2013 reading list roundup
January 15, 2014
Of the fiction and non-fiction books I read in 2013, the best were:
- The Book of My Lives, by Aleksander Hemon.
A memoir concerning soccer, Sarajevo, important dogs, inflatable aliens, and heartbreak. The best non-fiction I read in 2013, close to the best book of the year for me.
- Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O’Nan.
My introduction to Stewart O’Nan was The Night Country. It was shelved in the horror section of The World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto, near the Stephen Kings, so I picked it up. I was blown away by it, having expected something much different. Last Night at the Lobster is a beautiful book. It’s intimate, spare, simple, and deeply recognizable. One of my favourite books. (Ever.)
- Levels of Life, by Julian Barnes.
This is Julian Barnes’ memoir of mourning, written after having lost his wife to cancer. The first half concerns ballooning in the nineteenth century and a doomed antique love. The second relates the nuances of grief, the silent outrage at thoughtless friends, the delivery to a state of mind where suicide or carrying on are both banal choices.
- Schroder, by Amity Gaige.
The “unreliable narrator” is drawn well in this novel based on the life of Christian Gerhartsreiter. Amity Gaige is the kind of writer that isn’t afraid to repeat a sentence of four monosyllabic words over the course of almost four full pages. That I read every instance of that sentence means something. (It could possibly mean I have OCD.) It reminded me of Zsuzsi Gartner’s book of short stories: punchy and daring and sad.
- Stoner, by John Williams.
I reviewed this book here.
- The Sweet Girl, by Annabel Lyon.
Almost as good as The Golden Mean. Still as beautiful and lightly done.
- Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton.
A strange and lovely book by a lifelong swimmer, including photos and art. I was deeply struck by nostalgia while I read this book, though my experience of swimming is not the same.
Other books I read in 2013 that were excellent were:
- Born with a Tooth and The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden.
- Cosmo, by Spencer Gordon.
In spite of a story that seemed to be nothing more than an exercise in mining pop culture biography from Wikipedia, I thought this was an excellent collection. Especially good was “This Is Not an Ending”.
- The Dinner, by Herman Koch.
- Farther Away, by Jonathan Franzen.
A fantastic collection of essays. Who knew Jonathan Franzen loved birds so much? (Not me, until I read this.)
- The Humans, by Matt Haig.
Not without its flaws, but lovely nonetheless.
- Oh, My Darling, by Shaena Lambert.
The best collection of shorts I read in 2013. Some stories, such as “Crow Ride”, were astounding.
- Ru, by Kim Thúy.
A memoir of Vietnam and Quebec.
- Speedboat, by Renata Adler.
Hilarious and remote, almost stream-of-consciousness. Chilly and brilliant.
- Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel.
The first in the series on Thomas Cromwell, dense and rewarding when closely read.
Other non-fiction books I read were Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott; Diary of a Man in Despair, by Friedrich Reck; Heinrich Himmler, by Peter Longerich; Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death, by Otto Dov Kulka; Night, by Elie Wiesel; and Spandau: The Secret Diaries, by Albert Speer.
Other fiction books I read were Doctor Sleep and Joyland, by Stephen King; The Douglas Notebooks, by Christine Eddie; Little Wolves, by Thomas Maltman; North American Lake Monsters, by Nathan Ballingrud; The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman; and The Testament of Mary, by Colm Tóibín.
My least favourite book read in 2013 was The Douglas Notebooks, by Christine Eddie.
My favourite non-fiction book read in 2013 was The Book of My Lives, by Aleksander Hemon. My favourite fiction book read in 2013 was Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O’Nan.