Well, it was another incredible year of reading and I am so excited to share with you my top ten picks for the best of reading in 2013. Not only will I share with you the top ten best books of 2013, but I’d also love to share a few honorable mentions to add to your reading piles.
This year I read 42 books, although I had a goal of 60. Does coming out with your own book this year count as a two or three books? I sure hope so! I don’t waste my precious reading time reading terrible books and I value your time too, that is why I create this list every year to hopefully inspire you to pick up something new from your local library.
Be sure to connect with me on my Author Profile on GoodReads and you will find my book is listed there too! I would be ecstatic if you became a fan of my writing and would love to see my book listed as something you might be reading in 2014.
As always, if you are looking for a little inspiration this year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!
Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of the month here. If you want to read more, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.
In no particular order, here are my favorite books of 2013!
It has been many years since I have read a Stephen King book, but I kept hearing that I should pick up this book from so many people (including my amazing friend Kristen from Dine & Dish) that I thought I would give this book a try. I can’t rave enough about this book. YOU MUST READ IT.
This is not horror fiction, but historical fiction offering up the hypothetical scenario that if you could change something in history, would you alter it and what would the consequences be if history was changed.
Jake Epping teaches high school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and is recently divorced from his wife and going through the everyday minutiae of middle-aged life. When he happens upon an assignment from one of his students, a brain-damaged janitor’s story of a childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father, it brings him to tears and he finds that he can’t stop thinking about what if his life had worked out differently.
When he has lunch at his favorite diner, the diner owner and friend, Al, shares that he has a secret portal to 1958 that he uses to time travel in the back pantry of his restaurant. He has been taking notes and following Lee Harvey Oswald to see if he can alter the JFK assassination. His dying wish is that Jake can use his notes and actually complete the mission of killing Lee Oswald Harvey before he kills JFK.
Jake decides to fulfill Al’s dying wish and begins a new life in 1958 under the name of George Amberson. What Jake doesn’t expect is how quickly his life can become settled in this new era or how his life would change if he met his one true love?
I loved absolutely everything about this book and when I finished it, I wanted to read the story all over again. It has a beautiful love story, great suspense, and leads to the ultimate question, “Would you change history if you could?”
I can’t recommend this book enough- I would give it ten stars if I could!
In the summer I am always looking for a good reading escape and I have found that with, “Forever Interrupted,” by Taylor Jenkins. It is a love story that has been forever interrupted when Elsie Porter meets her soul mate, gets married, and finds herself being widowed… all in six short months?
What complicates the story further though is that Elsie’s husband has never told his family about her and his mother is less-than-happy to find out that Ben had a wife that he had never told her about.
It would be an awfully short story though if it ended there and Reid beautifully weaves together the amazing love story of Elsie & Ben from the very beginning while flashing forward as Elsie struggles to move on and finds comfort in one of the most unlikely of people.
I would recommend this one for fans of Emily Giffin, our readers that loved, “Arranged,” as much as I did, and for those who appreciated the love story of, “One Day.” I found myself both laughing, crying, and sometimes laughing and crying all at the same time.
I bet you read this one in just a couple of short days- it is a hard one to ever put down! I can’t wait to read more from this author!
It is rare for a book to stick with me as long as this story has, but Me Before You holds a special place in my heart this year. Although I think it falls in the chick-lit vein, the story of the challenges and difficulties of becoming and living as a paraplegic made me think about those living with this challenge in a new way.
Louisa Clark is on the hunt for a job and unable to find work when she stumbles upon a job caring for a paraplegic. Although she has no medical background and feels this job isn’t really a good fit for her, she is simply asked to be a companion and keep Will Traynor company. Will is wheelchair bound after a tragic accident that has altered his entire life. A man who loved extreme sports and travel, he wonders how much longer he can live like this and if a life like this is worth living.
I absolutely loved this story and the reader will find themselves wondering what they would do if they were in these character’s shoes. Beautifully told with emotion and humor, you just won’t be able to put this one down!
