Books of 2013; Part II

Blimey, it is the last day of 2013 and before we know it 2014 will be upon us. I hope you have something lovely planned for your New Years Eve? I will be back home in the Peak District with my Mum, aunties and all their children which will be lovely, we are combining Christmas and New Years all in one so much merriment will ensue I am sure. Anyway time for more of my books of 2013. I am continuing the tradition of the last few years, and my inability to whittle books down as favourites, and so this is the second of my books of the year post. Today I celebrate my top ten books that were published for the first time in the UK this year, yesterday I gave you all a list of ten corking books published prior to this year – do have a gander. So without further ado here are my favourite books published this year…

10. The Crane Wife – Patrick Ness

I absolutely adored ‘The Crane Wife’. It made me cry at the start, possibly at the end and a few time, with laughter, through the middle. It has been a good few weeks since I read the book now and I still find myself pondering what has happened to the characters since, always the sign of a good read, and the writing just blew me away.  Patrick Ness says in this book that “A story forgotten died. A story remembered not only lived, but grew.” I hope this story grows to be a huge success as it certainly deserves to be read and loved.

9. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil – Stephen Collins

There is one word that sums up the whole reading experience of The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil and that is ‘sublime’. I loved everything about it; the imagery, the atmosphere, the message at its heart, everything. It’s a very moving book and one you cannot help but react to, I even shed a tear or two at the end. There is no doubt that to my mind The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil probably has the best title of any book this year, it also looks set to be one of the most memorable books of the year for its contents too. A quite literally, or maybe that should be quite graphically, stunning book and one of my reads of the year.

8. Maggie & Me – Damian Barr

I really loved ‘Maggie and Me’. I related to it – something that only happens to your very core or bones once or twice in a blue reading moon – and empathised with it. It was the sort of book my younger self was crying out for someone to put in my hands. I can only hope some lovely relatives, librarians, teachers or other influential bods make sure this is passed on to both the younger generation, especially those who call rubbish things ‘gay’, and to everyone they know really. Books like this help make being different both more acceptable and understandable, we need them.

7. Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

There is no question that Hannah Kent has crafted an incredibly beautiful novel with ‘Burial Rites’. It is a book which has a sense of isolation and brooding menace throughout and a book where the prose is as sparse (you feel not a word has been wasted) as the Icelandic landscape it is evoking. It is one of my books of the year without question and one lots of people can expect in their season stockings in a few months time. I strongly suggest you read it.

6. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena – Anthony Marra

‘A Constellation of Vital Phenomena’ is one of those books that Gran would say ‘manages to educate you on something you have little knowledge of’ and ‘makes you walk in a strangers steps, even if the stranger is fictional’. It is a book that isn’t a comfortable read by any stretch of the imagination yet, and I know I am sometimes stuck on repeat when I mention this, I don’t think that fiction should always be neat and comfortable. Sometimes we need brave bold books and authors like this to highlight what is going on or has gone on which we know little about.  Anthony Marra took on a challenge that even an author on their tenth book might not take on and he excels at it. I urge all of you to give this book a try.

5. Alex – Pierre Lemaitre

What Lemaitre actually does with ‘Alex’, which is far more interesting and potent is make you question, as the twists come, what you think is and isn’t morally right and soon this gripping thriller starts to ask so really serious questions of its reader and their ethics. A very clever move indeed, provide a book that makes you think hard about what you might do or what you find to be the ‘right’ thing for someone to do whilst also creating a read which is a complete page turner that has the readers jaw dropping as they go. That is what has made it my thriller of the year so far, it’s genius, and I personally cannot wait for the next one in the Camille series.

4. All The Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

The way Evie weaves all of this together is just masterful. She doesn’t simply go for the route of alternating chapters from Jake’s present and her past, which would be too simple and has been done before. In the present Evie makes the story move forward with Jake from the latest sheep mauling, in the past though we go backwards making the reader have to work at making everything make sense. I had several ‘oh bloody hell that is why she is where she is’ moments with the past storyline before thinking ‘what there is more, that might not be the reason…’ Jakes mistrust of things it seems it catching. This style is a gamble and admittedly initially requires a leap of faith and chapter or two of acclimatizing to the structure, yet it is a gamble which pays of dividends by the end and if you see the end coming, and aren’t left completely jaw droppingly winded by it, then you are a blooming genius. I was honestly blown away.

2= Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

Atkinson is a master of prose in my eyes. I love the way she gives the readers discreet asides and occasional knowing winks. I love her sense of humour, especially when it is at its most wicked and occasionally inappropriate. I think the way her characters come to life is marvellous and the atmosphere in the book, particularly during the strands during World War II and during the London Blitz (though I didn’t think the Hitler parts of the book were needed, even if I loved the brief mention of Unity Mitford) along with the tale of her possible marriage were outstandingly written. There is also the element of family saga, the history of Britain from 1910 onwards and also how the lives of women have changed – all interesting themes which Atkinson deals with throughout.

