The Best Books I Read in 2013

Tis the season of “best of” lists. I didn’t have a chance to read as many new books this year as I’d have liked, (I blame master’s thesis, wedding planning, and long hold lists for that.) but there were some that I really enjoyed. I also wanted to mention some slightly older titles that I got around to reading this year.

Favorite Fiction

Vampires in the Lemon Grove cover

2013: Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

What’s not to love about a short story collection that features former presidents living as horses in the afterlife, factory workers becoming silk worms, and vampires in love (thankfully not sexy, teenage vampires)? Karen Russell, whose novel Swamplandia is also brilliant, takes these bizarre scenarios and creates some of the best stories I’ve read in a long time.

The Fault in Our Stars book cover

Earlier: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I made the mistake of getting the audiobook for this 2012 YA novel, which lead to a lot of ugly-face crying in the car.  The story of Hazel and Augustus, two teens dealing with cancer, is funny and heartbreaking and unforgettable. If you aren’t familiar with John Green’s writing yet, grab a copy of The Fault in Our Stars immediately. You’ll want to read it before the movie comes out this summer (on my birthday!)

Favorite Nonfiction

Gulp book cover

2013: Gulp by Mary Roach

I’ve loved Mary Roach ever since I read Stiff. Whether she’s writing about cadavers, sex, or space travel, her books are always incredibly funny and informative. They’re also gross. (There are not one, but two chapters about farting in Gulp.) She approaches her topics – in this case, the digestive system – in a way that makes them accessible to anyone.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood cover

Earlier: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans is one of my favorite Christian bloggers. In Biblical Womanhood, she tries to follow the Bible’s commands for women literally (and often humorously). This includes covering her head and camping in the front yard during her period. Evans doesn’t criticize the Bible, though she does criticize those who use it to suppress women or try to ignore the cultural context in which it was written. My favorite bits were segments between chapters that featured women from the Bible. I loved being reminded of women like Tamar, whose story is not so Sunday-School-friendly. I plan to reread this one many times.

If you’re looking for more best books lists for 2013, EarlyWord keeps a running list that includes links the New York Times Book Review and Library Journal picks among many others.

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