top 10 books I read in 2013

top 10 books

I’m on track to read 29 books this year. Maybe a few more if I can sneak them in before the clock strikes 12. Not a huge amount–I do have a day job, which is coincidentally also reading–but I’ll take it. My top 10 favorite books this year, in no particular order, are:

Saga
Written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples, Saga was the first comic book I’ve read, and, man, was it a great introduction. The characters are sharp and funny, the art is gorgeous and modern, and the story focuses on relationships–that just happen to be during a war in space. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try out graphic novels but isn’t sure of making the jump. It convinced me to dive into the medium, and I’m so glad it did…  [see saga related posts here]

The Sandman  
…because then I picked up Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s epic is a tremendously fun journey that I’m still reading–two volumes left to go. It’s not too late to pick this up. In fact, now might be a great time to get started because there are reports Joseph Gordon-Levitt wants to make it into a movie.  [see sandman related posts here]

Where’d You Go Bernadette (Kindle here)
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple was a delight. It’s a funny, touching look at a family’s relationship with a struggling woman who disappears for a while–like I’m sure we’d all like to sometimes. It’s a compilation of (fictional) letters and documents that Bernadette’s daughter puts together to try to track her down, but it reads like a charming story from beginning to end.  [see bernadette related posts here]

The Gift of Fear (Kindle here)
I recommend this book to everyone. It is a brilliant read and it helps me understand and feel better about fears that I and most women (and men!) face every day. Each chapter showed me new ways to look at fears, process them, and live safer. It focuses on women’s safety but can be helpful for anyone–it has chapters on the workplace and schools, as well as regular scary places like parking garages. Gavin De Becker also shines a light on men’s actions that can be scary without them realizing it, which can promote more understanding and safer lives for everyone. Seriously, read this book.

Boy’s Life (Kindle here)
Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon, was possibly the best book I read this year. (But…so is this whole list.) It encapsulates feelings and the imagination of childhood and could connect with even the most hardened adult. I live as a grown up in a big city now, but reading about Cory’s life in a small southern town still resonates.  [see boy’s life related posts here]

The Revolution was Televised (Kindle here)
I have loved getting more into television. I am devouring show after show–most recently Orphan Black–and Alan Sepinwall’s book on some of the best shows from the past decade (or so) was excellent. Even for the shows I haven’t seen, hearing his analysis gave me a fuller picture of the medium and more appreciation for the storytelling that I am able to watch. He is passionate about the subject, and hearing his views on show after show was like talking to my friends about great shows I just saw–and that’s one of my favorite parts of watching TV.

Joyland
Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and Joyland was not as scary as the thrillers he is usually known for. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less quality. To me, Joyland was a perfect summer read about a young man’s summer love–with an amusement park. It has enough love and mystery to keep things interesting, but it’s not too scary or saccharine.

Never Let Me Go (Kindle here)
This novel, by Kazuo Ishiguro, is technically about a strange boarding school and a twisted reality I’m thankful we don’t live in. But it’s more about basic humanity than almost anything else I’ve read this year. This book touches on what makes us human and the importance of basic decency, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Its first-person narration was easy to read and felt so real and true to the young woman Kathy C. that I was shocked to remember it was written by a man.  [see never let me go related posts here]

Under the Dome (Kindle here)
Stephen King again. And a story about a small town again, like Boy’s Life, but this time in the Northeast. Although King often uses scary monsters in his books, the true horrors are what we face in real life: jealousy, anger, substance abuse, insecurity, power. These terrors can take hold of anyone, and they invade a small town that finds itself trapped under a dome.  [see under the dome related posts here]

Salvage the Bones (Kindle here)
Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward, was not what I was expecting. I heard this was a book about Hurricane Katrina, but the hurricane doesn’t make an appearance until the memorable closing scenes. This story follows a poor family as it prepares for a storm no one could prepare for while Esch, the only girl in the family with three brothers, faces a storm of her own. It’s touching and heartbreaking, and though they live a life very different from my own, Esch’s emotions are all recognizable.

(These books are my own choices, and I’m not paid for them. I am part of the Amazon affiliate program, so if you buy through my links I’ll receive a teeny bit of money for it.)

rocket, my screen-printed bike

bike

“Seems to me,” the Lady said, “a boy’s bicycle needs to see where it’s goin’. Needs to see whether there’s a clear road or trouble ahead. Seems to me a boy’s bicycle needs some horse in it, and some deer, and maybe even a touch of reptile. For cleverness, don’t you know?”

In Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon, our hero Cory gets a brand new bike.

This isn’t just any bike. This bike is from The Lady. It’s brand new and made just for him. It’s red and had a headlight, and in the headlight it has an eye that looks out for Cory. It steers him away from danger and helps him get to adventure–fast.

“At this instant I felt at one with Rocket, as if we were of the same skin and grease, and when I grinned, a bug flew into my teeth. I didn’t care; I swallowed it because I was invincible.”

So in tribute to a book I loved, and in tribute to Rocket, a bike I wish I had, I made my own. Sort of. Mine’s a bit more two dimensional.

screen printing stencil

I started with a stencil. I traced and drew and doodled until I had a bike I liked. Then I traced it onto a transparency and used a craft knife/box cutter thing to cut out my stencil.

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miss blue glass and miss green glass

In Boy’s Life, which I totally loved, two sisters named Sonia and Katherina Glass were almost perfect mirror images of each other–except one always wore blue and the other green.

Now that is style. They adopted a uniform, dressed as themselves, and went with it. Plus monochrome can really be a great look. I don’t own enough of one color (except black) to pull off monochrome looks very often–and I have a pretty strong aversion to matching. But in honor of Miss Blue Glass and Miss Green Glass, let’s take a look at some killer blue and green clothes and accessories we could wear in our own lives.

blue

blueaccessories

I’m really into blue. It’s one of my favorite colors and I just think it’s beautiful–like the ocean and sky. Plus blue jeans are blue, so you’ve got that going for you. But I was surprised at how much I liked these greens.

green

green accessories

Gorgeous, right? Emerald and mint are really growing on me. Maybe soon I’ll give up mismatching for one day and pick a color and stick with it.

boy’s life by robert mccammon

boy's life by robert mccammon

Last week, when I was walking to work, I saw people putting leaves on trees. There was someone on a ladder, someone in a raised platform, and someone on the ground, and they were all using wire to put fake leaves on a tree that had none.

When Cory, the narrator in Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon (Kindle here), is riding on a train with a man who looks suspiciously like Frankenstein’s monster, Cory thinks, “Were these three insane, or was I?”

That’s how I felt.

Cory lives in the small town of Zephyr, Alabama, in the 1960s, and he tells the story of the year he turns 13. His town is full of wonderful absurdities, his adventures are plentiful, and his love for his family and friends is strong and true.

I love a lot of things about this book. But the thing I love most is Cory’s voice. A lot of books use children narrators–children can ignore danger and logic in a way that adults can’t–but adult attitudes, vocabularies, and thoughts tend to sneak through. Cory’s voice is consistently strong and interesting, and he tells stories the way kids see them: big and real and exaggerated and in your face. “Writer? Author? Storyteller, that’s what I decided to be,” Cory says. And a storyteller he is. Continue reading