Favorite books of 2013

Some years it is hard to decide my favorite books of the year.  This year, it wasn’t difficult at all.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer, my favorite non-fiction read of 2013, was not too different from other favorite books in the past.  It was about following Christ, making my home a beautiful place, and serving my family and other people through my homemaking.  I often enjoy these types of books and this is a classic.  I read it along with an online book group and there was even a Pinterest board for photographs to go along with each chapter.  It was inspiring and the perfect read for my summer vacation.

On the other hand, The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng was a complete departure from my usual reading habits.  In fact, before this year, I had only read one or two books set in the Far East and had never been inclined to seek out more.  If  it had not been on the Man Booker shortlist, I probably never would have read it, but I am so, so glad that I did.  My review from Goodreads captures my thoughts just after I finished:

From the first page “Memories I had locked away have begun to break free, like shards of ice fracturing off an arctic shelf. In sleep, these broken floes drift toward the morning light of remembrance.” to the last, “Before me lies a voyage of a million miles, and memory is the moonlight I will borrow to illuminate my way”, I was drawn into this amazing story of Yun Ling and Yuguri, the Garden of Evening Mists.  As Yun Ling remembers the story of the garden and the gardener who created it, the reader is drawn into her life. Layer by layer, her past is uncovered until the whole is revealed in all of its intricate detail. The enigmatic layers of the novel mirror all of the subtle, detailed beauty of the garden, the woodblock prints, and other artwork described. I could almost see and hear and smell the garden and the world created in this book. I have not read such a satisfying, beautifully written novel in years. Highly recommended!

I intend to find a copy of Tan Twan Eng’s first book this coming year.  If it is half as good as The Garden of Evening Mists, I will be satisfied.

Books in 2013

This was not my most successful reading year.  I read a total of 49 books and by tomorrow night, it will be 50.  Working at the library has definitely improved my fiction reading since I receive many good recommendations from fellow librarians as well as see lists of many award winners.  In fact, one of the best books I read in 2013 was on the short list for the Man Booker Prize of 2012, which I might never have read if it hadn’t been on that list.

However, although I read a lot of fiction, some of which was delightful, I definitely did not read enough non-fiction, a lack I mean to remedy in 2014.

In 2013:

I read several classics that I have always meant to read:  Moby Dick, The Good Earth, and Heart of Darkness

I discovered the delights of listening to audiobooks while in the car and listened to several books, including The Help, The End of the Affair, and the first several No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books.  In fact, listening to Moby Dick on audio is how I was finally able to finish this classic by Herman Melville.  I plan to listen to several more classics in 2014.  Listening to good prose on audio allows me to slow down and really savor the language.  I have discovered that an excellent narrator makes all of the difference.

I read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and plan to read the sequel in 2014.  Reading Wolf Hall reminded me of how much I enjoy historical fiction, especially when it is set in Medieval/Renaissance era England.  I plan to read some more this coming year.

I read three books set in Asia and enjoyed learning about countries about which I previously knew very little.  I plan to find more books on China/Japan to learn more about these ancient cultures.

I read many old Mary Stewart books from the 70’s and plan to read her books on Merlin sometime in the near future.  I’ve always enjoyed books about the Arthurian legends.

I read several Young Adult novels which were good reads but my favorite was The Fault in Our Stars, a moving albeit very sad love story.

Overall I read 40 fiction books and only nine non-fiction books, listened to eight audio books, and re-read three books.

My goal in 2014 is to read a book a week, on average, and to read at least 20 non-fiction books this year.

Tomorrow I will write about my favorite fiction and non-fiction books from 2013.