Jessica Day George

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Best Books of 2013

Almost got ahead of myself there, and called it the best books of 2014 . . . it's true, there are already some strong contenders for next year's best of lists.

But I shall instead delve back, way back, into a happier, simpler time.  A time called 2013, when I read some really, REALLY great books.  I know that this post is coming late, and the real awards have already been given.  But I am nothing if not lazy, so I'm just getting to this, okay?  If you have not yet feasted your eyes on the list of winners of this year's ALA award winners and honorees, you can find that here:

And then there's MY Best Of Lists!

(Just a reminder: these are the books that I read this year, but they may have been published earlier.)

Picture Books:

1. The Christmas Wish - Lori Evert
   (Oh, my gosh, have you SEEN this book?! Photographs of a darling Norwegian child searching for the North Pole on the backs of reindeers and polar bears? Magnificent!)
2. Extra Yarn - Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen
3. The Babylit Books - Jennifer Adams, Alison Oliver
      (This is a series of board books based on classic novels: Dracula, Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre.  They teach basic concepts like colors, counting to ten, and shapes, but also capture the gist of the original novel and have such bold, wonderful illustrations that they grab your attention immediately.  My toddler loves them, and so do I!)
4. Penguin and Pinecone - Salina Yoon
5. Ball! -
     (My toddler's first word was ball, which is the only word in this book.)
6. Oh No, George! - Chris Haughton
7. Song of the Stars - Alison Jay
8. Old MacDonald Had a Dragon - Ken Baker
9. I'm a Frog! - Mo Willems
10. Zombelina - Kristyn Crow, Molly Idle

Middle Grade:

1. Donner Dinner Party - Nathan Hale
    (If you aren't reading Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, a series of graphic novels about American history, then you are missing out.  This was his best so far, and they've all been superb.)
2. Flora and Ulysses - Kate DiCamillo
    (I was so happy this won the Newbery!)
3. Fortunately the Milk - Neil Gaiman, illus. by Skottie Young
4. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom - Christopher Healy, illus. by Todd Harris
5. Wonder - R. J. Palacio
6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney
    (So this is the year I discovered Diary of a Wimpy Kid along with my oldest son.  We quickly read the entire series, and I have to say: gross, irreverent, and hilarious! Greg is horrible, but so realistic!)
7. See You At Harry's - Jo Knowles
8. Horton Halfpott: or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset - Tom Angleberger
    (If you aren't just devouring the Origami Yoda series (and why aren't you?), at least try this, which was madcap and hilarious!)
9. Revenge of the Witch - Joseph Delaney
  (So, I saw a trailer for a movie that looked like awesome cheesy fantasy fun, starring Jeff Bridges and Ben Barnes, and at the end it says, Based on the beloved series, and I was like, WHAT?!  Looked it up and discovered these books, the covers of which often catch my eye, and tried the first one. Awesome.  Can't wait for the movie or to read the rest of the books! Beware of girls in pointy shoes!)
10. The Lost Kingdom - Matthew J. Kirby

Young Adult:

1. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
    (Can't get this out of my head. Can't. Especially if you are a Harry Potter fan, or write or read fan fiction, you should read this.  Wonderful.)
2. Just One Day/Just One Year - Gayle Forman
3. All the Truth That's In Me - Julie Berry
4. Conjured - Sarah Beth Durst
5. The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
6. Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
7. Dangerous - Shannon Hale
8. Stork - Wendy DelSol
9. Shadows - Robin McKinley
10. Butter - Erin Lange

Adult Nonfiction:

1. Jim Henson: The Biography - Brian Jay Jones
    (I am the hugest Jim Henson fan, Labyrinth, the Storyteller, the Muppets, you name it.  This was the most amazing look at his life, I was almost beside myself with more emotions than I can name. An in-depth, loving biography, but not one that hid the truth for the sake of flattering.)
2. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened - Allie Brosh
3. Sailing Alone Around the Room - Billy Collins
    (This is a collection of poems, and they are wonderful.)
4. A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson
5. Motherhood Comes Naturally, and Other Vicious Lies - Jill Smokler
6. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops - Jen Campbell
7. Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls - David Sedaris
8. All Wound Up - Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
9. How To Survive a Garden Gnome Attack - Chuck Sambuchino
10. Amigurumi Knits: Patterns for 20 Cute Mini Knits - Hansi Singh

Adult Fiction:

1. River of Stars - Guy Gavriel Kay
   (I know, surprise surprise.  My favorite living author? Yes.)
2. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? - Maria Semple
   (So amazing, too.  And a great read for older teens as well as adults.)
3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
   (Really, the top three were almost a three-way tie.  And actually, all of them suitable for older teens, I think.)
4. All Creatures Great and Small, All Thing Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, The Lord God Made Them All, Every Living Thing - James Herriott
   (So this year I discovered James Herriott, and it was wonderful.  Rediscovered, actually.  We used to listen to some of his books on audio on car trips.  So delightful, and suitable for teens and some stories I even read aloud to my kids.)
5. The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith
   (I'm sure we're all aware this is J. K. Rowling by now, right? Well, this book was amazing, and if you haven't read it, you should.  It is NOT for teens or kids, but for adults, but if you love a good mystery and a quirky detective, this is for you.  I hope she writes many more, and I don't care WHAT she calls herself, I freakin' love Cormoran Strike!)
6. A Memory of Light - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
   (Twenty-two years of my life all came down to this book.  Twenty-two years of waiting. It did not disappoint.)
7. Timeless - Gail Carriger
8. Cold Days - Jim Butcher
9. The Silver Linings Playbook  - Mathew Quick
10. Monster Hunter Legion - Larry Correia

Lifetime Achievement Award: Ray Bradbury

For my birthday this year I asked for, and received, Stories by Ray Bradbury.  This is a collection of 100 of his short stories, selected by Bradbury before his death.  They are HIS favorites.  I am the hugest Bradbury fan: I love Fahrenheit 451, I love his Martian Chronicles, and I love Dandelion Wine.  I thought I was quite the aficionado until I read this and realized that I only knew a dozen or so of the stories, and nearly 90 more in the collection were new to me!  And they were fantastic!  If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say The Cold Wind and the Warm.  I did not know that he'd written stories based on the years he lived in Ireland, and they delighted me, most particularly that one.  If you haven't read Bradbury, don't start here, but if you have, pick up this book immediately.  If you haven't read Bradbury, go for Fahrenheit 451 and then The Illustrated Man.  Then Dandelion Wine.  Then the Martian Chronicles.

But do read Bradbury.  Just do.