As we wrap up 2013, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the top publishing stories of the year, make some predictions for the upcoming year, and get back to answering your questions. But first, I’d like your input on one question:
What was the single best book you read in 2013?
It could be fiction or nonfiction. It could be a new book that released this year, or some great book from prior years that you just discovered. But I’d like to know what your best read was in 2013.
My list of the top ten books read this year:
Heartbreaker, by Susan Howatch — A fascinating look at the good and evil that resides in us, told through the story of a young woman raising money for a healing center who meets a male prostitute looking for meaning in life. Perhaps the best book I read all year.
Lost Girls, by Robert Kolker — A gritty, clear-eyed look at four victims of a still-at-large serial killer on Long Island. Great research and writing.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer — The moving story of a nine-year-old boy who lost his father on 9/11, and who is determined to find out why and how. I was in awe of the writing.
The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach — A wonderful novel about friendships, determination, acceptance, love, success, and baseball. (I’m a sucker for a great baseball story, and the story of Henry Skrimshander is one of the best novels I’ve read in years.)
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson — I love a book that makes me laugh out loud, not just smile and nod. This book by a longtime blogger will make you snort coffee through your nose. Hilarious.
Drift, by Rachel Maddow — You won’t agree with all her conclusions, but this story of how US Presidential power has been usurped to create a military doctrine where we are constantly at war, and where the Prez can now send troops without congressional oversight, is one of the most insightful books you’ll find. (Thanks to my daughter Molly for suggesting it.)
Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende — A young woman travels from Chile to San Francisco during the Gold Rush, thinking she’s searching for her lover, when in fact she’s seeking a new life. This came out several years ago, and I’m glad I finally got to it.
Lamb, by Christopher Moore — Not a favorite of Christians because of the bawdy side (it pretends to tell the adventures of Christ’s childhood friend, Biff), but I was encouraged to re-read this book in order to appreciate the historical work this very funny author put into it. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the humor and could smile at the unique take on theology. This is one of those books that will offend some, but if you take it in the spirit with which it’s intended (that is, a funny and historical spirit), there’s a lot to like. Not for everyone, but I enjoyed it. Debated whether to list this or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but I figured if I didn’t list this one, it would be overlooked.
Out of My League, by Dirk Hayhurst — A great memoir of playing in the minor leagues and trying to make it to the Bigs, told by an insightful, literate pitcher trying to balance his faith and his competitiveness. Loved this book.
The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen — This came out years ago, but I simply am listing the top ten books I read this year, NOT the “top ten books that released this year.” I’m a longtime fan of Nouwen, and this book (which began when the author came across Rembrandt’s famous painting of the Prodigal Son parable) offered me new insight into how we all are hurting, and looking for acceptance and peace. A wonderful book that I’ll read again.
That’s my list. Five novels, five non-fiction titles. Some old, some new. Two things to note: First, this list does NOT include any authors I represent. It’s hard to not pick Lisa Samson’s fabulous novel The Sky Beneath My Feet, Ann Tatlock’s Sweet Mercy, Meg Moseley’s Gone South, Susan Meissner’s The Girl in the Glass, or Les Edgerton’s The Rapist, but I wanted to stay away from looking like a homer. Second, I could have once again posted The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island, and A Tale of Two Cities, because I read them all again this year, but decided I can’t keep going back to Twain and Dickens or I’ll be outed as a classicist.
One last note: A book I went back to this year, having not read it since junior high was Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Good grief… I had forgotten how good that was. Or maybe I just missed it, having been a dopey 15 year old when I first opened the covers. But a great read, and I’m glad I rediscovered it.
That’s my list. What’s yours? What was the best book you read in 2013?