermied animals wearing hats.  I find taxidermy to be abhorable but I found Jenny Lawson herself to be delightful. She's super quirky and quite possibly insane, just the type of girl I like.  I laughed out loud many times while reading this and squealed with delight when Jenny and her husband take a trip to my hometown to go to Summer Mummers, a historical piece of theater put on by my old haunt, Midland Community Theater.  Read this if you only have time to read in small bursts but you want to laugh big.

3) The House Of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Yup, here's another classic I knocked out early on.  It's the only Edith Wharton book I've read so far and I  really really liked her writing.  I kinda always assume classics will be a chore to read but I couldn't put this one down.  I imagine, in its time, this book was a big "fuck you" to rich society people and that makes me happy.  I feel like Edith Wharton was a little rebel.  You'll probably like this one.  Yes, you.

4) Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Granted, this book would've had to be super crappy to not make this list.  I mean, I'm a huge King fan and I loved The Shining.  Pretty sure I fist-bumped when I heard he'd written a sequel.  But, this book is really fun to read.  To my squeamish readers, it's not scary or gory, it's just kinda spooky and weird.  It's really fun to see what happens to Danny (and some other interesting characters from the first book) in the future.  If you like Stephen King, you'll for sure like this one.

5) and 6) The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin
Holy shit, I inhaled these books.  Can't wait for the third!  So, they're about a post-apocalyptic world that is overrun by vampires.  They're pretty much written just for me.  But the thing is that the books are very well-written.  (I would've read them no matter what with that plot description.)  They're scary and creepy and sad.  The world Cronin imagines is crazy and it's a take on vampires I've never encountered before.  Read this if you're into fantasy stuff or if you like scary vampires who don't sparkle or sit around drinking and writing in their diaries.

7) Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Tim recommended this to me years ago but I dragged my feet on it.  I thought it would be boring cowboy bullshit but instead it's delightful cowboy bullshit!  The characters are just crazy lovable and it's set in Texas, which for me is a bonus. I even watched the mini-series after I finished the book because I was sad it was over.  I think anyone would like this book unless they're, like, a hater of things that are good or maybe one of those people who stand right up on you breathing hard when you're the only two people in an elevator.  Those people don't deserve this book.

8) And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
I loved his first two books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns so I was pretty sure I'd dig this one.  I wasn't prepared for it to grab me like it did emotionally, though.  I cried real tears while reading this.  I think it's because the story is told from so many different perspectives.  He switches from character to character, all first-person so you get several versions of certain events and you can easily find a voice that resonates with you because there are so many!  I'd recommend this book to my mother, my mother-in-law, my friend, the mailman, the weird lady who stands outside of Starbucks yelling at everyone, you get the idea.

9) Bossypants by Tina Fey
A friend recommended this to me so I read it even though I didn't really have any expectations.  (I recommended Lonesome Dove to her and she read it no questions asked so I owed her!) But, it's two things: very funny and extremely relatable.  I feel like Tina Fey sat down and just wrote her heart out.  She for sure didn't pull any punches; she totally goes there.  You kinda want to hate her for being so fucking good at everything but instead you just want to hug her or take her out for drinks.  It's a really great read.  I came out of it with a huge crush on Tina Fey so now I'm the same as every other girl on the planet.  Yay me!

10) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I had to reread this before I saw the film.  Yes, the Leo one.  And, yes, I liked it, okay? (The film. OF COURSE I liked the book.)  I feel like the film perfectly captured the mood and the opulence of the book.  And, no, I don't really want to debate it with you.  Anyway, the book.  The book lived up for me.  I found it every bit as engaging and as sad as I did when I read it over a decade ago.  I think of this book as a Step 1 classic.  Meaning if you want to read classics, it's good to start here.  It will grab you EASILY plus, in my head all the main characters are crazy hot.  So there's that.

Well, that's my list.  You guys need to hold me to my goals for this year. War and Peace!  Yeah, baby. No, I don't know how you're supposed to do that either.  Bribery?  Chains?  Mean tweets? Anyway, I'm open to reading other books too.  Let me know if you have any suggestions for me.

Happy Reading!