Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best Reads 2013

Thanks to Elephant's Child, I too am joining John Wiswell from The Bathroom Monologues in a blog hop about our favourite reads of 2013.  Not necessarily published in 2013, just books we first read this year which for one reason or another we loved.

I have read a reasonable number of books this year, and have picked these out as the ones I really enjoyed, and which I have thought about most often. They are in no particular order.

1. A Perfectly Good Man  by Patrick Gale

An unlikely storyline - a parish priest under stress. This is a quiet novel which slipped under my skin and held me fascinated. The characterisation is brilliant, and as Julie Myerson says in a very good Guardian review the main tension is not in the "what" but in the how, why and when.

I liked it so much I read another Patrick Gale book, Notes from an Exhibition, which I enjoyed just as much, if not more. The man is a craftsman; a very good writer.

Review here.

2. The Dog Stars  by Peter Heller

If I was forced to pick one of the books I read this year above all others, this would be it. It's (another) post-apocalyptic world, but for once it's not all death, destruction, hopelessness and ugliness. Hig, the pilot, has lost his wife, friends, everything to the epidemic which has perhaps wiped out everyone except him. But he refuses to give in to despair. In what remains of Hig's world, there is hope and the possibility of help and kindness.

And there's a dog.

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

I don't really need to comment on this, given that it's just been named Book of the Year for 2013 by The Independent. If like me you're a Neil Gaiman fan, you've probably read it. If you haven't, you should do so immediately.

Gaiman says, "I've never written a book before that was so close to my own heart - a story about memory and magic and the fear and danger of being a child."


4. River of Stars  by Guy Gavriel Kay

This book has been included in John's list, and also those of several other contributors to this bloghop.  I have been a fan of Kay's books since I first came across The Fionavar Tapestry in the 1980's, and have devoured everything he's written since. This is one of his best. It is a fantasy world, but one which is set in a rich and carefully researched historical setting which may possibly have been 12th Century China. It is beautifully written and totally enthralling,

5. People of the Book  by Geraldine Brooks

I would not put historical fiction into my top 3 genres, (or probably even my top 10). However, I had read so many glowing reviews of this book that I decided to read it, and I am so very glad that I did. It is a wonderful detective narrative, inspired by a true story. Events move from Australia in 1996, through the Bosnian War, World War II, then to the final resolution of the mystery in 15th Century Barcelona and Seville.

See The Guardian  review here.

6. The Son  by Philipp Meyer

This is the story of Texas, developed through an astonishing family saga told by three members of the McCullough family: Eli, his son Pete, and Pete's grandaughter Jeannie. All three speak in the first person, and their narratives are cleverly interwoven in a way that left me unable to put this book down.
I am no expert on Texan (or American) history, but I now know a bit more than I did before; I found the content riveting. Comanche raiders (and yes, Eli is kidnapped and brought up as a Comanche warrior); Mexican bandits; massacres and seductions; grass, cattle and oil; blood, power, greed and corruption. They're all there.


  1. Oooh. More temptation placed in my weak willed path. I have the early Guy Gavriel Kay's, but this one had slipped past me. And will now be caught. The Dog Stars and both Patrick Gales too. And Neil Gaiman (of course).

    1. Of course :)

      Hope you read some of the others. I think you would enjoy some of them ...

    2. I am sure I would. So many books, so little time.

  2. Wow, you really got lucky with Gale! Sounds like love at first read.

    Also, very glad to see more appreciation for River of Stars. Kay's work deserves all the fans it's gathered.

  3. Eeep, a lot of these Best Reads lists mention The Ocean at the End of the Lane -- which I bought, signed! and still haven't picked up yet. I should get to it!

    Thanks for the list!

  4. These are great reviews, Alexia.

    I might even buy a book, for the first time in forever!

    1. Knock yourself out, thunder!

      Happy New year to you :)

  5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is on my TBR list! And now so is Heller. Nice. Thanks!


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