Monday, 27 January 2014

Best books of 2013




Three beautiful performers in The Little Shadows, one of the books of the year


Statistics

Before getting on to the best books: I’m always fascinated by other bloggers’ and readers’ statistics, so have produced a few of my own.

Of the books I read in 2013:

About 57% were by female authors (really happy and relieved by this!)

Only about a quarter very recent, ie published 2012/13

Two thirds were, roughly-speaking, UK-based (ie set here, or written here, or by an author closely associated with the UK): about a quarter were US-based, and the rest were spread out from France to Japan, taking in Ancient Greece, Eire, Australia, Canada and Discworld as well. (I was surprised that the proportion of American books wasn’t higher.)

Only 18 books were translated from other languages (French was the most-represented, along with Ancient Greek, Japanese and Danish). I was surprised and disappointed that the number was so low. (More Scandi-noir needed?)



Best books of 2013
 
These are best books read, so most were published in earlier years. (Crime fiction has been dealt with in a separate entry.) Not in any special order.


The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott – an astonishing book about a music-hall act in North America in the early years of the 20th century, and Exhibit 1 in my claim that books by women are under-valued. This book is successful, but it should be a world-class bestseller, up for all the major prizes.


That they May face the Rising Sun by John McGahern Hard to describe. Just read it.

Happyland by J Robert Lennon Extraordinary book with an extraordinary backstory – read the entry – and his other recent book Familiar would be another contender.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Yes it was as good as you could have hoped, and well worth the length and the wait.

Shepperton Babylon by Matthew Sweet Best non-fiction – an unmatched combination of information and entertainment, and hilariously funny.

Therese Desqueyroux by Francois Mauriac A real oddity, but a wonderfully strange and un-heroic heroine.




Anna Karenina in a fur hat and a snowstorm in 1969

Impossible Object by Nicholas Mosley the book that should have won the Booker Prize in 1969, breath-taking but now forgotten.





Sunday clothes


Mr Ives' Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos (who died this year) a life-affirming book about life loss and faith.

Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut - sooo much better than I was expecting

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner an early feminist classic about single women, English lives, and witches.

Sneaking in five runners-up: Jess Walters Beautiful Ruins, Eva Ibbotson's Madensky Square,  Stefan Zweig's The Post Office Girl, Angela Carter's Wise Children, Charles Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle.


midnight silk dress with flickering flames...



It seems unfair to have chosen favourite crime novels separately, though it gave me a chance to name more books. Five of the best crime authors, who would have a place on the overall best books list: Catriona McPherson, Elly Griffiths, Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), Lynn Shepherd, Michael Hogan.  

And hoping for equally good books in 2014.

12 comments:

  1. Moira - Thanks for sharing your reading patterns with us. I always like it too when I see gender parity in my reading. You read some fantastic books, and thanks for sharing them. Some definite 'keepers' for my own readidng list.

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    1. Thanks Margot - the trouble with all the lovely blog friends I have mentioned is that we all recommend books to each other, and the TBR pile is toppling....

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  2. I appreciate your thoughts on the best of 2013. It happens to be a year when I have not read any of the books you have listed.

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    1. Thanks Bill - not much about the law there is there?

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  3. I acquired Mr Ives on your recommendation and will hopefully not forget it and get to it this year. Others are probably passes, but pleased you had a satisfying year.
    50%+ females - not sure I'll ever aspire to that measurement!

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    1. I'll remind you about Mr Ives. And remind you to read more women. And you can remind me to read more hardboiled stuff....

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  4. Well, you know I liked Mr Ives, and I will be reading The Little Shadows soon... in Feb. I hope except that I may have to visit Alabama soon and that could change all my reading plans.

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    1. I'm always impressed that you plan your reading so well, and stick to it. Hope you enjoy the Little Shadows...

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    2. I wanted to make Feb a month of all women authors, and if I can put off Alabama until March, I will stick with that.

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    3. That's a great idea, having an all-women month. I've seen mention of a challenge for people to read only women in 2014, but I don't at all want to do that - a month is much more feasible.

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  5. Thanks for the Christmas present of Shepperton Babylon by Matthew Sweet. He's a big Doctor Who fan and I watched his excellent documentary Me, You and Doctor Who, which was shown as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. He was funny and witty and really easy to listen to and so it was a real surprise to get Shepperton Babylon. It's a real eye-opener on the British film industry from the early silent days up to the sexploitation films of the 70s. And as you say, it's hilariously funny. As a result I've just ordered his other two books from Amazon. It's a great book - and not one just for film buffs.

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    1. Exactly - anyone would enjoy his writing, though special opportunities for film buffs. He is such an expert in different areas though - I didn't know about his Dr Who programme until you told me.

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