Monday, 6 January 2014

2013: A year in books

When I saw Daire's post about her year in books, I knew I wanted to 'borrow' (steal) the questions.  It's taken me until today to finish, though, because Christmas and New Year have been so hectic.  So, six days late, here is my year in books...

Best Book You Read in 2013. If you need to cheat you can break this down by genre.
This is difficult, but here goes...
Children's/YA - Wonder by RJ Palacio.  Recounting a year in the life of Auggie, a 10 year old boy with a severe facial disfigurement who is starting school for the first time.  I especially liked the fact that chapters were told from the point of view of several characters. 
Genre fiction - the Game of Thrones series.
Literary fictionLongbourn by Jo Baker.  It's Pride & Prejudice, as seen from the perspective of those working below stairs to serve the Bennett family.  I fell in love with the simplicity of the prose and the wonderful characters of Sarah and James.  Baker does a great job of highlighting the enormous social inequalities at work in the 19th century.
Non-fiction - this might be the toughest decision, but I think my absolute favourite was Sara Marcus' book about Riot Grrrl, Girls To The Front.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t.
Life After Life  by Kate Atkinson, which is not to say I didn't love it - I did - but after a wonderful first half I found the second surprisingly hard going at times.

Most Surprising (In A Good Way) Book of 2013.
Stranded At The Drive-In by Gary Mullholland isn't the type of book I usually read; although I like watching movies just fine, I'm by no means a film buff.  But this collection of short essays about the best teen movies was a great read, providing an incisive look at my favourite genre.

Book You Read in 2013 That You Recommended to People Most.
I raved about Wonder by R.J Palacio here on the blog, I raved about it on Twitter, I raved about it to people I met and to my pupils at school.  Luckily, everyone who read it loved it as much as I did.  I thought it a crying shame that this didn't feature in more newspaper end of year book lists; an indication of the low opinion in which much children's and YA fiction is held, I fear.

Best Series You Discovered in 2013.
Ok, so get ready for me to repeat myself a lot over the remaining questions, because 2013 was the year I discovered the A Song Of Ice & Fire series (better known as Game of Thrones).  Obviously I'd heard of it before, mostly thanks to the TV series, but I wasn't convinced I'd enjoy it.  When the fourth reader I respect recommended it to me, I took up his offer of a lend of the books and boy am I glad I did!  Within two pages of the first novel I was hooked, and a large portion of the past five months has been spent with my head buried in a GoT novel.  I also really enjoyed my recent introduction to the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley, and will definitely be reading more.

Favourite New Author You Discovered in 2013.
John Green.  I've read four of his novels - The Fault In Our Stars, An Abundance Of Katherine's, Paper Towns and Looking For Alaska - and one of his short stories, and although I didn't enjoy them all equally I will definitely continue reading his stuff.

Best Book That Was Out of Your Comfort Zone Or Was A New Genre For You.
Game of Thrones, definitely.  Fantasy novels, especially historical ones, are as far from my normal reading as it's possible to get, yet they are so fantastically written and gripping that I fell in love instantly.

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book in 2013.
Can I say Game Of Thrones again?!

Book You Read in 2013 That You're Most Likely to Reread Again Next Year.
I loved Adorkable by Sarra Manning so much that I actually read it twice in 2013, and I'm sure I'll read it for a third time this year.

Favourite Cover of A Book You Read in 2013.
Girls To The Front by Sara Marcus is a history of the Riot Grrrl movement, and the cover is an awesome DIY fanzine-style combination of typewritten print with a black & white photograph of Bikini Kill.  Keeping to the red and black theme, I also loved the cover of Jeanette Winterson's novel The Daylight Gate, although I was underwhelmed by the story within.

Most Memorable Character in 2013.
Gosh, so many!  Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark from the Game of Thrones universe, Auggie from Wonder, Sarah and James, the servants from Longbourn... all of them entered my heart as well as my mind.

Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2013.
Longbourn by Jo Baker is just perfect, with prose so lyrical and gorgeous that I frequently had to pause in my reading in order to savour the beauty of it.

Book That Had the Greatest Impact On You in 2013.
Rather than greatest impact, the book that made me think the most was Reclaiming The F Word, a great look at modern feminism (and, unusually for writing on this topic, it was largely UK-focused too).

Book You Can't Believe You Waited UNTIL 2013 To Finally Read.
Beth Ditto's memoir, Coals To Diamonds.  I really loved it when I finally did get round to buying a copy.

Shortest & Longest Book You Read in 2013.
Shortest - Coals To Diamonds.  Longest - A Feast For Crows (Book 4 of A Song of Ice & Fire).

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!
Every chapter of every book in the Game Of Thrones series, of course.  It's driving my crazy that The Boy has only watched season 1 and my brother is only on book 2, so there's no-one I can turn to and go WTF?! when something weird or awesome or terrible happens.  Most wanting to do this moment: the Cersei chapter at the end of book four.  Oh my gosh!

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
The relationship between parlour maid Sarah and footman James in Longbourn is so beautifully wrought and I believed every moment of their falling in love. 

Favourite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You've Read Previously?
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson, a really moving and fascinating autobiography.  I especially loved her insights into feminism, class politics and the north-south divide.

Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else?
A friend of mine on Facebook recommended The Fault In Our Stars by John Green and I absolutely loved it.

Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?
Non-fiction.  Looking back through my monthly 'Read' posts, a good proportion of my reading last year was non-fiction.  I especially loved Occupy: Scenes From Occupied America, the aforementioned Girls To The Front, Names For The Sea: Strangers In Iceland, and What Matters In Jane Austen.  I also took part in Daire's Non Fic November, which made me think more carefully about the non-fiction I read. 

Best 2013 debut you read?
I think it has to be Jo Baker's Longbourn again.

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?
Mutton by India Knight was pure entertainment.  Like all her books it was silly and funny and frivolous, but a joy to read.

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?
The Fault In Our Stars  had me sobbing into my tissues.

Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
Even though it was made into a blockbusting film this year, I think World War Z by Max Brooks has been somewhat overlooked.  The movie pretty much abandoned the source material, and I'd hate anyone to think that the book is as bad as the film. 

Total number of books read in 2013?
My count isn't exact, because for some reason I didn't post a January Reads, but I think it's about 70.  My aim for 2014 is to read 100+, so I better get to it!


  1. Wow, I'm impressed by how much you read! I used to read so, so much - but I seem to have got out the habit in the last few years. I do read, just not quite as much. At the moment I'm really back into reading - so I just need to keep the momentum, and maybe blog about what I do read! B x

    1. It is SO much about habit. Over the Christmas holidays I read and read, but the last few days I seem to have started getting out of the habit again and turning to the internet when I need entertaining. If I'm to have any hope of reading 100 books this year, I need to keep up good habits.

  2. I love your blog Janet, but I especially love your book posts. I add a mountain of recommendations to my 'to read' list with every post.

  3. The Cersei chapter at the end of Book 4?!

    *Runs to bookcase to start reading A Feast for Crows*

  4. Ooh I need to bookmark this page, we seem to have the same taste in books! I've just finished watching Game of Thrones and have about 200 pages of the first book to go, I'm dying to get thru them! (and Cersei is still around in book 4? GOD. F OFF ALREADY CERSEI.) :)