My reading list, 2013

by Jessie K on January 3, 2014

I try to read something at all times but this year was a wash out. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, my brain glazed over and all I could handle was thumbing through magazines like Country Living or House Beautiful.

2013: The year of serious home decor porn.

But here are the books I managed to get through this year, in the order I read them.

Call of the Wild, Jack London – My copy is from the 40s — the pages are all yellowed and ripped and spine is broken, the font is old fashioned. It’s the best way to enjoy this classic animal adventure.

Oryx & Crake, Margaret Atwood – A dystopian tale selected by my book club that I found not all that original plot-wise but the way it’s structured — lots of back and forth in time and told from different perspectives — makes it feel fresh and exciting. I really enjoyed it.

Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood –  The follow up to Oryx & Crake. I didn’t like it nearly as much. This was more like an obligation read for my book club.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski – Probably my least favorite book of the year about a mute boy and his dogs on a midwest farm whose parents die (or were they murdered?). It was recommended to me by a casual friend who knew I was trying to write a dog book and said this one was a stand out in the genre (it was an Oprah select). The plot itself is engaging but I found the writing way too ground down with meaningless descriptions of things like the gently beading condensation in a window or the softly creaking kitchen chair.  Argh. I found myself flipping through large chunks just trying to stick with the action. I ended up setting it aside not even half way through so I don’t know how it ends.

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egen — I assumed I wouldn’t like this book by the description on the back — a collection of loosely related short stories about the ravages of time, but Egen is such a fast, strong writer I was totally hooked after the first chapter (the best one in the book, as far as I’m concerned).

Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg — a classic about the craft of writing written in an era before computers so there’s a lot of “grab your notebook and your number two pencil and record your dreams…”

Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel — this won the Booker Prize so everyone in my book club assumed we’d like it, but we were all like, “Huh?” And the ladies in my book club are robust, meaty readers. A 50 Shades of Grey crowd, it’s not. I personally found the writing  hard to follow and her use of pronouns confusing. Every male in the book is regarded as “he” or “him” so you have no clue who she’s talking about…which, as we found out later, was Mantel’s intention. A device that served no purpose beyond reader aggravation.

You Know When the Men are Gone, Siobhan Fallon — a reread about life on a military base. She’s a great writer.

Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter, Melissa Francis  — a fun, beachy read from a Fox News anchor about her emotionally abusive stage mom from hell.

The Sunshine When She’s Gone, Thea Goodman — I should have waited to read this one for now when I’m home alone with Katie. It’s about the early days of new parenthood and the prickly, sometimes crazy effects it can have on a marriage.

The Rules of Civility, Amor Towles — my favorite book of the year. I loved this book! LOVED IT! I loved the plot, the heroine, the setting. It’s a coming of age tale set in 1930s Manhattan and the heroine is a woman after my own heart.  Funny to think she’s the creation of a man. Click the link to read a review and definitely pick up a copy. (I hear it’s going to be a movie!)

rules-of-civility

Sweet Tooth, Ian McCewan — NPR’s Maureen Corrigan found the novel cynical and nasty with a “tenderized disdain for female readers.” (Click the link to read her review.) I didn’t take it that way. I found his heroine Serena Frome believable and vulnerable; true to life. Did you read it? What did you think?

This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz — I felt compelled to read this after hearing Diaz on NPR. I really liked him so naturally I liked his Pulitzer winning book.

How Children Succeed, Paul Tough — A bestseller Jake brought home about the importance of letting kids make their own mistakes, even fail, in order to help them build resilience and succeed. The reporting got a little pedantic at time — some chapters read like a collection of dry academic studies — but I  agree with the thesis.

The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson — I was really pregnant when I tried to tackle this story about life in North Korea, but I couldn’t get through it! I had serious brain freeze. I might try again in a few months….or years.

What about you? What books did you read this year? Or was it a House Beautiful year for you too?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara January 3, 2014 at 3:40 pm

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Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. Amazing. Thanks for the list, I love book recommendations.

Jessie K January 5, 2014 at 8:23 pm

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I’m definitely intrigued about Cutting for Stone, thank YOU for the recommendation.

Liz January 3, 2014 at 5:25 pm

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I so loved Rules of Civility. Billie Holiday’s “Autumn in New York” is on all my playlists now.

I also enjoyed The Chaperone byLaura Moriarty, and The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

peg January 3, 2014 at 6:06 pm

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I also loved “the Chaperone” Liz, it was a great book. Another one that I really liked this year was “Me before you” by JoJo Moyes. Just some general favorites that I have read in the past.
“Unbroken” by Lauren Hillenbrand (one of the best books I have ever read.
“The Good Thief” by Hannah Tinti
“Standing in the Rainbow” Fannie Flagg
I am reading “The Sweetgun Knitlit society” right now, not the best book ever written, but it has drawn me in and soothes me.
“Poisonwood Bible” Barbara Kingsolver
“Tales of the City” Armistead Maupin
I will stop now, but thanks for letting me indulge my librarian self, while sharing favorite books!

