Below you'll find a list of our favorite books of 2013, all gathered in one place for easy browsing.
- Sarah G.
First published in 1964 by Gallimard under the support of Raymond Queneau, Murder is a haunting and stark text written against the backdrop of the Algerian war. Tracing the contours of a habitual and indifferent violence embedded in the quotidian, Collobert’s radical minimalism is unsettling, her language strange and relentless. Characters remain nameless, scenes placeless, isolation is felt everywhere as inevitable. But the work remains deeply and viscerally political at every moment, and its urgencies are felt intimately: “One does not die alone, one is killed, by routine, by impossibility, following their inspiration. If all this time, I have spoken of murder, sometimes half camouflaged, it’s because of that, that way of killing.”
This is the best piece of history I've read this year. And although the events took place almost 200 years ago, it's one of the most timely and one of the most heartbreaking. It makes me wonder what historians will be saying about our forays into Afghanistan 200 years from now.
After reading The Book of Barely Imagined Beings when it was released in April, I wrote that it "is one of the coolest books that has or will be published this year." Now that it's November, I've had a chance to see some other cool books, but I stand by my praise. Taking as his inspiration Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings, Caspar Henderson set out to investigate those seemingly too strange to be real creatures that are, in fact, living on our seemingly too strange to be true planet. From the axolotl to the zebra fish, this book demonstrates just how wondrous life is and how bizarre the journey to get to this point has been.
I picked up this book because I love David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas and more. When I started his introduction I had no idea just what I was in for. Naoki Higashida is a 13 year old boy with autism. Although Naoki is unable to communicate verbally, his mother and teacher have devised a system that allows him to slowly form words and sentences that evolve into poems and stories - which resulted in The Reason I Jump. This is Naoki's heartfelt and touching account of his attempt to describe why he reacts certain ways in different situations. That itself is pretty intense, but the beauty of this book lies in Naoki's understanding of and connection with nature. I can see why David Mitchell and his wife Ka Yoshida wanted to pass this book on to the English-speaking world. This book doesn't just open your eyes to what it is like to be be autistic but what it is like to be human.
A surprisingly warm and enjoyable romp from Hooky, who I'd always surmised as a bit of a curmudgeon; perhaps he's softened over the years. We are let in on a series of misadventures and screw-ups, which were all very much a part of the Factory ethos that Rob Gretton and Joy Division were so instrumental in forming: it was never about the money. Throughout the tales of automotive breakdowns and backstage japing, Hooky infuses this history with a profound love for the music and those responsible for its production, from Martin Hannett, Tony Wilson, and Alan Erasmus, on down through his mates Twinny, Terry, and Dave, who were tasked with setting up the band's gear, although not always responsible for getting it home. Altogether, a smashing read
A heartfelt and touching book about letting go of the "heavy things." Despite its sad beginnings, Whimsy brings us to that light at the end of our dark tunnels.
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST - NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF 2013 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Though a scientist, Daniel Loxton is clearly a sympathizer to the cryptozoological quest. In Abominable Science, Loxton and his co-author Donald Prothero examine the evidence, or lack thereof, for the existence of some familiar beasts (Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster). In the process, the pair reveal the vagaries of human perception, including the influence of larger forces such as monster movies and dinosaur exhibits -- as well as A LOT of fakery.
Get to the root of your favorite cryptid!
All of the (rave) reviews you will read about The Son will call it a "western" and make comparisons to the works of Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy. These comparisons are right, but The Son is also much more than that; it is nothing less than a micro-history of the settlement of the North American continent, as told through the bloody, rapacious story of five generations of one Texas family. Beginning with the butchering of patriarch Eli McCullough's family by Comanches in 1849, and ending with oil Baroness Jeanne Anne's story in 2012, we follow the family as it grows in wealth and power, sometimes honestly, but more usually not. There aren't many 576 page novels that you wish were longer, but as I neared the end of this epic tome, I began to grow nostalgic for it even as the remaining pages were counting down. The Son is a great book.
Nominated for the 2013 National Book Award, "Black Aperture" will surprise you with its bareness and honesty. Rasmussen's poems are sparse, unpredictable, and pack a punch you'll not soon forget. His lines are easy to enter, but difficult to get out of. Part elegy, part comedy, this collection is such a promising sign that contemporary poetry is right where it should be: in the hands of talented, young poets like Rasmussen—whose poems communicate new feelings about the human experience. This book insists you read it, but proceed with caution; it will haunt you in ways you never thought possible.
Splendid short stories with everything you want from fiction - smarts, heart, story, narrative drive, quirky characters, and suprise.
Finding that perfect balance between comedy and tragedy, Sedaris is at his finest in this hilarious collection of essays. Topics covered include (but are not limited to):
- Proper dinner attire
- Pygmy skeletons
- Baby sea turtles
A great gift for the snarky humorist in your family.
Fellow movie-lover, this is the funniest book I've ever read. Hilarious, baffling, and batsh!t crazy. Tommy Wiseau is a force of nature. I couldn't recommend this more highly. Just hilarious.
In a tangle of cliffs I chose a place -
Bird-paths, but no trails for men.
What's beyond the yard?
White clouds clinging to vague rocks.
Now I've lived here - how many years -
Again and again, spring and winter pass.
Go tell families with silverware and cars
"What's the use of all that noise and money?"
I wish I was as good a writer as Susan Steinberg so I could fully communicate just how fantastic this collection is! Steinberg tackles everything from plane crashes to a dying father to late night parties to stolen stereos with emotional depth and stylistic genius. A collection that pushes the boundaries of what fiction can do or be. A must read!
Brian K. Vaughn's Saga continues to be one of the most heartfelt, well-imagined series in production today.