Eleanor & Park was an Amazon Book of Month in young adult fiction in 2013 and once these characters weave their way into your heart, you will understand just why this book was selected.
Eleanor just doesn’t fit in with her peers, wild hair and patchwork outfits, do not seem to help her blend in better. When she is forced to choose a seat on the bus she ends up sitting next to Park, a quiet kid who is obsessed with comic books and an outsider himself.
When Park notices that Eleanor is reading his comic books over his shoulders, he starts sharing them with her, which later develops into a sharing of great mixed music tapes, and then develops into more than either of them can imagine.
Set in 1986, this book made me laugh out loud and made me cry. Eleanor is one of those quirky characters that you just can’t help rooting for. Although this is written for young adults, anyone who ever survived those awful days of high school will love this book.
Editor’s Note: Adult Language
I absolutely love Diane Chamberlain. Pair a Diane Chamberlain with a period piece? Well, I am there! Necessary Lies is one of those books you just want to share with a book club because it lends itself to such a great discussion on what role our government should play (if any) in our lives when they happen to be the system our families need to rely on in financial struggles.
Chamberlain weaves a fictional story about the very real North Carolina’s Eugenics Sterilization Program that was in effect from 1929 to 1975. In this story, 15-year-old Ivy Hart, her mentally slow 17-year-old sister, and young nephew “Baby” William all live with their grandmother who is in failing health. Jane Forrester becomes Ivy’s family’s social worker and she encounters the state program that seeks to sterilize “mental defectives,” among others with supposedly undesirable characteristics. Through every choice she makes from then on, Jane triggers an inescapable series of events that thrusts everything either she or Ivy ever held to be true into a harsh light, binding them together in ways they do not immediately comprehend or appreciate.
Although I felt this one had a slower build for me, it was worth powering through for the incredible discussion and the endearing characters that are told through this story. I just can’t stop thinking about this one! If you love this book, be sure to check out her prequel!
I always try to tackle one classic each year and I am so proud that I actually tackled this and Wuthering Heights this year, which was no small feat for me! My husband has been hounding me since high school to read this book and still had his old dog-eared copy for me in our nightstand. I finally relented and read it and I am SO glad that I did. It was definitely one of the best books that I have read this year!
The book takes place in California in the Salinas Valley, a home to two families whose lives are fatefully intertwined in many ways. Over the generations, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the end of the First World War, the Trasks and the Hamiltons replay out two of the Bible’s most memorable stories- the story of Cain & Abel and the story of Adam & Eve.
The story is so beautifully told and shockingly provocative for the time, it is said to be Steinbeck’s greatest work. After reading it, I would say that it is one of the greatest works I have ever read. I really want you to read this one too!
Editor’s Note: Adult Language & Sexuality
I will admit that I have given up on the last few Picoult books that I have read. The books just didn’t have the spark that I was looking for anymore and started to feel predictable. Each week though, someone recommended this book to me on our reading thread so I decided to give in and read it. This is nothing like she has ever written before and will likely be one of my top ten books I have read this year. You really MUST read it.
Sage Singer works the night shift as a baker, preparing pastries and breads until the wee hours of the morning. She is scarred physically and emotionally and prefers to work alone, but finds that she is leading a lonely life.. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship that will forever change both of their lives. You see, Josef has a secret that he has been living with his whole life, and he is about to ask Sage for a favor that he hopes she won’t refuse.
I wish I could say more, but this is one that I guarantee you will be thinking about and that would lend itself well to any book club discussion. I dare to say that this is the best book yet by Jodi Picoult!
Just at the tail end of this year, I was able to sneak in this gem of a book and I honestly can’t stop thinking about it. The characters in this one are so beautiful and Brunt writes the angst and emotions of a teenage girl in an achingly beautiful way that will remind you of your own youth.
The story is set in 1987. June Elbus is at the tender ag e of fourteen and her uncle (and best friend), a renowned painter has passed away from AIDS. At the time, it is still an illness that few people understand and there is much shame and secrecy about Finn’s death.
