“[D]on’t ever apologize to an author for buying something in paperback, or taking it out from a library (that’s what they’re there for. Use your library). Don’t apologize to this author for buying books second hand, or getting them from bookcrossing or borrowing a friend’s copy. What’s important to me is that people read the books and enjoy them, and that, at some point in there, the book was bought by someone. And that people who like things, tell other people. The most important thing is that people read… ” — Neil Gaiman
Now, it wouldn’t be the end of the year without an end-of-the-year best-books post, would it?
Here’s the problem, though.
I was totally broken this year and read NO BOOKS.
Well, I read SOME books. But I used to read hundreds of books a year. I’m not even exaggerating. I just counted, and this year I read – ready? it’s totally embarrassing – 53.
Fifty-three books. This is utterly shameful.
Here’s the problem. The stretch of unemployment (or, I guess you could call it, overemployment, as I was working a LOT) kind of made it so I had a choice: read or blog. Or, I suppose, read and blog and don’t sleep. But sleeping isn’t really something that’s on the table and able to be cut, you see. And that was a big chunk of my year. (4.5 months! That’s over a third of the year!) Since I started working at my new job, I’ve had a little more time (not a lot, but a little) and have actually read a few books (well, plays, but that’s what I have to read right now – I’ve mentioned, I think, we’re in the middle of play selection at the theater so I have to read a billion plays so we can decide what we’re doing next season…but I have high hopes that once that’s over, I can read REAL BOOKS again) since. So I have high hopes for 2013 and upping my number from – UGH – 53. FIFTY-THREE. What am I, in KINDERGARTEN? This is EMBARRASSING.
Also, my most abject apologies to my beloved Susie, because this lack of reading means I can’t write reviews for Insatiable Booksluts, and oh, I want to. So badly. I feel terrible that I haven’t been able to. Because it’s something I love doing. Writing for IB is one of my proudest achievements, and I’m not able to do it right now. So, yeah, that’s kind of killing me.
But! Like an intrepid soldier! I went through my meager list of books and picked out the top ten books I read this year, because I’ve done this every year since I moved here, and I didn’t feel like I could stop now, even though I embarrassed myself with the number of books I read this year. 2013! I WILL CONQUER YOU BOOK-WISE!
So here are my top ten books of the year – again, much like the music post, these books weren’t necessarily published in 2012, but I read them this year, so they make this year’s list. Amazon links included for those of you who like such things, of course, and in case you end up with a bunch of giftcards for Christmas and are wondering, hmm, what should I BUY with these, I wonder?
10. Us – Michael Kimball (my review of this one at Insatiable Booksluts here)
I like books that make me cry. I like all things that make me cry, let’s be honest. Television shows, movies, music, books. This made me cry. It’s a teeny little book about love and the fragility of life and how well we know the ones we love and it just tore me apart. It was so beautifully written. Just an absolute gem of a book.
9. Deathless – Catherynne M. Valente
This is a gorgeous retelling of Russian folklore. I’m a sucker for anything fairy-tale related, and this one doubly won, because I wasn’t aware of the fairy tale it was based on (the Russian tale of Koschei the Deathless) so it was all new to me. And it was beautifully written – it had a very modern-fairy-tale feel, with just enough mystery and magic and romance to make my heart swell. I loved it so much. (sj, if you haven’t read this one, I think you might like it – I know we both have a love for all things fairy-tale related.)
8. Zazen – Vanessa Veselka (Susie and I discuss the book at Insatiable Booksluts here)
This is a dark, poetic, powerful book. It’s an alternate reality, but not so far from our own, in which bombs drop all the time and it’s just the way things are; people live in constant fear, talking about leaving, going somewhere that’s safe – but where’s safe, really? The narrator is lost, but trying her hardest (oh, how I relate to that) and the writing is just gorgeous. This is the author’s first book – and if a book like this is your first book, whoa. Good for you, you know? Think of what you can do from here. The mind utterly boggles.
