Best Books of 2013

This may not have been a fabulous year for me personally, but it was a great reading year. I had very few reading slumps and enjoyed a bumper number of good books. Above all it was the year for non-fiction, so much so that I’ve had to introduce a range of categories to cover all the books I feel obliged to mention. Let us look back fondly.

Best Literary Fiction

Louise Erdrich – The Round House

Siri Hustvedt – The Sorrows of an American


Best Innovative Fiction

J. R. Crook – Sleeping Patterns


Best Historical Fiction

Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall


Best Debut Novel

Beatrice Hitchman – Petite Mort


Best Quirky Cute Novel You Can Read In An Afternoon

Alexis M. Smith – Glaciers


Best General Fiction

Maggie O’Farrell – Instructions for a Heatwave

Harriet Lane – Alys Always

Amanda Smyth – A Kind of Eden


Best Contemporary Crime

Stella Rimington – The Geneva Trap

T. V. LoCicero –Admission of Guilt


Best Golden Age Crime

Elizabeth Daly – Somewhere in the House


Best Crime That Managed To Be About More Than Crime

Attica Locke – The Cutting Season


Best Poetry Collection

Kaddy Benyon – Milk Fever


Best Creative Non-Fiction. Category: Nature

Kathleen Jamie – Findings

Neil Ansell – Deer Island


Best Creative Non-Fiction. Category: Memoir

Jennie Erdal – Ghosting

James Lasdun – Give Me Everything You Have; On Being Stalked

Kathryn Harrison – The Mother Knot


Best Creative Non-Fiction. Category: Completely Uncategorizable

Maggie Nelson – Bluets  (my favourite post of the year)

Stephen Grosz – The Examined Life


Best Non-Fiction That Brought Self-Illumination

Kathryn Schultz – Being Wrong

Susan Cain – Quiet


Special Award for Services to Existentialism

(I will never tire of watching that)

46 thoughts on “Best Books of 2013

  1. This looks like an excellent reading year! I also read and enjoyed Petite Mort and Alys Always this year, and Ghosting and The Cutting Season a little while back. As someone who’s worked in the book world for many years I particularly enjoyed Ghosting. Jennie Erdal writes beautifully. I have her novel sitting on my TBR shelves. I do hope that next year will be as good for you personally as this reading year has been for you.

    • Hurray! So glad we agreed on so many books. I absolutely loved Ghosting. I don’t have a copy of her novel though; hmmmm, must see about that! And thank you for the very kind wishes. 🙂

  2. Yay for good reading years! This one has not been so hot for me–reading and otherwise, but I did have some very good moments! I really liked Petite Mort, too, and am happy to see Elizabeth Daly on your list. I really must read Hilary Mantel’s books, and I have Ghosting on your recommendation and look forward to reading it! That video is hilarious and made me laugh–it’s so very true (the closed cat door was great!)–and I was really due for a good laugh!

    • Henri makes me laugh every time! I’d love to know what you think of Ghosting – I really did enjoy that one. And I’m so glad you liked Petite Mort. Elizabeth Daly is such a find – I love her. If you come across any more wonderful Golden Age crime writers I don’t know about, I hope you’ll tip me the wink! 🙂 Here’s hoping we both have a MUCH better 2014, and that the reading gods smile on us too.

  3. I had a bad reading year, I’d say but some of the books that will make my best of are on yours too (because I discovered them here) 🙂
    I’ll apply a similar categorization, I think.

  4. The Bears are trying very hard to pretend that you are not a cat person because they are very definitely not cat Bears. Still I am relieved that not even you are purrfect!

    • So few Bears are, are they? Must be something to do with the claws (and the demands for attention). Let’s sell it to the Bears in whatever way is best – I don’t want to be in their bad books! 🙂

  5. I must read Wolf Hall keep hearing people raving about it. Only thing is I find Tudor England scary.

    I liked Alys Always but found the end disappointing. It was clever and stylish, but I thought it could have been a *great* book as well as those two more contained things. Although maybe fitting from such a contained character.

    • Wolf Hall won’t make you think the Tudor age was any less scary! 🙂 But it is a good book. I can understand you not liking the end of Alys Always. The book chose not to do the climactic thing – which felt in some ways more chilling to me – but I can quite see why it might disappoint.

  6. The Henri video is great!
    My reading year hasn’t been as great as other years but now it’s time to look forward to great reads in 2014!
    Loved reading your list as a lot of those are new to me titles.

    • I’m so glad you like Henri! Shame about your reading – will you post a ‘best of’ list anyway? Like you, I do love culling titles for next year (as if I needed any more suggestions of what to read!!!).

  7. Love the cats. Great list. Not my best year for reading, but can’t always be. Lots of ladies on your list, I think, which is representative of writers and readers, a situation not often reflected in more the ‘official’ reviews, though it is no doubt just chance here. Hope next year is better for you. Now better add to my future reading list.

    • Do you know, I half noticed on the predominance of women, thought to comment on it and then forgot all about it! So I’m very glad you’ve reminded me. Yes, it was Ladies’ Year this year, though as you say, that’s entirely by chance. Here’s hoping your reading year is better, and mine is just plain better in 2014! 🙂

    • I haven’t read the Donna Tartt yet though I intend to – I’m delighted to know you enjoyed it so much. Also really pleased you loved the Erdrich too. What a writer she is!

  8. A best of list with December just half over? What if you read the best book yet before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st? These are the things that keep me up at night 😉 A nice list and a good year of reading. I hope 2014 is both a good reading year and a good personal year!

    • Heh, I am sympathetic to all reading sensitivities, although that’s not a particular bugbear of mine. I’ve got four books currently on the go, all good but none that would make the list. Then I doubt I’ll a) read that much between now and New Year and b) that it will be more than comfort reading. And if a miracle happens and I do come across a fabulous book, it can be added to next year’s list. It can all be sorted! 🙂

    • Yay for Grosz and Hustvedt. I do hope shrink lit becomes a trend – I will be all over it if if does! French cats with Existential angst, too. See, we like all the sophisticated things. 🙂

  9. Oooh, a fascinating list.

    On your recommendation, I read ‘Alys Always’ and thought it very good; unlike Denise I liked the ending too. Hmm, I might write about it. It’s a disillusioning insight on literary London though (although it’s fiction! So not necessarily true!).

    • Oops, my first sentence looks almost sarcastic now it’s posted, I didn’t mean it to be! I do like me a good end-of-year book list but newspaper ones are often full only of what’s been published that year. I think I’d like to read the Crook and the Ansell most of all.

    • Dear Helen, your comment sounded delightful, as your comments always do. But I’ve often gone back to a comment I’ve left and thought, ooh crikey, does that read wrong? and been worried about it. You need never fear here. You make me laugh far too often! I’m so glad you liked Alys Always and I’d love to read your review, if you’re considering writing one (equally, managing to do anything at this time of year is pretty miraculous, so…) And yes, do read Neil Ansell and Sleeping Patterns – two remarkably different books but each brilliant in its own way.

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