Reading Highlights of 2013

I thought it was about time to make a list (since lists are so fun) and what better topic than a year review? It’s been a good reading year. Despite the heavy course load, and luckily even because of it, I have read some great books, discovered authors, and generally enjoyed my reading experiences. Someone told me this year that reading a book is a gift you give yourself. I have been very kind to myself this year.

I have realized that it’s hard to remember everything you’ve read in a year and the books that I remember most are the books that I read near the end of the year, so they may feature here the most (it’s a little like that Oscars in that way). But I’ve done my best to jog my memory and I think I’ve covered the important ground.

1. Connie Willis

say nothing of dog   blackout     all clear

This is a writer that I have just discovered this year but I have to say that her books have gone right to the top of my reading experiences. These are very intricately plotted books. I enjoy her characters and the historical detail. I love the literary allusions that abound. The stories are humourous and thoughtful. I find my time travel such a difficult idea to get my mind around – it and its implications certainly takes quite a bit of thinking. I appreciate that she just doesn’t present the idea as fair accompli. These are quite the genre bending books – science fiction and historical fiction and something else all rolled into one. I found each of the three books I read, To Say Nothing of the DogBlackout, and All Clear, to be compulsive reads despite the heft and detail of the books. (Although, readers should be forewarned that one should consider Blackout and All Clear one book and read together, in order. One should not attempt reading one alone or read them in the incorrect order. This will simply lead to frustration.)

2. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber

crimson petal

This is quite an astonishing book. I have to confess that I came to this book in a roundabout way. I saw a clip on Youtube and my interest was piqued. I ordered and watched the mini-series. I discovered it was a book and read it. It is quite a dark take on the Victorian novel, a dark kind of Dickens, with its numerous characters and intricate plot, exposing everything the VIctorians wanted to hide or deny. And at the centre of it all, Sugar, so complex and fascinating – angel, prostitute, governess, avenging author, secretary, muse, thief.  I think the size of the book would be enough to intimidate anyone but I was surprised at the speed in which I went through it. This was probably my biggest, most serious read of the year but I felt like it had quite the payoff.

3. The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia & A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

thief

queen of attoliaking of attoliaconspiracy of kings

I actually read The Thief, a Newbery Honour Book, last-last year but it led to me reading the rest of the books in the series, so it gets to be included. I picked it up as a bargain, purely out of curiosity; I had never heard of it, the author, or series before, but I have a good idea what I like and I was right! Again, these books feature intricate plots and strong characterization… Think I’m seeing an appeal trend emerging here. The target audience is probably children/YA readers but I still really enjoyed these books. The Thief is a real adventure, and certainly that is present in all the books. But there is also political intrigue and battles of both wits and will. These books are clever, suspenseful, and thoughtful too. Every protagonist is faced with the question: what kind of person are they really? How can they remain true to themselves or become the person they want to be? The setting of the series is also quite intriguing. It feels part history, part fantasy, part myth. I feel like there are still more books to come, so I am keeping my eye out. So far I think my favourite has been The King of Attolia. I do feel that one thing is missing though – I would really like a map of the kingdoms!

4. The Jane Eyre Affair Reading Map 

I put a lot of time and thought into “The Jane Eyre Affair” but it was a pure delight for me. What could be better than really thinking about a book you have enjoyed and extending that experience though similar reading material, films and video, and going more in depth into the author, book, time period – anything – connected to the book? Clearly, you know how I feel about it. Most of all it was incredibly interesting to see just how influential this one book is in our culture. I knew that I loved Jane Eyre. I just didn’t realize just how many other people also did. I found the process of creating the reading map very enjoyable. I sort of want to make reading maps my job. I don’t know if that will happen but I I am definitely tackle another one in the future. If you have a book suggestions, let me know!

5. Goodreads

I just discovered Goodreads this year, and with my love of books and lists, its really a perfect match. What I like most is the ability I have now to really efficiently keep track of what I have read. I’ve tried making lists before but I end up writing things down more than once and scratching things out and then it becomes less aesthetically pleasing and I want to start all over again. Or I lose the list. I also like that I’ve been able to discover more books by authors I enjoy and books in series. I don’t review, I just keep track. But it is a resource that has definitely helped me out and added some delight to my reading experience.

Other highlights:

  • I’ve made my way through all the library’s Angela Thirkell novels but I still have a lot more to go. I am going to have to do some searching but I am determined to read them all! I love touring around Barsetshire and keeping up with all the residents, and I love the consistency. Edith always manages to get a little above herself despite her best intentions.
  • Eva Ibbotson is definitely a writer for me. She is a new discovery this year. As far as I can tell the best way to describe her books is “historical romances in 1930s Austria and England which involve a lot of family background and where every character makes an impression.”
  • E-readers – I learned to use one. I still don’t know how I feel about them. They may be a conspiracy of the publishing industry to shut down public libraries but they are handy when you’ve finished a book (Blackout) that has a sequel (All Clear) that you didn’t really know about and you need to get hold or and read immediately!

Reading Resolutions for 2014

  • Finish the books that I started and have not finished (but want to).
  • Read books I got for Christmas.
  • Catch up on my Alexander McCall Smith.
  • Create a reading map.
  • Find more Angela Thirkells.
  • Update blog regularly.
  • Visit the Book Depot.
  • Explore some genres I neglect more – Fantasy? Western? Literary Fiction?
  • Find out what all the James Patterson fuss is about.

And that’s enough to be going on with.

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2 thoughts on “Reading Highlights of 2013

  1. I love lists too! (Actually on my list of books to read is book by Umberto Eco called “The Infinity of Lists”). You have got me so excited to read To Say Nothing of the Dog, etc. I’m just waiting for it to be returned to the local library, so I can get my hands on it!
    Also, I’m not sure you’ll be successful in figuring out the fuss about James Patterson. I should blacken your view, but I have attempted to read at least two different Patterson mysteries and could not get through either. I found them too poorly written.

    • I suspect that will be the case for me and Mr. Patterson as well but you cannot believe how much he is borrowed from the library! I think I’ve just added the “Infinity of Lists” to my list too.

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