List #227: Best Books of 2013

At the start of 2013 I pledged to read 52 books in a year. I know that many people think that since I am a librarian that I can spend most of my day reading books, but oddly enough librarian doesn't mean you earn a paycheck by turning pages all day long. In fact, there are often days at a time where I don't even read one page of a novel.

But somehow in 2013, I did it. I managed to read the equivalent of one book a week for fifty-two weeks. Though truthfully some weeks I read two or three, and others I binged on Netflix and People magazine. I'm even more proud of this goal when I think about how busy work was, how unexpectedly busy my personal life became, and how many times I left my book by my bedside and couldn't read during my lunchtime. 

So, like I've done the past two years, I give you my top 5 favorite books of 2013. The only criteria being that I had to have read them in 2013. They may or may not have been published over the course of the year; instead, they are just new to me.

Eleanor & Park Rainbow Rowell
Finished in May
Why I Read It: One of the reasons I wanted to read 52 books in one year was to force myself to different genres. I often stick to Contemporary Fiction and learn about the rest through reviews and word-of-mouth. There was a lot of good buzz about this YA novel from both reviews and mouths. 
Why I Loved It:  Rowell writes about the teenage experience, but sets her story in 1986. And though I was only five in 1986, I feel like my own teenage experience was more like Eleanor and Park's than it is for today's generation that can fill their days with Internet, for better or worse. It's filled with heartache and heartbreak, friendship, and those secrets you just don't want anyone to know. And sure, it's about teenagers but it's just about the best love story I've read in years. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane ~ Neil Gaiman
Finished in September
Why I Read It:  Simply, I picked up because my boyfriend read it on a business trip and came home telling me I needed to read it too. It's rare thing when someone recommends a book that I absolutely love. Only my closest and most trusted companions have succeeded in this challenge. But also, because it's been a few years since I read Gaiman and this book was short enough for me to give it a go.
Why I Loved It:  Gaiman is the only writer I've read encountered who can manage to be both spooky and sad at the same time. The story of a man recalling his childhood is both figuratively and literally haunting. It's the type of book you want to tell everyone about and the type of book you won't forget long after it's over.

The Last Girlfriend on Earth ~ Simon Rich
Finished in February
Why I Read It: As a collection of short stories, it ticked off a box on the different sort of works I was trying to sample throughout the year. The author is a writer for Saturday Night Live (and I love Saturday Night Live). And the title is just amazing. 
Why I Loved It:  Rich's collection of short stories illustrates that not all short stories need to be serious pieces about broken families and all those other sad things people have been writing in fiction classes since the dawn of time. These stories made me laugh out loud during the longest days of winter, while also sticking to my heart. Love is often sad, but love is also ridiculously funny.

Back Roads ~ Tawni O'Dell
Finished in September
Why I Read It: I grabbed it off my library's shelves one Friday when none of my requested items had been delivered. It's one of those titles that gets on lists, that Oprah recommended, that people talk about, and the author sets her stories in Western PA and surrounding areas.
Why I Loved It:  Love is not, perhaps, the word I would use to describe my feelings towards this book. It's so disturbing, morose, and emotionally haunting that I'm not quite sure when I'll pick up another O'Dell novel. But it's also the story, with all of its grit, abuse, and horrendous conditions, that still haunts my memories more than any other book I've read in years.

Life After Life ~ Kate Atkinson
Finished in May
Why I Read It:  I found the cover intriguing, the reviews glowing, and I was craving some history.
Why I Loved It: I don't think there is anyone who ever wondered what would happen if they could go back and alter moments in their life and Atkinson plays with this "what if" over and over again. It's just that her main character must die, each and every time, before she can begin again. The most imagintive and unique book I read in 2013, Atkinson's novel layers history, personal choice, and fate into a story that is for the ages. 

There were many more books that I loved this year that didn't make it into my official top five. And if you're interested in any of the other titles, you can check out my Goodreads list. 

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Shannon has completed her goal of reading 52 books in 2013!
Here's to great adventure and good stories in the new year! And please, share your favorite 2013 reads in the comments.