Best Books of 2013

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Long post is long…

Well, after tracking everything of length that I read this year, it seems silly not to make a “Best Of” list doesn’t it? Also, my friend John Wiswell is running a blog hop and he invited me to join. So, here they are, my favorite reads that I discovered this year.

10. Before Midnight script by Richard Linklater & Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy

I loved this script but I still haven’t seen the movie yet. Oops. I’ve seen the first “Before” film and thought it was really wonderful. Two people just talking to each other shouldn’t really keep you engaged for two hours but it does, and that is really the triumph of this series. This film feels very real, very raw. One of my friends who’s going through a contentious divorce said the film really resonated with him, particularly the fight scenes–those dark, black moments in a relationship that have been festering for years and then finally everything explodes.

9. Fadeout/Skinflick by Joseph Hansen

This series is about gay insurance claims investigator David Brandstetter, and I’ve gushed about it before on the blog. The protagonist Brandstetter was really what kept me coming back for more. He’s sharp and intelligent. But he still screws up at times. Not in stupid ways, but in the careless mistakes that we all make from time to time. He’s also wonderfully kind and empathetic despite personal loss and his years working in the illusion shattering world of insurance. I also enjoy the “historical” setting (even though it was a contemporary setting when the books were originally written in the 60s and 70s) and it’s really interesting to see what the gay community was like back then. Some tolerance but mostly silence, lots of easy hook-ups in a world before AIDs, but also strong, lasting committed relationships that can last til death do they part. Great series of books.

8. Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells

Again, a book I’ve already reviewed and gushed about before. (Do you get the feeling that I like talking about books when I really love them? ;P) To give you the highlights this has a younger man/older woman romance where their age difference is not an issue. Said older heroine is awesome, competent, a little crazy and the younger man is deferential, smart, skilled and sexy as hell. Great supporting cast. Great world-building. Great sense of humor. If you haven’t tried a Martha Wells’ book yet…what are you waiting for?

7. In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall

This was research for the screenplay I’m working on but I think it’s just really interesting in its own right. When Goodall first started living among the chimpanzees no one had done that sort of immersive study before, and no one had really done in depth research of chimps in their natural habitat. It can get a little sad sometimes as all nature writing tends to do, but the science and details of her daily life are really fascinating.

6. The Human Division by John Scalzi

Ah-ha. Yet another book I’ve pimped on the blog before. This was Scalzi’s serial novel released as “episodes” each week. It was a very interesting and (I think) successful experiment. One of the really fascinating things I noticed was that the delayed release probably ended up making me attach more strongly with the characters. I had “lived” with them longer so I cared a LOT about what happened to them, more than if I had just read the book straight through as a full length novel. This novel has Scalzi’s usual delightful blend of humor, action and a good suckerpunch of emotion that he always manages to sneak in.

5. Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman

How I love William Goldman. This book is an excellently written memoir and basically required reading for anyone contemplating screenwriting. I loved all the behind the scenes stories, his wit and intelligence, but also his method, how he approaches writing. Even if you aren’t a screenwriter, you might want to pick this one up.

4. Love Irresistibly by Julie James

Easily my favorite straight romance novel of the year. Julie James is pretty much the top contemporary writer at this moment. Her characters are modern, intelligent, fun, warm, and she always seems to construct plots that break the usual romance novel mold without sacrificing the necessary HEA. What I really enjoyed about this one was the heroine’s struggle to balance work/life and how the solution did not involve her quitting her job to be a stay at home baby maker for the hero. In fact, her decisions about work weren’t influenced by the hero at all. A lovely breath of fresh air. I can’t wait for James’ next book.

3. The Secrets Of Action Screenwriting by William Martell

Another officially useful book for any writers out there. Even if you aren’t writing screenplays this book could be really, really valuable. And if you write anything that has action/fight scenes I really suggest you pick it up. Another odd thing about this book is how readable it is, which is an odd thing to say about what is basically a “How To” guide, but somehow Martell made this book a literal page-turner. Once I started this book I couldn’t put it down, which is definitely not the case with most how-to books on writing.

2. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Yet another book I’ve gushed and fan girled over on the blog before. I’m gonna be lazy and quote that review here: “‘Heart-warming.’ It’s such an awful phrase but this book really is. I laughed out loud, but I also smiled brightly to myself when Lincoln had his small triumphs, when Beth finally got her act together, when Jennifer conquered her fears. When I finished this book, I was just in this warm soup of happiness….Oh, I just…I loved this book. Unreservedly, Whole-heartedly. When I finished I wanted to run down the street waving it in people’s faces saying ‘Read this! Read it!’ Within a few minutes of finishing I was on FB and IM telling three different people they had to buy it. And now I’m telling you: Try it. Read it. Love it.”

1. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Scott Lynch was one of my instructors at Viable Paradise, and I found him to be quite, quite brilliant. Unfortunately, I am a bit disorganized (also, let’s be honest, this book is hella long) so I didn’t manage to finish Locke before I met Scott at VP. Which was probably good actually as I was able to talk to him like a somewhat intelligent person. Whereas if I had read his book before meeting him I probably would have just jabbered like an idiot and said nothing that made any kind of sense because…you guys…this book is SO GOOD. SO. GOOD. The level of detail and originality in the world-building, the intricate plotting, the characters…I can barely be coherent because this book and its sequel basically make me feel like this:

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I literally laughed, cried, and hugged my Kindle when I was done reading because I loff this book so much. Here, have some quotes, which can probably convince you to read this better than my fan-girling flails:

“You simply collapsed, sir. In layman’s terms, your body revoked its permission for you to continue heaping abuse upon it.”

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“‘The only person who gets away with Locke Lamora games–‘

‘–is Locke Lamora–‘

‘–because we think the gods are saving him up for a really big death. Something with knives and hot irons–‘

‘–and fifty thousand cheering spectators.'”

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“‘So this is winning,’ he said.

‘It is,’ replied Jean.

‘It can go fuck itself,’ said Locke.”

***

So those were my favorite reads this year. What were some of yours? What do I absolutely need to try next? 🙂

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BONUS

My favorite short stories I read this year:

(With the caveat that I’ve just started dipping my toes into really seeking out shorts to read so this is not, as yet, a huge pool.)

In the Greenwood” by Mari Ness

The Sea Witch Sets the Record Straight” by Ursula Vernon

The Wrong Foot” by Stephanie Burgis

Room for Everyone” by Marie DesJardin

Of Ash and Old Dreams” by Sarah Grey

15 thoughts on “Best Books of 2013

  1. I just realized that I read two books by William Goldman in 2013 (Hype & Glory, Magic); neither as entertaining as Adventures in the Screen Trade. Joseph Hansen’s novels sound great. Thanks for sharing your list!

    • I know, I can’t believe this is his debut!

      I’m saving Republic of Thieves because these books are kind of emotionally devastating (and looooong) and I can’t really read them back to back. I need a palate cleanser in between usually.

  2. OMG Locke was good! So so so good and I haven’t read the The Republic of Thieves which is finally finally out and I am really sad I haven’t. The Martha Wells book is really good, too.

    In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall – haven’t read this, but it sounds like a good idea.

  3. Thank you for this list! I loved Before Midnight, even though the fighting parts were sort of scary — this idea that what a lot of the audience had been cheering for over the two previous films was going to fall apart (and so smart of them to not let that on in the trailers). I’d love to read the script. I may well end up reading the Martell as well.

    • Yes, I still haven’t seen the movie yet, but the script is very well-written. Very powerful. I’m sure with the acting and everything it’s even better.

      I do recommend the Martell. He has some interesting approaches I hadn’t thought about before.

  4. This is the second time Rainbow Rowell has shown up on a best reads list, and the second time the author of that list has gushed rabid fan girl about her. I will have to pick her up. The Lies of Locke Lamora sounds great, as well. A Kermit applause demands attention.

  5. Pingback: Year of Books: How’d I Do? (PART FOUR and Wrap-Up) | Beth Matthews

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