13 Best Books of 2013

Happy 2014!

I know this is a little late, but we had some last-minute competition for our Best of 2013 list, so we wanted to think carefully about which books really stood out to us and why.

First, Jack weighs in with his top three; then, I give you my ten books of the year!

A few observations:

  • Two Margaret Atwood books appear on the list! Both Jack and I enjoyed finding a new favorite author to share.
  • It’s a lot of fun to read books with someone else, whether with Jack or with a book club.
  • New books are nice, but in 2013 I gravitated toward classics, from those published in the sixties to the eighties to the aughts.
  • I’m surprised by how many of these books I want to re-read. I can probably count on both hands the number of books I’ve re-read as an adult. But so many of the titles below became classics in my own athenaeum; I can’t wait to take my time to peruse them again soon.
  • Jack does not like ranking his books!


The Poisonwood BibleThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A family of missionaries plans to bring Christianity to the Belgian Congo, and the experience tears them all apart. (Note from Melody: This is one of my favorite books of all time, so I’m THRILLED that Jack liked it as much as I do.)


The ScarThe Scar by China Mieville
Mieville’s books are always creative, but the characters in this one were even better than in the other book by Mieville that I’ve read, Perdido Street Station.



Oryx and CrakeOryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
I like dystopian sci-fi, and this had a very human touch.

Jack: A man of few words. Hopefully, I’ll convince him to post full reviews of The Poisonwood Bible and Oryx and Crake soon!


Let's Pretend This Never Happened10. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Jenny Lawson, also known as The Bloggess, is uproariously funny, and I enjoyed the irreverence of a memoir that also touched on deeply personal issues, including eating disorders, social anxiety, and parenting.



Quiet9. Quiet by Susan Cain
This book, one of my first nonfiction book club selections, forced me to reevaluate the way I interact with people, especially in professional settings. It also made me feel way more normal! I’m not crazy, I’m just sensitive.



A Visit from the Goon Squad8. A Visit from Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Egan’s book quickly became a critical classic, and for good reason. I loved her inventiveness, even if some elements of the book verged on the gimmicky. It’s a must-read for would-be novelists like myself.



The Train of Small Mercies7. The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell
Rowell’s book explores the power of perspective, particularly of the everyday people confronted with extraordinary events. I loved the rich observations and the small details that build a compelling narrative.



I Am Forbidden6. I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
I regret not being able to put into words why the plot and characters of this story resonated with me. I hope to re-read this book in a year or two and review it once again. In the meantime, writing my review prompted me to re-think the way I rate and review books—always a good avenue of thought.


The Handmaid's Tale5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This late entrée to the competition made me forget everything else going on in my life—including the books I needed to review, which explains why I’m posting this in January! It was even better than I expected—a classic in dystopian fiction.



To Kill a Mockingbird4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Okay, so 2013 wasn’t the first year I read To Kill a Mockingbird, but I discovered so much more to love the second time around. I think this will be a frequent re-read for me. This is a book Jack and I read at the same time, which was a lot of fun.



Gone Girl3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl was my fiction book club pick this year, and I’m glad I chose it. I adored the book, even if I found its characters utterly baffling, and it proved a fun discussion. Also, Flynn recently announced that, in the movie version, she and David Fincher are changing the last third of the story! Whaaaaat?


Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight2. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
I realized that my review of this book was uncharacteristically short. I think that’s because, with a book this good, all I can say is, “Read it, read it, it’s so good, read it.” I’m keeping it close at hand as I embark on writing my own memoir in 2014.



The Pharmacist's Mate1. The Pharmacist’s Mate by Amy Fusselman
This book, weighing in at 86 pages, radically changed the way I think of memoir and personal essay. It’s a real gem, and I recommend it to everyone I know.

That’s it, folks! Let’s see what 2014 brings us.

3 replies »

  1. I’ve had my eye on “The Poisonwood Bible” but it always gets bumped from my Amazon cart for something else. I’m going to go ahead and get it now. “Quiet” got a thumbs down from me. I agree with what you wrote, but I didn’t like it so much because I wasn’t looking for validation but more so how to deal with people who don’t understand that being an introvert doesn’t make me a weirdo. My goal every year is to read a few classics. Especially the ones that I somehow made it to adulthood without reading.


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