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My Year in Reading 2013

January 2, 2014

The obligatory Books What I Read Last Year post. I set a goal for myself of 80 books, which I *almost* met. I have the feeling I actually met it because there are books that I definitely read – for example, Kingmaker by Maurice Broaddus and Shambling Guide to New York by Mur Lafferty – that I read and didn’t list because they were technically “for work.” Since, you know, I represent them now. *CACKLE*

It was a great year in reading – I can’t really say that I read any duds, although my Goodreads indicates that I gave no stars to Beautiful Creatures, which is accurate since I didn’t actually finish it, and only two stars to How to Think More about Sex by Alain de Botton, which I thought was a bit silly and not in a hot way. Maybe it just means I’m too generous with the five stars. I like to think that I picked a lot of winners!

How were your reading years? Any reading resolutions for 2014? I’m going to be discussing mine on the next episode of the podcast, Shipping & Handling, which will go up Monday/Tuesday of next week.


J.D. Robb – Immortal In Death, Glory In Death, Naked In Death
Josephine Tey – Miss Pym Disposes, To Love and Be Wise
Asa Larsson – Until Thy Wrath Be Past
Jo Nesbo – The Redeemer
The Hard Bounce – Todd Robinson

I didn’t read as much mystery as I feel I have in years past, but that’s probably only because I didn’t reread any Dorothy L. this year. Usually I re-read Gaudy Night at least once for, you know, reasons. There are two Teys on this list because Half Price Books in Houston had two of her mass market editions on sale, and heavy on the Swedes and Scandinavians because of my trip to Sweden, which I just realized I didn’t blog about. Josephine Tey is fabulous – she wrote the wonderful, classic, kind-of-historical Daughter of Time, and Miss Pym Disposes is a great look at sinister friendships and frustrated ambition in a girl’s boarding school. Technically the first three “In Death” J.D. Robb books are re-reads for me; I’m about 70% into the fourth, Rapture In Death, right now. I love her worldbuilding, and Eve Dallas, and her hottie billionaire husband Roarke. Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, for me, is a grand master of writing long-running series that don’t get stale, and her near-future New York is a lot of fun to read in.

My Life in France – Julia Child with Alec Pru d’homme
I Remember Nothing & Other Reflections – Nora Ephron
The Unexpurgated Beaton – Cecil Beaton
The London Adventure or The Art of Wandering – Arthur Machen
The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl –  Shauna Reid
Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery transformed my body and messed with my mind – Jen Larsen
Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir –Jennette Fulda
Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton – Noel Fielding
All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
Back Story – David Mitchell

I read a lot of nonfiction this year. I divided it up into Memoir and Nonfiction/Biography/History for simplicity’s sake, but there is a certain overlap – for instance, you’ll see that I have a lot of weight-loss memoirs in this section, and a diet book and a few self-improvement books in the nonfiction section. My favorite of the memoirs has to be Back Story, by David Mitchell, followed closely (almost a tie) by Julia Child, who must be the most charming person ever to grace this earth. Did you know she couldn’t even cook when she got to France? Me either! I wrote about Back Story and how much I ❤ it in this post. If you haven’t read My Life in France, do. It’s charming, a quickish read, and will make you want to go out and learn how to cook. On the other end of the spectrum, I think the book that made me think the most in this category was Stranger Here. Jen Larsen got weight loss surgery and she got thin, but it changed her life in ways she didn’t expect. Instead of a surfacey, upbeat memoir about How Much Better Life Is Now I’m Skinny!, Stranger Here is a sometimes dark, sometimes emotional, always truthful story. You can read her Big Idea piece on Scalzi’s blog here.

Short Stories
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Angela Carter
Here Lies: The Collected Stories of Dorothy Parker

I had always thought of Dorothy Parker as a charming bon-mot dispenser, and it was interesting discovering that her short stories usually have a sting in the end. Highly recommend. And Angela Carter – wow. Just wow. (thanks, Miriam!)


The Wicked (novella), Rising Darkness, Falling Light, Lord’s Fall^, Serpent’s Kiss^, Oracle’s Moon^, Storm’s Heart^, Dragon Bound ^, Kinked – Thea Harrison
A Damaged Trust, The Great Escape – Amanda Carpenter
No Escape – Shannon K. Butcher
Hot Rocks – Nora Roberts
Close Quarter – Anna Zabo
Checkmate, My Lord, A Lady’s Secret Weapon, A Lady’s Revenge – Tracey Devlyn

Tracey Devlyn is great, and my client, and everyone should read her books like YESTERDAY. So is Anna Zabo, and Close Quarter is REALLY fun. Thea Harrison continues to be fabulous. All these ladies write romance with compelling characters and plots that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I want to read more romance  like this in 2014. The ^ represents a re-read.


