Monday, December 30, 2013

My Top Reading Picks of 2013

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For the second year in a row, I kept a rudimentary reading list, jotted and scratched on a sheet of notebook paper.  My reading list is a dumping ground for books I don't want to forget-- books I see on the library shelf, books recommended by friends, or books mentioned on other blogs.  My reading list  is an informal record sheet, too.  As I complete a book, I pencil down the completion date next to the title and at the end of the year I type up a neat list of all the books I finished.  

I love taking a look back at my reading year. 

First a few stats:

I read 65 books this year.

That's up 8 books from last year.

That number doesn't include the 33 books I read aloud with the kids for fun... or what we read for history, science, and art in school... or the myriads of picture books we consumed!

I read 27 non-fiction titles and 38 fiction titles.

First book I completed in 2013: Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breatheby Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae

Last book I completed in 2013: Okay for Nowby Gary D. Schmidt

I thought it would be fun to give a few highlights from the year, too.  And please, if you are a reader, consider chiming in!   

Best Overall Book of the Year was The Secret Keeperby Kate Morton.  I don't remember who recommended this book to me, but I put it on hold at the library and had to wait a bit for my turn.  When it finally did come in, I got cold feet about the thickness of the volume and considered returning it unread.  I am so glad I didn't because when I opened it, what happened in the first few chapters had me hooked.  

Don't let the cover fool you.  It may appear to be a quiet and serene sort of book, but inside the pages unfolds an intriguing tale of mystery and unanswered question, set in World War II and the present day.

You must know, it was a literal can't-put-this-down kind of book.  The suspense nearly killed me and I  read during every free moment so I could figure out how it was going to resolve.  I read in bed.  I read at the stove.  I read while the kids and Brian tried to talk to me.  Ooops!

It's not one of those scary suspense novels, but it did keep me up at night and entered my dreams.  I was that into it! I read  another of Morton's book, The Distant Hours, this summer and while it was good, it had a darker mood. 


I could call this year The Year of the Memoir because I read so, so many of them.  I read a few biographies, too, but mostly memoirs and mostly of the medical genre.  Can you tell where my interests lie?

I love reading about people and their stories.  It's like reading a novel, only it's true!

Best Memoir was Call the Midwifeand both of its sequels by Jennifer Worth.  The first book has 1 chapter-- "Cable Street"-- that I have to warn anyone about before I give a full recommendation, but otherwise it is a fascinating book. Even if the midwife/birth genre is not your thing, the second book in the serieshas a broader appeal as it delves into Worth's time as a community nurse.

With the memoir playing such a huge role in my reading life this year, it would be unfair to leave out a few other highlights:


Best Classic was The Wind in the Willowsby Kenneth Grahame. I have a difficult time motivating myself to read "classics."  In fact, I had made two attempts at The Wind in the Willows before my sister recommended it for our Sister's Book Challenge. This time I was determined to see it through to the end and I truly loved it. It was funny and intelligent, not your average silly animal story.  I lost myself in the characters and even forgot that they were animals, not people.  Maybe not so intelligent on my part.  It should be noted, too, that this particular edition had beautiful illustrations.

Runner-up for best classics were The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


Best Re-read
was All Creatures Great and Smallby James Herriot.  Okay.  So this could fall into the memoir category and even slip under the medical memoir genre, but I want to include it separately.  I read this book and its companions in high school, but when my sister listed this one in her Sister's Book Challenge, I thought it was worth a re-read 18 years later.  Still just as good as I remembered!


Best Non-Fiction
(non-memoir) was The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Lessby Terry Ryan.  I loved the movie about a mother who earned money for her family by entering jingle and poem contests. I was glad to find that the book had far less language and I was also glad to find that though the story was similar to the movie, it was interesting enough to read anyway.

Runner up was Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanityby Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea.  In 2013, I used my #1 hobby (reading) to learn about my #2 hobby  (running). 


The Two Books I Quit were The Silent Wifeby A.S.A. Harrison and Signs of Lifeby Natalie Taylor


My 2014 list looks a lot like my 2013 list and includes books like:
What did you read this year?  What are you planning for next year? 


  1. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who couldn't put The Secret Keeper down! I listened to it on audio, and kept just pacing my house listening to it! :)

  2. Kate Morton is a genius. The Forgotten Garden has to be my favorite. I need to read Sally Clarkson's book. She's such an amazing role model. Great reviews!

  3. The Secret Keeper has been on my to-read list for awhile. I'll move it to the top now!

    If you like medical stuff, I recently read Left Neglected. Interesting!

    My favorites of the year were probably Whistling Past the Graveyard or The Snow Child. Very different books and both quite good.

  4. One of my favorite reads this year was Shogun. I'd meant to read it for years, and when a friend let me borrow a copy before our summer road trip, the timing felt perfect. It really was incredible.

  5. The Secret Keeper is my favorite Kate Morton too (although I've talked to a lot of people who like The Distant Hours the best).

    I feel sure I'll like Call the Midwife--the book and the series--when I finally get around to it!

  6. Great list! I'll be putting several of these on my GoodReads list! I loved Desperate and the Call the Midwife books! I also discovered Kate Morton this year - and my favorite was The Forgotten Garden. :) So happy to have discovered your blog through Modern Mrs. Darcy! Happy Reading!

  7. I liked The Secret Keeper but I figured out the secret fairly quickly. I think the the House at Riverton is my favorite.

    I loved the book The Prize Winner of Defiance. I did not care for the movie because I felt the movie sugar coated the destructiveness of Kelly Ryan's alcoholism. I liked this book because it depicts the ugliness of poverty but the Ryan family never loses their sense of humor.

    Best book for 2013, easy pick, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Think, Slaughterhouse-Five meets Groundhog Day, meets Run Lola Run, meets the episode of the Simpsons when Homer turns the toaster into a time machine.

    I am not sure how much reading I will get done in 2014 as I my friend dared me to write a book and it's turned into a big monster.

  8. My favourite of Kate Morton's is The Forgotten Garden, but I want to recommend a new Australian Author, who has been compared to Kate. My sister Anna Romer had her first novel Thornwood House published in 2013 , an Australian rural gothic's a fantastic story, if you put it on your to read list, you won't regret it.....


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