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.)

characters’ christmas trees

christmas tree

One year in college I left our Christmas tree up so long it became an Easter tree (complete with Easter egg lights). For a few years in New York I lived in a 400-square-foot apartment, but I always made sure I had room for my boxes of Christmas ornaments.

Right now I have a small fake Christmas tree that’s roughly three feet high. The lights built into it burned out last year–I might need to retire it soon. For now, I just added extra strands of lights (including the Easter egg ones).

I don’t know what I like more: the twinkling lights, the bulbs of bright colors, or the sparkly garland.

christmas tree

My tree is a Doctor Seuss tree. Its ornaments are too large, and too small, and the giant glitter star at the top makes it a little lopsided. I use (and save every year) the tackiest, most colorful garland I can find. I only wish I could fit more ornaments and lights on my tiny tree (and figure out how to take a better picture of my narrow tree in my tiny narrow living room).

I love my little Christmas tree, and I think it does a good job of representing my unique brand of Christmas cheer–more is more and the brighter the better.

After all, your tree is a reflection of your style. Are you traditional? Modern? Minimalist? Tell it to me in Christmas tree. I love seeing my friends’ (ok, and strangers’) trees. It’s a peek inside their holiday brain–and sometimes there’s a bit of personal history in the branches. I assume this is true for fictional people, too, so what would some characters I’ve met this year have on their Christmas trees?

jon snow christmas tree

Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. Jon Snow’s tree on the wall would be pretty sparse. They’d have crow decorations and black ornaments. Some books might be under the tree as a gift to Sam, and it would definitely be covered in snow.

delirium tree

Delirium from the Sandman. Delirium’s tree would be a delight–at least at first glance. It would be rainbow, like her speech bubbles, and it would have whimsical ornaments. I have a feeling Delirium decorated until something else came up, and then she promptly deserted her tree in favor of a new distraction. Or maybe she hit the eggnog a little too hard before she got started.

bernadette tree

Bernadette from Where’d You Go Bernadette. Once Bernadette was a great architect. She used recycled materials and wasted nothing. Her tree would be made of materials found around her Seattle home, and the blue glass would be a tribute to her daughter Bee’s trip to Antarctica and the glaciers she saw there.

So how do you like your Christmas tree? Whimsical like Delirium’s? Or maybe upcycled like Bernadette’s?

where’d you go, bernadette

bernadette

The other day on Twitter, I asked for a recommendation for a quick read. No less than three people recommended Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Kindle here)

Obviously, I had missed the memo on how great of a book this was. Lucky for me, my friends steered me in the right direction. And I am very glad they did.

Where’d You go, Bernadette follows the written, faxed, and e-mail correspondence of Bernadette, her neighbors, her husband Elgin, and her daughter Bee. After Bernadette’s mysterious disappearance, Bee uses these documents to piece together the truth about her mom and where she might have gone. (It sounds like the structure to our #familybookclub pick House of Leaves, but so far they couldn’t be more different.) Continue reading