This year it was all about The Goldfinch for me. So absorbed was I in this book that for about six weeks after I finished, I could not get past 50 pages of anything else I picked up. “What’s the point?” I would think. “It’s not The Goldfinch, so who cares?”
Finally, after numerous false starts (I know The Luminaries and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena are on everyone’s 2013 lists, but I simply could not see what all the fuss was about. After all, they weren’t The Goldfinch…) I was lulled into submission by the dulcet prose of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland.
I feel a little bittersweet about this, because if it weren’t for The Goldfinch, I probably could’ve gotten in another four books this year. And in fact there are several out there I have a hunch might have landed on my list if I’d gotten around to them (The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty, Caught, by Lorrie Moore, The Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett, and Longbourne, by Jo Baker, come to mind). C’est la vie. Here is my bittersweet Top 10 of 2013:
1. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (author of the cult-classic, The Secret History)
Theo Decker (my new favourite fictional character) is orphaned in a traumatizing terrorist attack, propelling him into an epic coming-of-age adventure that takes him from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to the sterile wasteland of Las Vegas suburbs, and to the dark underbelly of the Amsterdam art world. Donna, it was worth the wait.
*Warning: do not read unless you accept being disappointed by everything else you pick up afterward.
2. The Son, by Philipp Meyer
A very close second, The Son is a multigenerational family saga set in Texas. Who knew Texas could be so engrossing? Philipp Meyer is an amazing writer.
3. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
A slam dunk for fans of character-driven novels.
4. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A young Nigerian woman’s experience of race and gender in America, in beautiful and thought-provoking prose.
5. The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner
Rachel Kushner is a master. While I didn’t feel especially drawn to the novel’s characters, I was hugely impressed by her elaborate scene-setting and intricate language.
6. Wool, by Hugh Howey
Okay, technically not published in 2013, but I’m still going to count this dystopian self-publishing sensation.
7. A Dual Inheritance, by Joanna Hershon
Not on any end-of-year best lists that I’ve seen, but I really enjoyed this solid family drama about the evolution of two male friends set in the mid-twentieth century.
8. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, by Anton DiSclafani
Also fairly under the radar, this book about an upper-class girls’ riding camp during the Depression snuck up on me. At first glance it exudes a distinct chicklit sensibility, but it’s so much more: sexy, surprising and mournful.
9. The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
I love Jhumpa Lahiri. Her writing is so elegant and straightforward. Even though the plot here doesn’t feel like much of a departure from her previous books’ themes, The Lowland is nevertheless an engaging story of two Indian brothers who are so close, yet so distant.
10. Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan
So much fun. This romp through the lives of several crazy rich modern Asian dynasties is perfect for those with a literary sweet tooth. Pure candy, but delicious at that!
What were YOUR favourite 2013 books? Stay tuned for Patricia’s list…