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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Best Books Read in 2013

Rather a pathetic reading year for me. Two jobs is the problem. My reading time while eating lunch has been inviolate for years. Now, I'm often eating in the car or standing by a machine, or not up yet, on Saturdays. I only read 32 books this year, really a low number for me. And a really high percentage were not very meaningful (eg. fiction that is mostly for escape. Although now that I'm writing mysteries, reading them has a research component, but I'm not counting that).

Of the 32 I rated 10 of them as excellent. How about that... I don't have to discard one or more, or choose another one to make a round ten. They are also not distributed in a large variety of genres. When I've been able to read I haven't tried very hard to be diverse. The order means nothing. It's the order in which I read them.

Brief Review
Travels in West AfricaMary KingsleyAdventure
This was written in 1897, the travelogue of a previously sheltered Victorian woman who toured large areas of Africa, mostly on foot with guides. She did not have any desire to be associated with feminism, but she certainly didn't fit the norm for women's roles of the times. Her humor is so dry and the way she refuses to give in to discouragement even when conditions are deplorable had me laughing out loud at the parallels to backpacking.
As the Crow FliesJeffrey ArcherHistorical Fiction
One man's life, covered in detail as he grows up in one section of London learning the trade of selling vegetables from his grandfather out of a wheelbarrow. His grandfather was expert, and Charlie has the same skill. Set in the early 1900's, Charlie progresses from a barrow monger to a respected merchant, owning an entire block. But things always come full circle.
Blind CourageBill IrwinHiking
This was a re-read for me, but just as good as the first time. Irwin is the first blind hiker to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Led by his guide dog, Orient, he recounts his reasons for taking on such a feat and the lessons learned. I had the privilege of hearing Bill speak, and meeting Orient (retired) in 1995. Amazing man.
Bridge of SighsRichard RussoLiterary Fiction
I just realized this is a somewhat similar story to As the Crow Flies. It is set in a fictional town in upstate New York, and the book reveals everything that is so good and so horrible about small towns. It's basically the life story of Louis Charles (unfortunately nicknamed Lucy at an early age) Lynch from childhood through old age. The things Lucy values put him at odds with his peers, but one girl is able to guide the best facets of his personality. However she has some demons of her own to deal with.
StillwatchMary Higgins ClarkSuspense
Again, a re-read, but I didn't realize it till I was part way through, and then I kept going because it's so good. Very much to her formula, but extra creepy. Pat Traymore has returned to her family home in Washington, DC. She hadn't lived there since she was a small child, when her parents were murdered there. But what does she remember?
The Man from St. PetersburgKen FollettEspionage
I'm not a big fan of Follett, but this one really grabbed me. It's set just before World War I, and the idea is that Britain was holding secret talks with Russia to build its navy. The lives of the men involved in the talks, and their families, are intertwined far beyond mere political posturing.
Becoming OdyssaJennifer Pharr DavisHiking
The story of Jennifer's first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. How she evolved into the confident and exuberant person she is today, and why she's compelled to keep going to the woods. You may recall that I had the chance to meet her in August. See Generations of Hikers
Sharp ObjectsGillian FlynnMystery
This is more than a mystery, almost a psychodrama. It's set in the south. A young female reporter, Camille, from Chicago is sent back to her Missouri hometown to cover the murders of two young girls. She can't offend her mother, so she stays at the family home while there, although the two are estranged. Her teenage half-sister is eerie, and Camille tries not to compare the way she coped with a dysfunctional family to the way she is now seeing the sister cope. Of course, uncovering the murderer is also part of the plot. This one grew on me after I'd finished it, and I've decided it was excellent.
Called AgainJennifer Pharr DavisHiking
When I heard Jennifer speak, I bought another of her books. This one is her account of her successful attempt to break the thru-hike speed record for the Appalachian Trail. It's all about discovering personal limits and motivations and what's really important in life.
Double ForteAaron Paul LazarMystery
I "met" Aaron in a writer's blog party, and realized we have a lot in common, so I decided to try one of his book series. This is the first of the Gus LeGarde books. He absolutely nails the upstate New York locale and atmosphere. I love the balance between mystery and family. These are cozies- so are fast and comforting reads, but there is a lot going on in the plot. Gus is trying to heal from the loss of his wife who committed suicide, and his son-in-law is an abusive womanizer. Then the son-in-law's business partner disappears. (I'm working my way through the rest of the books, but this first one really got my attention). I interviewed Aaron on Shark Bytes and Tales. I highly recommend his books.
See Best Books of 2012
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Ann said...

Sound like some good reads here. Mystery is usually my first choice when picking a book

Unknown said...

Such a wide variety of authors and book styles. I remember reading one particular author when I was much younger. Her story was sort of semi-factual in that she based her book on a diary she had acquired plus a fair bit of research regarding a particular surgeon. I enjoyed the idea of the book so much I can remember scouring the bookshelves of libraries and shops in the hope of having a second story to read. Sadly I have never been able to find anything else that was written by her.
I remember being able to find the various characters in history and information about their lives and found this to be really interesting.
The author's name I thought was Doris Lesley or similar but having looked at her particular list of books I could never find the book I had read so I concluded that it must have been someone else and no matter how many sleuth hours I have given to trying to find whether she wrote any more stories my usual Sherlock instincts completely failed me.
I have gone completely off subject so please forgive me!

Wishing you a wonderful and happy New Year. x

Carolyn said...

This was a very interesting post, I am always curious about what people like to read. I truly hope 2014 will bring you more time to relax and read. Thank you for sharing your positive perspectives and fantastic photography all year!

rainfield61 said...

But I prefer a short story.

Happy Reading.