Books of 2013


It’s become something of a tradition for me to wrap up a year writing about the books I read during the past 12 months. So, here’s the best and worst of the 30 titles I read in 2013*.

Let’s start with the worst. The good news is there was nothing so bad that I gave it only one star. (These are Goodreads.com stars, by the way; five is the top ranking.) At the bottom are William Faulkner’s Light in August, which had some nice lines but really seemed to go nowhere, Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist, which I really, really wanted to like … but didn’t, and the surprisingly blah Summer of Night by the usually reliable Dan Simmons.

Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy was one of six 3-star books from last year, and maybe the one that I would most consider bumping up a level. It dragged in places, but I have found myself going over several scenes from the novel months after finishing it.

The majority of the books I read fell into the 4-star area, and this includes two of The Song of Ice and Fire novels I finished last year (the last two of the series so far). I finally read Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. One I picked up on a whim was Philipp Meyer’s The Son, a multi-generational story about the settling of Texas, and I really liked it. Ron Carlson’s Five Skies was also in this category, though it was pretty obvious which of the men would die and how the others would react, but Carlson still made me care. Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front was maybe the best of the 4-star books. I guess I’d forgotten how the movie ended, so the end of the book was very sad and shocking.

Seven titles got the 5-star rating. Two of them will join the “best books I’ve ever read” club. They are Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes were Watching God (the writing is just incredibly beautiful) and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. I’ll admit I cried like a baby at the end of The Book ThiefA Storm of Swords, the book that features “The Red Wedding,” is also on this list, as are the re-readings of The Lord of the Rings books.

Overall, it was a really good year for reading, despite the number of titles being lower than I would have liked. I spent a good deal of time proofing my own books and listening to the audio versions of them as they were readied for release, so that took away some of the time I would have spent reading other books.

*I didn’t include books I re-read every year as part of my teaching. These include Beowulf, The Crucible, Othello, etc.

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