7. Wildwood – Colin Meloy
I’m fairly sure this is for children. I don’t even care. It made me happy. Prue’s younger brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows and brought into the Impassible Wilderness just outside of Portland, Oregon and she has to go rescue him with the help of her friend Curtis and some totally kickass talking animals (oh, you know I love talking animals.) It’s also written by the lead singer of the Decemberists, which kind of makes me smile, because you can sing AND you can write? Well, you might just be the perfect guy, I don’t know. (I like The Decemberists. I don’t LOVE The Decemberists, but I like them very much. I appreciate what they’re doing. I’m just waiting for that one perfect song from them, I guess. In the meantime, I like what I’ve heard.) Plus the illustrations are GORGEOUS.
6. Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion
Yes, yes, again, I think this is for the kiddos. Well, the kiddos of the young-adult variety, anyway. Don’t care, loved it. It’s zombie fiction and it’s a love story and it’s WONDERFUL. The zombie apocalypse has hit, and we’re seeing it from the zombies’ point of view – or one zombie, really. And that zombie falls in love with a human girl. And that love starts to change him, somehow. And it’s not at all cheesy or stupid or childish. It’s funny and dark and twisted and intelligent and it made me both laugh and cry and I was so happy I gave it a chance. Also, the trailer for the movie actually looks pretty decent. A little campy, but good. And it has John Malkovich in it! Come on, you know I love that. WHO DOESN’T LOVE THAT!?!?!?!
5. Americas – Jason Lee Norman (review at Insatiable Booksluts here)
I’ve been randomly thinking of this book on and off all year. It’s just that good. It’s lyrical and poetic and beautiful and it will make you laugh with the discovery of new and magical things and it will make you cry with the realism and heartache and sorrow. I can’t recommend this enough. Just a perfect little book. I can’t wait to see what Norman comes up with next; I predict great things.
4. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson (review at Insatiable Booksluts here)
This book made me laugh probably harder than anything I read this year. Also, it hit me out of nowhere with sneak-attack tears, but mostly all the laughter. You all know Jenny Lawson as The Bloggess, and I’m sure most (if not all) of you read this book this year – it made a LOT of best-of lists this year, and with good reason – but if somehow this book escaped you this year, please do yourself a favor and pick it up. It’s funny as hell. You deserve that, don’t you think?
3. Citrus County – John Brandon (review at Insatiable Booksluts here)
Such a gorgeous, sad, beautiful book. Written so, so well. And just utterly filled with longing. Longing so thick and so deep it just welled up and off the pages. You could feel the humidity of Florida and you could hear the insects and you were just utterly immersed in that longing for something not…quite…tangible. And when the book was done, it stayed with you.
2. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
I love Gillian Flynn, and have read (and enjoyed) all of her other books – but this one. Whoo. I can’t even describe. It brought you one way, then another, and I am not even a thriller person, and her other books weren’t so much thrillers, and this one was, and holy HELL but did this book work for me. I had no idea where it was going or what was coming next and I could not put it down. And it wasn’t like one of those thrillers that you buy because you’re about to get on a plane and there’s nothing else in the store and it’s KIND of thrilling but meh, throwing peanuts at the guy sitting across from you on the flight would be, too, I suppose. Nope. This was well-written and twisty and intelligent and not your typical stupid thriller. This woman can WRITE.
1. In One Person – John Irving
I loved this. Well, it’s not overly surprising – I mean, I’m a total John Irving fan, I’d read anything he’s written, gladly. But this one hit all the right levels with me. I related to the characters; it had that gorgeous Irving storytelling I know and love; a very gay-friendly storyline; a lot of big, deep thoughts and ideas that made my headarea super-happy; and there was a section in the middle with some flirting that was completely conducted with German poetry. Oh, well THAT made me grin. Then also cry, because it was so melancholy and also beautiful. Nice job, Irving. I will continue to read anything and everything you publish until the end of all time.
So, there. I read a few other wonderful books this year, but these are the top ten. And next year there will be more. THERE WILL. I have the BEST OF INTENTIONS ABOUT THAT. *shakes fist at world*