Favorites of 2013: Novels

Favorite novels of 2013

2013 was kind of a weird year for me in reading. Looking back at my master list, I see I read a lot of really random things. Sometimes it worked out in unexpectedly wonderful ways, sometimes it didn’t. That said, I had an extremely hard time narrowing my favorite fiction books down into a top ten list! And because of that, I’m adding an honorable mention at the end of the list (I agonized over which book to bump and just couldn’t do it). The first three are my absolute favorites ranked in order; the rest are listed alphabetically. All links lead back to my original reviews:

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013)

A writer, Ruth, finds the secret diary of a suicidal sixteen-year-old Japanese schoolgirl named Nao. The diary reveals the horrible bullying and cultural dislocation that Nao suffered, as well as fascinating stories about her grandmother, a philosophical and forward-thinking Buddhist nun. Ruth becomes obsessed with trying to find out what happened to Nao. From my review: this book “is cleverly nuanced and layered in complex ways. Ozeki is a master.”

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff (2013)

With a revolving door of characters and a chronological timeline, this book manages to capture the essence of the twentieth century, and it does it all in anapestic tetrameter (see the review for an excerpt so you can see what I mean). From my review: “The book is funny, sad, beautiful, and unconventional. It’s sad that [Rakoff is no longer] around to share his talent with the world, but talk about going out with a bang.”

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (2013)

There are several different stories going on in this book, and all of them involve gay teens. At the center of it are Harry and Craig, who are determined to break the world record for the longest kiss. Narrating the book is a chorus of gay men who all died during the AIDS epidemic. From my review: “Levithan’s book is a beautiful ode to the past while offering commentary on love, acceptance, and contemporary society…I’m so glad it exists in the world.”

The Awesome Girl’s Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men by Ernessa T. Carter (2013)

Four friends are about to turn 30 and expect the year to be filled with love, success, and financial stability. Little do they know that is not what life has in store for them. From my review: “The thing I love about Ernessa T. Carter is that she delivers the fun and the smarts and the melodrama and the plot twists; it’s the best of all possible worlds. …[It’s] fun, witty chick lit anchored in real-people problems. Awesome.”

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (2013)

Spanning 1994-2004, the book features an intricate web of people trying to overcome the emotional, physical, and social devastations of living in war-torn Chechnya. From my review: “The whole book is exquisitely written, and despite all of the horrors the wars have created, the characters cling to shreds of hope to get them through their traumas. It’s an absorbing and heartbreaking reading experience.”

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (2013)

Six talented teenagers meet at an arts camp in the Berkshires, and the book explores what happens to their talents and their friendship as they grow into middle age. The book is set against the backdrop of the 1980s and 1990s, so social concerns of the era, such as the AIDS epidemic and the economy, also play a role. From my review: “It’s a sweeping, beautifully crafted character study that is very much based in truth.”

Jacob’s Folly by Rebecca Miller (2013)

Jacob Cerf is a Jewish man struggling to get by in eighteenth-century Paris. After an extraordinary transformation that allows him to live a successful and rakish life, he’s reincarnated into a fly living in twenty-first century Long Island. And as a fly, he has the ability to control two vulnerable, decent people. From my review: “It’s a fun, inventive, and gorgeously-written book that’s filled with Miller’s wicked sense of humor.”

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012)

A North Korean man named Jun Do manages to rise from one of the lowliest stations in life (an orphan) to becoming one of Kim Jong Il’s highest ranking officers. In an unfortunate turn of events, Jun Do must rescue the woman he loves, a beautiful actress named Sun Moon, from a horrible fate. From my review: “This book is the literary equivalent of ‘Go big or go home.’ And damn. Johnson went for it.”

Perfect by Rachel Joyce (2014)

It feels a little strange to put this book on this list, considering the book hasn’t even been published yet! During the morning drive to school, eleven-year-old James Lowe witnesses something that changes his life, but his mother and sister didn’t notice a thing. From my review: “It’s not a fast-paced book but it is a page-turner, and an elegantly composed one at that.” I’m giving away a copy of this book; you can enter (until January 6) at link.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (1967)

Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse move into the Bramford, an in-demand building with a spooky past. Nine months and one very twisted marriage later, Rosemary is just putting all the pieces together that she might be carrying Satan’s spawn. From my review: “It’s entertaining and unnerving in ways that the movie — no matter how faithful it was (and it was pretty damn faithful: a lot of the script came word-for-word from the book) — could not possibly be.”

Book cover: The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo LanaganHonorable mention

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan (2012)

A witch living on Rollrock Island knows a secret about the seals that migrate there: they contain the most beautiful women in existence. Soon, the men on the island are willing to give up everything they have just so the witch can capture one of these beautiful women as a future wife. From my review: “OOOOOOMG.”

5 thoughts on “Favorites of 2013: Novels

  1. The Brides of Rollrock Island is a book that I read twice and still haven’t been able to write a review on! I’m glad to see you enjoyed the Ozeki book as much as I did. Happy New Year!

  2. I love it that you loved the Rakoff book! I read it last year and found out that verse is really not my thing. It was beautiful – I just could not understand everything. That was my fault, not the book’s.

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