2013 has been an amazing year for books. I’ve read so many incredible ones, and there are many I haven’t gotten to yet that I’ve heard are equally wonderful. There were a few I was disappointed in (sorry, Messud fans, but I hated The Woman Upstairs), but this was definitely a good year for readers of literary fiction.
I won’t try to compile a best of the year list here – there are plenty of those out there, put forth by respected publications and brilliant minds. (Check out this list of the Best Books of 2103 on Book Riot) As I always explain, this is instead a list of books I wish I had written. Books that say to me, “This is what you should write, this is the way you should tell your stories.” Books that speak in my language, to my soul.
But before my list, I do want to plug some of the books that I fell in love with, even if they are not the books I would write, even if I could.
- The Valley of Amazement, Amy Tan. I think it’s her best book in years.
- Good Lord Bird, James McBride. Resisted reading this one, because it is in dialect, and I didn’t think I wanted to read about the subject. I’m so glad I gave in.
- Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel. Even better than Wolfe Hall. I love literary historical fiction when done well, and she is the best at it there is.
- Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem. I have to admit, it took me quite a while to get into this book, but by the end I was so so sad it was over.
- & Sons, David Gilbert. I loved The Normals, but this is nothing like that. It is bigger, and braver, and with strange twists and turns.
- The Tiger’s Wife, Tea Obreht. The first book I read in 2013, it started off a year of magical reading.
Now, on to the books I wish I’d written. It is, of course, a much shorter list.
- Life After Life, Kate Atkinson. I have loved Kate Atkinson ever since I read Behind the Scenes at the Museum. But this book blew me away. It is brave, and creative, and thoughtful. It takes a big risk, and excels. And it is about something I am interested in in my own writing – how small things change the course of a life. My favorite book of the year.
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman. Wow, just wow. I want to be able to write magical, fantastical stories like that. It touches on another of my interests – childhood memories. It is simply amazing. Read it.
- The Tenth of December, George Saunders. All writers of short fiction should aspire to write a story like George Saunders. “Escape from Spiderhead” is one of my new favorite short stories. Brilliant.
There were so many other terrific books I read this year: Ten Thousand Saints, by Eleanor Henderson, Night Film by Marisha Pessl, and All That Is by James Salter, to name just a few. And I still have The Goldfinch, The Interestings, and Salvage the Bones in my TBR pile before the end of the year. So many books, never enough time to read them all. But what fun trying.