At Finn’s funeral though, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days after the funeral, June receives a package that has a note from a man named Toby, who claims to be a friend of Finn’s. He sends to her Finn’s teapot, a treasured item that June has always loved, and says that he woud like to meet with her.
An unlikely friendship is forged, but it is a secret friendship that threatens her family in unlikely ways.
This book is heartachingly beautiful and pitch-perfect. I hope you can give this one a try!
Everyone has been talking about this book, but I didn’t read it until a couple of months ago. All I can say is, wow. Any book that teaches me something new about history and weaves in a beautiful story is a winner in my book. It was a book that I couldn’t stop talking about and would lend itself well to any of your book club discussions!
If you haven’t read this one yet, it is actually two stories told in alternating chapters. First it the modern-day story of Molly Ayer who is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. After stealing a beloved classic book from her local library, she is assigned community service. Through her boyfriend’s mom, she finds a job helping an elderly woman named Vivian sort through her possessions.
As they sort, Molly learns that Vivian was an orphan too. A young Irish immigrant orphan who was placed upon a train in the Midwest, just as hundreds of other children, in search of a home. The reader follows Vivian’s journey in and out of homes as she searches for the kindness of a family and a safe place to sleep. It is a heart-wrenching tale, but Molly & Vivian are going to find a way to help each other through their unlikely friendship.
Did you hear? We started our first Book Club! I’m so excited and I hope you will join in. It wouldn’t be a top ten list without our book club pick.
I am so excited to be getting our first book club selection off the ground and have chosen, “The Paris Architect,” by Charles Belfoure as this month’s selection.
You know when you read a book and you can’t stop talking about it? That book was this book for me this month. The story is set in 1942 in Paris and tells the story of a gifted architect named Lucien Bernard. In a time of true economic strife and rations in the city, Lucien is commissioned to design secret hiding places in homes to hide wealthy Jews to prevent them from being taken by the Nazis. Although, Lucien is no way supportive of assisting the Jews, he is very hungry for money and if he can design these spaces, he is also given other jobs that can help him continue leading a rather comfortable life.
The problem is… by assisting the Jewish people he is risking his own life. The other problem is… what if he actually starts to care?
This book will be graphic in nature. There is violence, language, and sexuality. This will not be an easy topic. This is a book you will want to talk about. This will be a book you will remember.
I hope you will join us next month for our discussion! Get your questions ready for Charles by January 17th! I will be emailing them to him for his answers!
Although these are my top ten of the year, I do have a few honorable mentions for you to consider for your book bags as well!
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
If you read one book with your kids this year, let it be this one. Wonder is truly one of the best kid’s books I have read in a long time and Augustus is the most fantastic little boy that you will want your child to emulate and look up to.
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity and thanks to his numerous surgeries he has been homeschooled by his family. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face.
The book is told from August’s perspective and then tells it from other kids that are around him, his sister, and even his sister’s boyfriend. When all of these stories are pieced together, it creates the perfect telling of what it is like to be someone who looks different then those around him and what it would be like to love or be friends with someone who is different.
This book is absolutely perfect in every single way from start to finish. It deals with big issues, but truly is captured in the voice of a fifth grade boy. I couldn’t put it down and can’t wait to share this book with my two children.
If there is one lady that I now have mad love for it is Zelda Fitzgerald after reading this fantastic historical fiction account of her life.
Zelda Sayre is anything, but typical. Reckless and a little wild, Zelda meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, when she is just seventeen years old and he is serving as a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Zelda has always been determined to never settle down, but Scott’s charms wear her down despite the fact that he has no wealth to his name, no prominence, and isn’t even Southern. Her family is unimpressed, but through a little trickery of her own, Zelda manages to push Scott into selling his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s. Days later, Zelda boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, believing that everything will work out in the end.
