My tippiest of top reads of 2013

I realise in all my lolling about being en vacances, I failed to present you with my top ten reads of the year.

Thinking about good books is infinitely more fun than thinking about having to set the alarm tomorrow morning, so here goes, late but not disastrously so.

These are in no particular order by the way:

  1. The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard – I came late to these books, having ordered the last in the series to review for Amazon Vine, without realising it was the last in the series. I read the first four books in a week, promptly followed by the last volume. I loved them all. I can’t separate which one I loved most, because the story spools on through each volume and each bit is not complete without the others. I’m glad I’ve read it, but in that wistful way that makes me wish I could discover it all over again. I’m sorry Howard has just died, because the quality of writing in the last volume is superb and she clearly could have gone on to write more masterpieces.  This year I shall be hunting down all her other books and devouring them.
  2. The Enemy series by Charlie Higson.  We are on volume five of these excellent teen zombie books and I think there are at least a couple more in the pipeline. I am utterly hooked. The characters are brilliant. I love the London setting and the fact that the narrative is circular rather than linear. I also love the fact that he is not afraid to bump off characters you learn to love.  They are gripping and clever and fabulous.
  3. The Raven Boys quartet by Maggie Stiefvater. There are only two of these so far, The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves.  I cannot wait for the other two to be written. Hurry up Maggie. Hurry up. These are also books for teens. The blurb makes them sound like Twilight style romance books. They are not like that at all, and the person who wrote the cover notes should be put up against a wall and shot.  This is a dark, fantasy series about the hunt for the lost king Owain Glendower and very splendid it is too.
  4. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – a classic of science fiction, this is the self penned story of an intellectually subnormal man who is taken on as an experimental subject in a lab. Scientists believe they have found a way to make him clever, and it works until it doesn’t. This is a stupendous, clever, devastating book.
  5. Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford – an enormous volume of correspondence from and about the Mitford sister I knew least about. Decca Mitford was an amazing woman who came from a privileged, aristocratic background and who grew into one of the leading proponents of human rights in American history. The letters chart a remarkable life in a remarkable way.
  6. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I love all her books. This is the best one so far. It’s a funny, touching, clever and romantic story with real depth. I found it utterly engrossing.
  7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Another nomination from the teen fiction category.  This is much more than a standard teen novel. It is a novel about two cancer patients who fall in love. It sounds terrible. Nothing I can say will do it the justice it deserves. It’s blisteringly good.
  8. The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson – This is a wonderfully silly romantic story by one of the favourite authors of my childhood.  It is being marketed as a teen read, but it isn’t really. It’s a historical romance, glorious, stupid, wonderful and utterly absorbing.
  9. The Guts by Roddy Doyle – A further volume in the Barry Town Trilogy which tells the story of what happens when Jimmy Rabbitte finds out that he has bowel cancer. Doyle is a superbly gifted writer. He manages to be funny and tragic in equal measures and his dialogue is genius.
  10. All the Dogs of my Life by Elizabeth von Arnim – A bonkers memoir by the author of the wonderful, Enchanted April.  It is like nothing you will ever read again. I loved it.

Books which were close contenders included:

Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman – a joy to read

Goth Girl: and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell – also a joy.

Wolf Brother: Chronicles of Ancient Darkness Book 1 by Michelle Paver – absolute page turner

Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin – Rebus, oh, how I have missed you.

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness – Beautiful and strange

Call the Midwife series by Jennifer Worth – page turning memoirs, all three volumes.

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley – exquisitely crafted short stories that stay with you long after reading.

The Ghost’s Child by Sonya Hartnett – Hartnett is an Australian writer whose books for children are woefully under read in this country and whose prose is absolutely exquisite.

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossman – A beautiful novel/poem about life as an immigrant. A book for teens that is wasted on teens.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris – gloriously funny essays.

The Property of a Gentleman by Catherine Gaskin – utterly ridiculous historical romance in the style of Du Maurier’s Rebecca. I was gripped and totally entertained.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan – Wonderful gay love story for teens. Again, wasted on teens.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozecki – A rather surreal book which kind of reminded me of Haruki Murakami’s work and which enchanted and baffled me in equal parts.

8 responses to “My tippiest of top reads of 2013

  1. I haven’t read any of those, although some were already on my list. More have now been added… I will never read all the books on The List (TM) and I blame you 😉

  2. Ah, this is where I got the recommendation for All the Dogs of My Life and The Secret Countess! Loved them both and Eva Ibbotson’s Madensky Square and E v A’s The Adventure of Elizabeth in Rugen. Thank you, I’d never have found them without you! I’ve become a big fan of Kate Griffin’s books while waiting for the next Ben Aaronovitch. I also loved Code Name Verity (Belgian Waffle inspired that one) although it made me cry.
    Happy New Year.

    • Ooh, must also read Madensky Square and Adventure of Elizabeth. We have a Kate Griffin book. Must dig it out. I also bought Code Name Verity. It’s somewhere in my vast to read pile.

  3. Your top reads of the year prompted me to tell you that one of mine was your blog, so thank you for all the enjoyment you’ve given me over the year and FOR FREE too, although I would gladly have paid a weekly sub for the pleasure. By coincidence, when I met with a friend recently her top read of the year was also the Cazalet Chronicles, so recommendations from 2 of my top people make it a must read for me. Happy New Year

  4. Joan, that is lovely of you to say. Thank you. x

  5. just purchased volume 1 of the Cazalet chronicles. I remember watching this on the TV years and years ago. Looking forward to a good read

    Date: Sun, 5 Jan 2014 19:33:32 +0000 To:

  6. Daughter S Gave me the first 3 Cazalet books for Christmas and I am enjoying them so very much! I have the Rankin waiting on my shelf. I have wanted to read Jennifer Worth’s memoirs, but I was afraid they might spoil the show for me. I also have Eleanor Cattan’s Luminaries on my list (Booker Prize and Canada’s Governor General’s book award winner).

    Glad you had a lovely holiday. I am just hoping for 2014 to be less evil than 2013.

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