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My Top Ten Books of 2013

January 3, 2014

Happy New Year to all you wonderful book-lovers! You may have noticed a lack of action on my blog recently, and I do apologise. After moving house and changing jobs and adjusting to a new life, I’ve found I now have less time to run my blog as I used to. However, I’m really keen to get it back up and running and post regularly again in the new year. What better way to do it than post my top ten books of last year? I know it’s a little late, and these things usually get posted before the new year starts, but hey! At least it’s up :) 

So I’ve noticed I’ve read fewer books than last year, in fact I read only 46 books which is unusually low for me. I’ve definitely found a bit of a lull in fiction this year, and haven’t found it too much trouble to compile my top ten compared to previous years. I think because of this, I’ve suddenly taken a bit more of an interest in non-fiction, and so my new years reading resolution is to read five non-fiction books. I never EVER read non-fiction so this will be quite a feat for me! But with no further ado, here are my top ten books of 2013:

10. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

I couldn’t help but include what is probably one of the most talked about debuts of the year – The Bone Season. At the age of just 22, Samantha Shannon has achieved what most of us could only dream of, not only having her book published, but also having the film rights sold to Andy Serkis’s company The Imaginarium Studios. I know there was a lot of hype surrounding this book, set in a futuristic London, and Shannon being the next ‘Harry Potter’ phenomenon, or the next ‘Hunger Games’, but I found this novel to be much more intricately and intelligently written, and much more out-and-out sci-fi than what I could only imagine most readers were expecting. The Bone Season was a huge surprise for me and I’m really excited to see the story to continue. 

9. The Round House by Louise Erdrich

I’ve loved Lousie Erdrich’s writing for some time now, and her latest novel is no exception. Winner of the US National Book Award, this powerful novel set on a North Dakota reservation, depicts how one brutal attack throws everyone into a world of chaos and injustice. All seen through the eyes of a thirteen year old boy who must witness his mum become a shell of her former self, and lose the innocence of his childhood behind far too early. There is a lot to be learnt in this novel, and it really sheds a lot of light on some of the ridiculous laws placed on the Native American reservations in the 1980s. But what I loved most of all was Erdrich’s kooky cast of characters who manage to bring a wonderful touch of humour and warmth to a rather bleak storyline. 

8. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

I actually listened to this one on audio, which makes it the only audiobook in my top ten, but then again, also my audiobook of the year! Hoorah! Seriously though, this is one stunning piece of writing which, although took me out of my usual comfort zone, I found an absolute pleasure to listen to. It follows one woman who is looking back on her life as the sole survivor of a Japanese POW camp. After losing her sister in the camp, she seeks to create a Japanese garden in memory of her sister who had a profound love for them. Instead, she ends up becoming the apprentice of a local Japanese gardener who she grows to share an intriguing relationship with. I remember being recommended this by someone who said ‘if you love gardening you’ll love this book’ and so I avoided it like the plague. However, I am so very glad I decided to read it after all as it’s really very little about gardens, and what little there is, is utterly fascinating. I loved the exploration of the culture in Malaysia, and the art of Japanese tattooing and all of the characters little back stories that take you further afield. It really is a wonderful, thought-provoking read and I do wish it had won the Man Booker Prize last year! 

7. Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman

From the author of ‘All My Friends Are Superheroes’ comes this quirky and  peculiar little gem. A lot of readers have compared this to a Wes Anderson film, and it’s easy to see why! It follows the fates of five siblings whose grandmother placed a ‘blessing’ on each of them when they were born – for example, one could always win in a fight, one could always forgive instantly, one always has hope and so on. However, these blessings turn out to be more like curses as they grow older. With their grandmother on her deathbed, the siblings must come together and have these curses lifted once and for all. If anything it becomes a rollicking great family road-trip of a novel, one that will make you laugh out loud whilst still holding on to all-important touch of seriousness throughout.  

6. Joyland by Stephen King

I have to say this was probably my biggest surprise of 2013. I’ve read a couple of Stephen King books before, and I’ve usually found them entertaining, but not really much more. I’m not the biggest fan of crime fiction so when I heard King was releasing a book through the imprint ‘Hard Case Crime’ I wasn’t sure I’d go for it. However, ‘Joyland’ completely blew me away and it has to be my favourite thing I’ve read by him yet. It’s a completely unexpected little novel, and it’s not quite what you imagine it to be at all. Set in a small town North-Carolina carnival during the 1970s, it follows a young boy as he takes up a summer job to try and help him get over losing his first love. He soon becomes embroiled in the case of a murdered young girl whose ghost is said to haunt one of the rides. However, Joyland is much more of a coming-of-age tale than anything else. There is so much heart in this novel and King’s writing is simple and effortless, taking you right back to being a teenager in love again. I urge you to read it. 

5. Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

How could I not include the conclusion to one of my favourite new fantasy trilogies? If you’re a regular follower of my blog you probably remember how much I loved ‘Prince of Thorns’ back in 2011, and this was the perfect way to end a superb series. Jorg is still, and will always be, one of my all-time favourite characters! Now begins the wait read the start of Mark’s new trilogy ‘Prince of Fools’ due for release in June!

4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I have no doubt this is on a lot of people’s ‘Books of 2013’ lists this year, and it’s certainly no exception here. I still cannot claim to have read everything Neil has written, but this has to be my favourite so far. You can tell from the first pages that this is a much more personal novel for Gaiman, and because of this you, as a reader, are drawn in on a level that makes it personal to you too. It will grab you by the heart and refuse to let go as you follow a young man returning home after forty years; a home full of many dark memories, and a story left to tell. It’s the kind of novel you will want to re-read as soon as you’ve finished it!  

3. Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill

Dreams and Shadows wins best debut adult fantasy novel of the year for me, and possibly even most beautiful cover! I can’t stop raving about this, and if you just so happen to be a Neil Gaiman  fan then please look no further than this for your next read. Drawing on all kinds of fairy tales and mythology, it follows two young boys whose destiny’s become entwined together when they both find themselves in the Limestone Kingdom – a parallel universe featuring every kind of magical creature you could possibly think of – from genies and wizards, to redcaps, elves and fairies – it has it all! It’s been a while since I’ve found a new adult fantasy novel to excite me just as much as this one has. I’m incredibly excited for the follow up – ‘Queen of the Dark Things’ due for release in March. 

2. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

This has to win best adult novel of the year for me, hands down. A Tale for the Time Being is one of those incredibly special books that stays with you long after you’ve read the final pages; it seeps into your every pore and changes you in a way you never saw coming. It follows a woman’s discovery of a diary washed up on the shores of the beach near her home, and her obsession with this young Japanese girl’s voice that calls to her through its pages. It meanders through many different themes and topics from nature, climate change, science, quantum physics, ecology, religion and much much more. In many ways it evoked the very same feelings in me that Life of Pi did, as it forces you to look at the world in which we live in a way you won’t ever forget. A truly special book that deserves to be read, loved and cherished.

1. Heap House by Edward Carey *BOOK OF THE YEAR*

As you can see, for half of the year I had the Man Booker Prize Shortlisted ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ held firmly in my top spot, and then out of nowhere came Heap House which managed to blow everything else out of the water for me. This wonderfully quirky, gothic tale of an eccentric family, who live on top of great big heaps of London rubbish, is certainly more than just a Gormenghast for kids (or the young at heart). It’s uniquely inventive, and wildly imaginative in every conceivable way and Carey’s illustrations make it all the more special. This is by far my favourite book of the year and I can hardly wait for more. And if you don’t believe me, you should see what Man Booker Prize-winner Eleanor Catton says: “delightful, eccentric, heartfelt, surprising, philosophical, everything that a novel for children should be.” She won the Booker Prize, therefore you must listen to her :) 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2014 17:57

    Happy New Year Emma! I hope 2014 will be nothing but awesome for you :). Emperor of Thorns made my list as well! I don’t think any of my lists would be complete if Jorg Ancrath didn’t make it lol. Are you excited for Mark’s new series The Red Queen’s War? I have the same version of The Tale of the Time Being too! I hope to read it this year! I hope you enjoy The Orenda :). Best wishes for the New Year again!

  2. Olly North permalink
    February 28, 2014 20:38

    Thank you for these suggestions. I have a read a couple of those and they would certainly make my list too so I’ll trust in your tastes and pick up a couple of these that I hadn’t heard of. Adrenaline and On The Edge Of Death by John Benedict are two books that will almost certainly revive your enthusiasm for fiction. If you haven;t read those already, I highly recommend picking them up asap. Both medical thrillers with edge of your seat plots and superbly written from an author with medical background. In my opinion these are absolute must-reads for fiction lovers. http://johnbenedictmd.com

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