Sunday, December 29, 2013

Favourite adult books of 2013

Ah, the tradition continues. This year, I read 64 adult books, 23 children's books (all the dregs from my last year of judging) and three teen books. Alas, only three were nonfiction, and only three were graphica... Am I getting set in my ways? Wait, don't answer that. Picking up on Pasha Malla's recent article, 40 of my 64 were female authors, while 23 were male, and 26 were Canadian. As he says, to a certain extent these distinctions are meaningless, but I do like to see how balanced, or unbalanced I am (don't comment on that, either!)... and I like to see how much I "stretch."

Here's the best of the best, in sound bites (more complete reviews of many of these have appeared on this blog throughout the year):
  1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein: A teenage British spy captured by the Gestapo tells her story as she writes her confession; a tale of unshakable spirits and amazing female friendship that will break your heart.
  2. The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin: the mother of Jesus reflects back on her life in her twilight years in semi-captivity. A troubled, nuanced portrait with surprising revelations about charisma, misogyny and "spin."
  3. Above All Things by Tanis Rideout: OK, this one may not be a book for the ages as are some others on this list. It is a solid read, however, and I read it at just the right time for the story to truly move me. Read this even if you care nothing for sports (like me).
  4. A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee: Speaking of spin, I have found myself quoting from this book quite a few times recently during the age of Ford. This is a book that excels at making the universal personal: a public figure who slips, and his wife, who in the wake of her husband's scandal becomes a crisis management expert herself, are ultimately redeemed, in the imperfect manner of the modern world.
  5. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: These friends, with their faults and their loves and their passionate re-inventions, made me feel good about the world, and the people I share it with.
  6. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: Ursula and her lives are infinitely fascinating, in a kind of literary "Choose your own adventure" way. A novel about choices, opportunities, and fate.
  7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: A strange little novel about the lengths you might go for the ones you love.
  8.  Night Film by Marisha Pessl: Speaking of strange, this is quite the departure in some ways from (and in others, quite similar to) Special Topics in Calamity Physics. A brick of a book about mystery, superstition, celebrity, and, ultimately, the lengths we go to protect the ones we love.
  9. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: No small praise here: this is the best book I have read since White Teeth about race in the modern Western world.
  10. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden: a detailed, heartbreaking and dazzlingly human portrait of a pivotal moment in our young country's history.


  1. Nice list! Now bring on the great reads of 2014. So nice to have so much to look forward to. Happy New Year!

  2. I heard about life after lifel on public radio, and it lived up to the reviews. The author carries the reader back and forth in time, while changing the life story of Ursula, the main character. What if, the author asks -- what if she died at birth? what if she married a German in the 1930's. It is a fascinating read.
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