This wild pair earn the fascination and adoration of the public and become a public spectacle that is reported in the papers. They partake in wild partying and drinking as Scott tries to continue writing with little success and little money coming in. Zelda, a writer in her own right, tries to find herself and who she is when she is oh-so-much-more than just F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife.
I absolutely loved this book and reading about their relationship. You know it is good if you go on an evening of reading on Wikipedia after you are done reading a book. I loved this book from start to finish!
Although summer is long past, if you want to feel like it is summer again pick up this divine book for a quick and wonderful escape. When the ever-so-handsome football hero Nick Greenwald joins an Ivy League campus in the uncertain days of the Great Depression he falls madly in love with Lily Dane. Lily’s family, however, is not pleased that she has found her suitor in a boy from a Jewish family. Her beautiful best friend, Budgie, ends up marrying Nick shortly after they break off their relationship, leaving Lily brokenhearted and bewildered. Seven years later, the Greenwalds turn up at Seaview, Rhode Island, the same town where Lily’s family vacations and Lily finds all the answers she has been looking for all of these years in a minefield of plot twists and turns!
If the television series on Netflix was too racy for you, this book is surprisingly tamer and a truly interesting read about what it would be like to be a woman prisoner.
Piper Kerman is the girl next door that we all love and admire. She has a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, but Piper also has a past that few people know about. She got herself mixed up with the wrong people and found herself assisting a drug ring with a suitcase of drug money ten years before. As our pasts often do, her past had a way of creeping up on her and Piper is convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
This book offers a closer look into the prison system and what it would be like as a prisoner and what her life was like over the course of her sentence.
I couldn’t put this book down and read it in just a couple of short days. Although I didn’t feel the story flowed as well as it could have, the content within it was absolutely fascinating to me. The friendships between these women and what a day in the life of a prisoner really would be like, is a far cry from what I had envisioned. This is a very thought-provoking book that would be a great one to share with your book club pals and will have you seeing the whole prison system in a far different light.
Editor’s Note: Adult Language & Sexuality
There is so much to love about this book from John Green and the characters are just as endearing as that fabulous Eleanor & Park book that I highlighted above. In full disclosure, this is a book that you need a big box of tissues with and one that will stick with you long after you close the pages.
This is the story of an unlikely group of friends that meet through their Cancer Kid Support Group. Hazel has experienced a medical miracle and her tumor has been shrinking, buying her a few more years, but she finds that she is depressed despite the good news. Her doctors encouage her to participate in a support group which permanently alters Hazel’s path. When she meets Augustus, they quickly form a deep bond that neither could have ever anticipated.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away on this one, but it is so beautifully told, with heart-wrenching honesty, that these kids will wedge right into your heart when you read about them.
After reading Me Before You, I was dying to pick up this book, especially when I heard that it was historical fiction. I have to say that I loved this one almost as much as I loved Me Before You.
The first part of the story is set in 1916 in France. Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight on the front lines. When their town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.
Almost a century later, this same painting is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.
Once I started this book, I just couldn’t put it down. Both stories were equally compelling and the story behind this painting is beautifully told and heartbreaking, especially the lengths that Sophie will go to to reunite with her husband.
This book was unlike anything I have ever read before and was one of those books that I have to say was super fun and interactive on my Kindle because of the mixed media approach towards piecing together this mystery and thriller.
Ashley Cordova, daughter of the famous horror movie producer Stanislas Cordova, is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.
If you love a good mystery, you will love the interactive nature of this book. The reader gets to surf through web discussions, magazine articles, medical files, news clippings, and photographs to piece together the mystery.
My only critique on this one is that it was about two hundred pages too long and the build-up kind of left me feeling a defeated as to what the mystery was surrounding the death.
I still give it a solid four stars for the genius use of mixed media and getting to feel like a detective for a week. It was the most fun I have had with a book in a long time, but I do recommend splurging for the Kindle version to really enjoy those features. I can’t wait to read more from this author!
Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead. Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!
Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2013 or share your links to your own round-ups!? Anything I should be adding to my library bag? Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads!