Ah, 2013, you are drawing to a close, and I, for one, say good riddance mostly, and also, oh dear, it's time for those obnoxious year-end list roundup things where people natter on about books and music and pop culture and we all pretend to be acutely interested. I, of course, cannot resist putting my oar in when it comes to discussions about books, so here I am.
It’s hard to keep track of all the things I read sometimes, which is a real pain when you’re trying to assemble the obligatory year-end lists of things you enjoyed (or didn’t), but I gave it a shot, and here, in no particular order, are my ten favorite books read in 2013.
“Inheritance,” by Malinda Lo
I’ve been raving about this book all year, and with good reason. For one thing, I like the characters and the story, and I love the way Lo incorporated her love of the “X-Files” into the telling of a story swirling with government conspiracies, secret agents, and more. It’s also really exciting for me to see poly relationships depicted in a very neutral way, presented as just one of many relationship configurations out there in the world.
This book goes on the list because, quite simply, it’s a great book, and it means a lot to me culturally. Want to know more about it? Malinda Lo chatted with me here.
“Ancient, Ancient,” by Kiini Ibura Salaam
What’s this, you say, an adult book?! Yes, it’s true, I read and enjoy grownup books too. This collection of short stories by Kiini Ibura Salaam has been sticking with me all year because it’s just that kind of book: sensual, with vibrant, living prose that slithers all around inside of you and makes you feel squirmy and weird, in a mostly good way.
“Wild Awake,” by Hilary T. Smith
Hands down, one of the best depictions of the onset of mental illness I read this year. Smith really did a fantastic job of capturing the descent from organized, functional life to total chaos, and the slow, determined struggle to get back out again. This book has truly liminal, sparkling, amazing prose, fantastic pacing, and brilliant storytelling. If you haven’t read it yet, I insist.
This is technically three books, but I’m treating them as one for our purposes. I know I just talked them up the other day, but seriously, these books are amazing. For all you Tamora Pierce fans out there looking for a new Tortall, here it is. I love these books to pieces, for their strong, ferocious, and interdependent heroine, and for their immense descriptions of a well-built fantasy world.
“All Our Pretty Songs,” Sarah McCarry
Aaaaaah this book, people. This book is amazing. It’s like falling headfirst into the stars and not knowing which way is up ever again as you’re dragged headlong into this totally confusing, frightening, terrifying, wonderful, electric world, courtesy of McCarry’s absolutely rocketing prose and amazingly lyrical storytelling approach. This is the Orpheus myth like you’ve never seen it, and you can read Sarah’s interview about it if you just can’t get enough.
“Fangirl,” Rainbow Rowell
Another book that means a great deal to me culturally, written by an absolutely sweetheart of an author: Rainbow Rowell is so kind and loving and wonderful and delightful to see in person (or interview!) if you ever get the chance, and this book is a completely and utterly bewitching homage to fandom and the complex and beautiful relationships we build as fellow fans and pop culture consumers. It’s also, of course, a coming of age story about that cusp of maturity as young women transition from high school to college, and what happens as you grow into your own person.
“Grasshopper Jungle,” Andrew Smith
This book, I regret to inform you, isn’t out until February of next year, so I’m being a bit of a tease by telling you all about it, but it’s truly outstanding. As the note from the editor on my ARC said, “Sometimes you need a holy shit book.” And this is definitely a holy shit book. It is seriously so weird and bizarre and twisted and strange but also so delightful and charming, in an “a plague of giant praying mantises is taking over the world” kind of way.
“Bitterblue,” Kristin Cashore
Another book I’ve talked up recently, “Bitterblue” is a dark, luscious text that I’ve already read three more times since I reviewed it here. (No really.) I hear that some people are complaining not enough happens in it, and I have to wonder if we read the same book, because “Bitterblue” is a darkly psychological and very complicated book where so much is happening that you really do have to read it multiple times to fully understand everything that’s going on. This is a book about recovering from wounds so deep, you don’t even know they’re there.
“The Kingdom of Little Wounds,” Susann Cokal
Another very dark, twisty book (that seems to be a bit of a theme with books I loved this year, but let’s face it, it’s a theme with books I love in general). You’ve got gore, weird plots, strange characters, and a peculiar fantasy world that just screams to be expanded into more equally peculiar books. This is fantasy at its best, in its most mutated and wondrous form, and it’s also some fantastic storytelling.
I'm sure this book was fantastic. Deftly written, complex, fascinating, filled with well-developed characters existing in a brilliantly crafted world. Unfortunately, I've completely forgotten both the author's name and the title.
So, what did you read and love in 2013?