Happy Holidays and Best Year-End Best Books Lists

HolidayReadingWell folks, I’m off for the holidays and if all goes as planned, the rest of my week will look just like this.

As a holiday gift to you, here are the 10 best (IMHO) end-of-year best book lists from around the cultureverse:

10. Quill & Quire Books of the Year: Fiction and Nonfiction

9. Kirkus Best of 2013

8. The Globe’s Top 10 Books of 2013

7. Slate 10 Most Crucial Books of 2013

6. Entertainment Weekly’s Ten Best Fiction Books of 2013

5. Library Journal’s Best Books of 2013

4. The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2013

3. The Top Shelf Blog’s Best Books of the Year: Heidi’s list, Patricia’s list and Michael’s list. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

2. The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2013

1. The Earlyword’s massive spreadsheet of all the books that landed on major best books lists, ranked by number of lists landed. Go to Earlyword, scroll down the page till you get to the Best Books, 2013 column on the right side of the page, and click on any of the downloadable spreadsheets.

If you’re like me, these lists will help you spend countless hours of non-reading holiday time off updating your to-read list on Goodreads.

Happy holidays!





Best of 2013: Michael’s Nonfiction Picks

Fear not, nonfiction lovers. We haven’t forgotten you! Michael, our nonfiction selector, has come up with his 2013 nonfiction faves (as well as one fiction pick for good measure). Here they are in no particular order:

ConfessionsConfessions of a Fairy’s Daughter, by Alison Wearing

This memoir relates the author’s childhood experience of retreating into the closet of denial even as her father, a gay man, makes the opposite journey. It’s often forgotten that the family of an out person must themselves also be ‘outed’ as the relations of gay people. This book explores this experience from both sides of the coin. Unputdownable.

WorldsStrongestLibrarianThe World’s Strongest Librarian, by Josh Hanagarne

A Mormon giant (6 foot 7) with Tourette’s becomes a librarian in Salt Lake City. It sounds like the opening line of a joke, but this memoir is terrifically absorbing. And I’m not just saying that because it’s about a librarian…

AutisticBrainThe Autistic Brain, by Temple Grandin

I love books that explore the intersection of personality and pathology. This book looks at advances in autism research and advocates individually focused treatment rather than an umbrella diagnosis. Sounds dry and sciencey? Grandin’s unique voice makes this an accessible and interesting read. It was also the top nonfiction pick for 2013 by Goodreads users.

SaltSugarFatSalt Sugar Fat, by Michael Moss

How did we get to a world where the average American eats 33 pounds of cheese and 70 pounds of sugar every year? This damning exploration of the food industry looks at how science is used to maximize the sugar “bliss point” of popular beverages, and fats are chemically altered to give a satisfying mouth feel. It’s an important eye-opener; after reading this book, you’ll never look at a food label the same way again. Plus, it’s entertaining – so you don’t have to just read this because it will be good for you…

RiddleLabyrinthThe Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox

This is the unlikely story of an ancient code called Linear B, unearthed by archeologists in Crete over a century ago – and how it was suddenly cracked by an amateur in 1952. It’s a real life Da Vinci Code, and the author creates a suspenseful atmosphere as the puzzle is solved. Fascinating.

LongbournLonbourn, by Jo Baker

Set in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice world of privilege, but told from the point of view of the servants, author Jo Baker explores things like the presence of the militia in Meryton while slyly raising questions about the human costs of the world Austen (and the Bennetts – and the rest of us) inhabit. This is a smart, absorbing and modern take on Jane’s world. Don’t miss this book. It’s my favourite read of 2013 by a long shot.


Patricia’s Best Reads of 2013

If you’d asked me earlier this year to write this post, I’d have written, “Donna Tartt bothered to write a new novel.  The end.”  But when I bother to take a serious look back on the year, it was (of course) so much more than that.  In 2013, I found myself rooting for a drifting escaped criminal courtesy of the ever-fabulous Lisa Moore; awake in the wee hours stunned by the audacity of Alissa Nutting’s shamelessly pedophiliac narrator in Tampa; and finally (finally!) finding out whatever became of Danny Torrance.  Here are my best reads of 2013:

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(Many thanks to Edelweiss, NetGalley and Scholastic for providing advanced readers copies of many wonderful titles throughout the year!)

Heidi’s Top 10 of 2013

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:


Goldfinch1. 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.


Son2. 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.



interestings3. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

A slam dunk for fans of character-driven novels.




Americanah4. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A young Nigerian woman’s experience of race and gender in America, in beautiful and thought-provoking prose.




Flamethrowers5. 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.




Wool6. Wool, by Hugh Howey

Okay, technically not published in 2013, but I’m still going to count this dystopian self-publishing sensation.




DualIneritance7. 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.




Yonahlossee8. 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.



Lowland9. 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.



CrazyRichAsians10. 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…



Read This, Watch That: The Teen Collection at the movies

You’re an adult.  We know that.  You have a grownup job with responsibilities:  just like us.  But, let’s admit it, sometimes it’s downright delicious to read from the Teen Collection.  It’s there we can find our Edward, and pretend we’re kickass like Catniss.  Join me in the teen stacks to find these hot titles.  Read them now before the movies come out…

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Book News Roundup!

CatchingFireIn honor of the movie’s opening weekend, The Onion reviews the new Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Hi-larious.

The U.S.’s prestigious National Book Award winners were announced this week.

“Selfie” is Oxford’s word of the year.

The Globe and Mail has released its annual lists of 100 best books of 2013 divided into a subcategories of genres, including Best Canadian Fiction and Nonfiction, Best International Fiction and Nonfiction, and Best YA and Children’s Books.

Tell the CBC about how a book changed your life and you could win a trip to Toronto for the Canada Reads live studio taping.