Jessie K January 5, 2014 at 8:23 pm

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I read Unbroken last year and loved it too. Hillenbrand is such an amazing researcher. Though I question the decision to have Angelina Jolie direct the movie version of it. It’ll be interesting to see what she does with the material.

peg January 3, 2014 at 6:08 pm

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On another note I just started listening to the new Brandy Clark album, loving it!

Kim January 3, 2014 at 11:38 pm

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Ditto on Sara’s recommendation of Cutting for Stone – but I actually liked The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, so you might take my recommendation with a grain of salt. (Although Stephen King gave Sawtelle a rave also, saying it was one of those rare books he did not want to end.)

Linda Wilder January 4, 2014 at 8:17 am

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Jessie . . . try We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. . . I loved it . . . very well written . . . let me know what you think if you read it . . . and I’ll bring it to Book Club next.

Jessie K January 5, 2014 at 8:20 pm

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I’d love to check it out!

Susan January 4, 2014 at 9:21 am

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A few of my favorite books that I read this year were:
It, Reading Lolita in Tehran, a Year in Provance, The Edible Woman, Travels with Charley, Liesel and Po, The Elegance of a Hedgehog and The Namesake.
Absolutely detested When God was A Rabbit ( Actually, The first 3rd of the book good but then it got really bad, really fast).
Love Margaret Atwood and have been meaning to read Oryx and Crake forever:)
Happy New Year!

Janelle January 4, 2014 at 9:02 pm

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I’m not a big reader. Whenever I sit down to read after work, and after all the kids stuff, I end up falling asleep. My book for last year (2012) was Rurally Screwed and I loved it! The only book I read. But I got a second job and I have a long commute so I started listening to books on tape. I went on a WWII and Hitler binge. I started with a book I always wanted to read – Diary of Anne Frank, which led me to Night by Elie Weisel (truly a horrifying yet hope-filled story). Then on to Hitler Youth, and then In The Garden of The Beast. I did listen to Anne of Green Gables in the time between – to get my head out of the horrors of the Nazi party. I’d really like to find a book on tape that looks into the psychology of Hitler and how he could do such truly terrible things but I haven’t found one yet. Any thoughts, anyone?

Jessie K January 5, 2014 at 8:19 pm

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Going from no books to Rurally Screwed to Hitler is quite the literary evolution. I wonder what a psychologist would say about your trajectory. Or maybe trajectory is the wrong word.

Deby January 5, 2014 at 12:07 am

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According to my library reading history, I checked out 57 books in 2013. Two or three I returned after reading only partway as I found I just wasn’t interested, but the rest were read cover to cover. A few of my favorites:
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (I’m a sucker for good horror, and I think Joe Hill is one of the best to come out in recent years. I can even forgive him for being Stephen King’s son after reading his short story Pop Art)
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Fire Witnes by Lars Keplar (the writing is weird but the story compelling)

I also read the Anne of Green Gables series for the first time (I love children’s books) and I’m working on the Karin Slaughter books, and I read a lot of books on homesteading and food, as those are areas of interest to me.

Jessie K January 5, 2014 at 8:17 pm

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Wow, I’ll have to try to catch up to you in 2014! It’s on! ;)

Brad K. January 5, 2014 at 1:50 am

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I enjoyed Deborah Geary’s A Modern Witch, the whole series.

This was my year for epub ebook reading.
http://www.allromanceebooks.com/index.html
— My local library gave me a login password to the Oklahoma state online library, and I checked out a couple of books there, too.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are consistently good with their Liaden universe novels. A couple of my favorites are Scout’s Progress, Balance of Trade, Fledgling and especially Saltation.

I re-read some of Patricia Brigg’s Moon Called series, the Hob’s Bargain, and the novella Alpha and Omega. Werewolves (except for the Fantasy Hob’s Bargain), but still, a romance.

Deborah Harkness can’t write more novels soon enough.

Elizabeth Moon’s follow on novels to Deed of Paksennarion were very good.

— I got my used Nook First Edition on ebay, and use Calibre on my PC to organize things, correct book titles when needed and look up supporting information.

Happy New Year!

Camilla January 5, 2014 at 10:35 am

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Hiya lady!
I read Sweet tooth at some point and thought it was great, a bit full on at times but believable and a good read. Now I must go and catch up on your blogs, I’ve been out of touch with all this celebrating. Hope you are all fabulous and well CB xx

sarina January 6, 2014 at 9:00 am

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I had an on/off relationship with my Kindle Fire… I like the search function where I can put in a few key words and out pop some suggestions. Since I’m a Prime member, I also get to “borrow” one book a month for free from a pretty large library of selections. I need to take that one step further and get a library card with my local library because I think I can also download free there too. My picks have been mostly escapist “beach mystery” types of books though. Nothing too thought provoking. But, some on your list look pretty interesting.

Cynthia in Denver January 6, 2014 at 11:08 am

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Jesse,
The inability to finish Orphan Master’s Son has nothing to do with pregnancy; it’s a push-through read. However, While I felt loathing for the book, it certainly had me thinking about it for quite awhile.

cindy January 6, 2014 at 1:10 pm

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I consider myself an avid reader, but feel a bit uncultured when I read your list! Haha The books I’ve been reading lately are YA sci/fi fantasy stuff. A genre I’d never thought I’d read. The latest series I’m on is called The Park Service trilogy.

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