2 = Magda – Meike Ziervogel

Two of the biggest powers that books can have are to make us think outside our usual periphery or be a spring board to discovering more about subjects we think we know. Some books can do both, they are a rarity though. Magda, the debut novel from Meike Ziervogel, is one such book which gave me both a different outlook on something I thought I had made my mind up about and left me desperate to find out more when challenged. It is the sort of book where I simply want to write ‘you have to read this book’ and leave it at that so you all do, yet it is also one that is designed to be talked about and the questions it raises be discussed.

1. The Language of Dying – Sarah Pinborough

I thought The Language of Dying was a wonderful book for its rawness and emotion. It is a book that I really experienced and one which I am so glad I have read for the cathartic and emotional effects it had on me (I was openly weeping often) and proved that sometimes books are exactly what you need and can show you truths you think no one else quite understands apart from you. I can’t recommend it enough, without question my book of the year.

I have to say I struggled with this list rather a lot. If any of you have listened to the latest episode of The Readers you will have heard me shamelessly cheating as Gavin and I discuss twelve books we are each looking forward to in 2014. So I will here cheat slightly and say that Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, Charlotte Mendelson’s Almost English, Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave, Bernadine Evaristo’s Mr Loverman, and particularly both Deborah Levy’s Black Vodka and Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, could all easily have made the cut. Maybe I should have created a top twenty?

So which of these have you read and loved? What have been your books of 2013? What are you doing for New Years Eve?


Filed under Books of 2013, Random Savidgeness

8 responses to “Books of 2013; Part II

  1. gaskella

    I’ve only read Magda and Alex – loved both, but have four others above in my TBR piles.

    I’m always a stay at home girl for NY’sE, more so this year because I am absolutely full of cold and phlegm and feeling very sorry for myself. But I do have a lovely bottle of boutique gin that was given to me to help ease the pain of my sore throat later. 🙂

  2. Lee

    I just wanted to say how much I’ve been enjoying your blog since I started following it this September. It’s always interesting and frequently causes me to expand my, already enormous, to read list – I’ve just added 3 books to it after reading this post!
    Anyway thank you for giving me so much reading entertainment and I hope you have a very happy (and blog filled) 2014.


  3. David

    I’ve read three of those – whilst Atkinson and Wyld wouldn’t make my own top ten I did think both were very good indeed, particularly ‘Life After Life’ which I thought was a fantastic read. I’m afraid my opinion of ‘Burial Rites’ isn’t quite as high as yours, though it is a promising debut. ‘A Constellation of Vital Phenomena’ is one I really must get around to as it seems to be on quite a few ‘best of 2013’ lists.

    I’ve been having a think about my own published-in-2013 top ten, and I think it would look something like this:

    ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ by Richard Flanagan; ‘Minister Without Portfolio’ by Michael Winter; ‘Stay Up With Me’ by Tom Barbash; ‘Something Like Happy’ by John Burnside; ‘Barracuda’ by Christos Tsiolkas; ‘Eleven Days’ by Lea Carpenter; ‘Little Raw Souls’ by Steven Schwartz; ‘Clear Skies, No Wind, 100% Visibility’ by Théodora Armstrong; ‘The Lion Seeker’ by Kenneth Bonert; ‘You Only Get Letters from Jail’ by Jodi Angel.

    Surprisingly only one British book in there (1 British, 2 Australian, 3 Canadian and 4 American to be exact) – not sure if that is just a reflection of what I have read this year or of the quality of British fiction published in 2013? And half of my top ten are short story collections, which is a pleasant surprise.

    Anyway, all the very best for the new year, Simon. I gave up bothering with new year and stopping up until midnight a few years ago as I never saw the point anyway, so I shall be tucked up in bed with the cat and hopefully won’t be woken up by all the fireworks! And then I’ll start some nice shiny new books tomorrow 🙂

  4. Blimey, not read any of these, though do think the new Kate Atkinson may be on my kindle?! Will check them out. Do drop by and say hi next year, I’ll be sure to welcome you!

  5. I’ve only read one of these, Life After Life, which is also on my top picks of the year. I haven’t even heard of a couple of these, aside from your mentions, so will be adding them to the list for future perusal. Thanks, and Happy New Year!

  6. Loved Life After Life and (it was on my own 2013 list) and have Burial Rites very close to the top of my TBR. It’s one of those books I’m scared to read because I’ve been looking forward to it so much. Magda is one to those books I’d never read unless someone I trusted recommended it, so I guess I will have to try it 😉

    This is random but have you read any of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones? Because I think you would really enjoy them.

  7. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was my top pick for books published this year, but Paul Yoon’s Snow Hunters and Life After Life were close runners up. Thanks for all the great recommendations in 2013. Cheers!

  8. I was lucky enough to get a mega Waterstones gift voucher for Christmas – Hannah Kent and Evie Wyld are definitely on the shopping list! Eee!

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