Fangirl *, Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
Girl of Fire and Thorns – Rae Carson
Daughter of Smoke & Bone – Laini Taylor
The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials – James Dashner
Beautiful Creatures (gave up) – Kami Garcia
City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, The City of Lost Souls – Cassandra Clare
Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black
Bloody Jack: Being an account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy – L.A. Meyer
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater *
Vivian Versus the Apocalypse – Katie Coyle
Megan Whalen Turner – The Queen of Attolia, The Thief

I read a lot of YA this year! The Mortal Instruments series was a really fun discovery for me. I went to the party for the series at BEA this year (Thanks, Rachel!) and my sister and I started reading the books together. We both got so into them that we even went to see the movie which, sad to say, was a little disappointing. (My sister gave me the DVD for Christmas though, so – you know I’ll watch it. Repeatedly) I have the first book in the prequel trilogy at home but haven’t started reading it. My absolute favorite YA of the year is a three-way-tie between The Raven Boys, Eleanor & Park, and Vivian Versus the Apocalypse. All three of these books have amazing characters and mind-blowing writing. I went back and forth between including some of these on the SFF list instead of the YA/NA list, since technically Daughter of Smoke and Bone is some of the most inventive urban fantasy I’ve read like ever (with a teenage protagonist) and Girl of Fire and Thorn is fabulous second-world fantasy (with a teenaged (fat) protagonist). But since everyone and their mom counts these as YA first and SFFnal second, into YA they go. A quick note on Beautiful Creatures – I tried, and I couldn’t. I liked the movie! My sister LOVES the book/movie. But it was pretty slow, for me.

Nonfiction / Biography / History

The Paleo Diet – Loren Cordain
And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life – Charles Shields
250 Things You Should Know About Writing – Chuck Wendig
Heaven’s Command, Pax Brittanica – Jan Morris
Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life – Alan Deutschman
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – A History of Nazi Germany – William L. Shirer
Get The Guy – Matthew Hussey
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power – Rachel Maddow
Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg
The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity – Nancy Gibbs
The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do it So Well – Camille Sweeney
The Zimmerman Telegram – Barbara Tuchman
Writing Movies for Fun and Profit – Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant
On Literature – Umberto Eco
How to Think More About Sex – Alain de Botton
Decline of the English Murder – George Orwell

A lot of random stuff in this category. I loved the Kurt Vonnegut bio (turns out he was kind of a dick?) and the history stuff I read this year was great all around – the Pax Brittanica trilogy (of which I have read two) is an extremely funny and readable history of the Victorian era, if you’re into that kind of thing. Barbara Tuchman is the queen. Drift was really interesting and incredibly frustrating to read, not because of the book but because of the subject matter. The President’s Club was an incredibly fascinating look at something I had never really given much thought to – the interactions between past presidents and a sitting president. Highly recommend. None of the self-helpy stuff in this really stood out to me, except Lean In, which I found great (and whose issues are well-documented elsewhere.) Get the Guy was good fun & the author is handsome, though the fact that I am still single would indicate that the book is either unhelpful or I didn’t put its precepts to use. Writing Movies for Fun and Profit is a screenwriting book, but I think that many of the things they talk about are applicable to novels as well.


Alex Bledsoe – The Hum & The Shiver*
Brian Stavely – The Emperor’s Blades*
Robin McKinley – Sunshine
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N.K. Jemisin*

So I didn’t read a whole lot of straight-up SFF this year but all of it was AWESOME. Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades (which comes out this month) was straight- up fucking rad epic fantasy in a world that I wanted to run around in forever. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – go out and buy this book NOW, what are you waiting for, do it! Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver was soooooo gooooooooooooood – really fabulous contemporary fantasy set in the Smoky Mountains (where my mom’s family is from), about music and family and duty and outsiders and fate. AAAHHH SO GOOD. And Sunshine came out a million years ago but is SO original and anyone who wants to write vampire books should just read it and then change your mind. (Unless you are Holly Black, in which case, thanks for COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN, you are great.)


The War Poems – Siegfriend Sassoon

Literary/Women’s fiction

Girls In White Dresses – Jennifer Close

I LOVE THIS BOOK. There. I said it. I talked about how much I loved it here.

If you’re interested, you can read my recap of The Year in Reading 2012 here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 7, 2014 1:29 pm

    Hey, you got to The Zimmerman Telegram. Weird, eh? And the Shirer…that’s like War & Peace without a Pierre. And Eco is always good for a little reflection.

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