I’m always amazed at people who have their yearly reading recap posted on January 1st. I’m still in pajamas drinking hot cocoa and watching Christmas movies on January 1st. I look over my list of books read on January 2nd or 3rd and stew over them while deciding which are my favorites. Sometimes I see a title from earlier in the year and blink while trying to remember what it was about. I spend a lot of time compiling nerdy stats about the books I read. It’s impossible to do any of it in advance either, since there are so many presents to wrap and cookies to bake at year’s end. But this is always my favorite post of the year, so I dutifully work on it while trying to remember what real life is like during the post-holiday re-entry into the real world. I hope you enjoy the annual nerdy recap too.
Books read in 2013: 84
(View all my 2014 books read on GoodReads.)
Best Reading Month: January (13 books)
Worst Reading Month: December (1 book)
Male Authors: 36
Female Authors: 48
Living Authors: 58
Dead Authors: 26
(Books I re-read in 2013: Heaven to Betsy, In a Sunburned Country, Betsy in Spite of Herself, Betsy was a Junior, Betsy and Joe, Notes from a Small Island, The Happiness Project, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, A Moveable Feast, Little Altars Everywhere, Ex Libris, Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)
Total number of different authors: 61
Authors I read multiple books by this year: LM Montgomery (5), Maud Hart Lovelace (4), George Saunders (3), Laurie R. King (3), Bill Bryson (3), JK Rowling (3), JRR Tolkien (2), John Green (2), Mary Oliver (2), Julia Wertz (2), Kate Atkinson (2), Heather Vogel Frederick (2), Ernest Hemingway (2), Rainbow Rowell (2).
Total number of “new to me” authors (authors I hadn’t read before 2013): 39
By year published:
2010s: 29 (including 21 published in 2013)
Books Purchased: 191 (as usual, my books acquired outpaced my books read)
% Books Purchased from Independent Bookstores: 85%
Book Events: 7 (George Saunders, Junot Diaz, Book Expo America, Neil Gaiman, Brooklyn Book Festival, Bill Bryson, Rob Delaney)
And here are my favorite books of the year. I always exclude any books that were re-reads, as many books that I re-read are also all-time favorites.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
This book lingered in my mind all year. Every time I saw it in a bookstore I wanted to be transported back into its world. (I first wrote about this one in my February 2013 Polysyllabic Spree.)
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Unlike any book I’ve ever read. Beautiful writing, fascinating historical backdrop, and absolutely impossible to put it down. Wonderful, creative novel that made an excellent travel companion on a spring trip to San Francisco.
Austerlitz by W. B. Sebald
When I think back to my experience reading Austerlitz, I remember how all-consuming it was to read. Sebald’s power of storytelling felt like falling into Dumbledore’s pensive and watching beautiful memories unfold. Not only one of my favorite books of the year, this became one of my favorite books of all time. My original review of Austerlitz is here.
Moon Palace by Paul Auster
What a beautiful book. Part of it takes place in the desert out west, and the colors and bright rays of sunlight that I remember seeing and feeling out west feel like the experience of reading this novel. It feels rich and alive.
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Several of my favorite authors had new books in 2013 (see Bill Bryson below) and it’s always fantastic when they don’t disappoint. My original review of The Lowland is here.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The book I’m most proud to have read in 2013. Definitely also the longest book I read in 2013. It turned out to be one of my favorites, too. My original post about Moby Dick is here.
One Summer by Bill Bryson
I don’t think Bill Bryson is capable of writing a book that’s not fantastic. It’s a treat to read or even re-read anything he writes. This one is a fun trip through an extremely exciting year in America. Here’s a link to my original review.
Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton
I pick up every book I see in a bookstore about Paris, and I put back down any that look floofy or redundant. My initial judgement of this one, solely based on the cover, was that it might be a corny love story. Ok also perhaps based on the title. But the description and blurbs convinced me that this had more meat to it, and I’m extremely glad I gave it a chance. I loved reading about Kati’s life – her exciting career, finding and losing love – twice, and most of all living in Paris and leading the sort of international lifestyle that makes me want to pack up and move abroad immediately.
Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon
I’m not sure I would have loved Blue Highways as much as I did without hearing Joe Barrett read it to me. His voice is perfectly suited to the freedom and pace of a back-roads journey across the US. I enjoyed listening to this one very much. I wrote about Blue Highways, along with Charles Kuralt’s America, here.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Not one of my favorite Neil Gaiman novels, but this is a truly excellent audiobook. Neil Gaiman reads it, and I now want him to read me everything, forever. Luckily many of his other books are available read by him as well, so there is no reason to panic.
The Anne of Green Gables Series by L. M. Montgomery
I decided I wanted to re-read the entire Anne of Green Gables series, and when I started looking at all the titles, I realized that I hadn’t even read them all. So I started back at the beginning, and listened to the audiobooks read by Barbara Caruso. There are many audiobook versions, but in my opinion all of them except Ms. Caruso’s should be ignored. She is the only one who does justice to LM Montgomery’s world of Anne. In fact, there are only 4 of the 6 books available on Audible that are read by her, and I refused to listen to any other version of the two that weren’t. I read paper copies. More on the experience of re-reading/reading this series to come, but in the meantime please know that your life will instantly become more lovely if you are listening to these audiobooks.
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton’s books are endlessly full of curiosity, and The Art of Travel particularly resonates with me. The audiobook is great because he reads it himself and the combination of a fascinating topic and a British accent is hard to top.
Some of my favorite lines/passages from books I read this year:
“I went out and down the harbor road. There was such a nice frosty, Octobery smell in the air, blent with the delightful odor of newly plowed fields. I walked on and on until twilight had deepened into a moonlit autumn night. I was alone but not lonely.”
– Anne of Windy Poplars by LM Montgomery
“It feels like snow tonight. I like an evening when it feels like snow. The wind is blowing ‘in turret and tree’ and making my cozy room seem even cozier. The last golden leaf will be blown from the aspens tonight.”
– Anne of Windy Poplars by LM Montgomery
“Dreams take up a lot of space?”
“All you’ll give them.”
– Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon
“Whatever setbacks he had faced in his life, he said, however daunting of dispiriting the unfolding of events, he always knew that he would make it through, as long as when he woke in the morning he was looking forward to his first cup of coffee.”
– Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
“I read everything in the school library, which contained an entirely arbitrary selection of works, and everything I could borrow from my teachers – works on geography and history, travel writings, novels, biographies – at sat up until late in the evening over reference books and atlases. My mind thus gradually created a kind of ideal landscape in which the Arabian desert, the realm of the Aztecs, the continent of Antarctica, the snow-covered Alps, the North-West Passage, the river Congo, and the Crimean peninsula formed a single panorama, populated by all the figures proper to those places. As I could move into that world at any time I liked – in a Latin lesson, during divine service, on the interminable weekends – I never fell into the depression from which so many of the boys at Stower Grange suffered.”
– Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald
“Whatever’s happening,” she said, eventually, “it can all be sorted out.” She saw the expression on my face then, worried. Scared even. And she said, “After pancakes.”
– The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
“The sun is the past, the earth is the present, the moon is the future.”
– Moon Palace by Paul Auster
“The power to concentrate was the most important thing. Living without this power would be like opening one’s eyes without seeing anything.”
– The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
‘We had a right good day, didn’t we?’ and afterwards, after Albert was dead, Jack realized that Albert collected good days the way other people collected coins, or sets of postcards.”
– Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
“Thou art a full ship and homeward bound, thou sayst; well, then, call me an empty ship, and outward-bound.”
– Moby Dick by Herman Melville
“I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into.”
– The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien
“I have a terrible wanderthirst; the very sight of a map makes me want to put on my hat and take an umbrella and start.”
– Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
“I have discovered the pleasure of having a long past behind me. I have not the leisure to tell it over to myself, but often, quite unexpectedly, I catch sight of it, a background to the diaphanous present; a background that gives it its color and its light, just as rocks or sand show through the shifting brilliance of the sea. Once I used to cherish schemes and promises for the future; now my feelings and my joys are smoothed and softened with the shadowy velvet of time past.”
– The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir
“Gloria laughed at them and said that she’d overtaken grief a long time ago, that she was tired of everyone wanting to go to heaven, nobody wanting to die. The only thing worth grieving over, she said, was that sometimes there was more beauty in this life than the world could bear.”
– Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Last but not least, here are my favorite two blog posts of the year:
Cheers to a great 2014!