I always shoot for one-hundred books read each year. I only read ninety-three books in 2013, but I’m going to say that actually writing a book counts for at least seven books, so I’m calling it a win. Also, one-hundred is an arbitrary number and nobody cares how many books I read anyway, so I figure I can adjust the rules as I see fit. And there my friends, is my philosophy on life.
My year started out with A Memory of Light, the much anticipated final volume in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, finished by Brandon Sanderson. Though not my favorite book in the series, it was still a fitting end to a beloved series, the series that made me fall in love with the fantasy genre as a matter of fact. So it’s entirely appropriate that my year began with that book and finished with the publication of my own novel, a fantasy romance.
The series that most captured my imagination this year was The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. The first book in the series, City of Bones, is a YA novel about Clary, a teenager in Brooklyn, who learns she is part of a race of demon slayers called Shadowhunters. This series is bold to the point of being a bit over the top, and if teenage angst isn’t your thing, then steer clear, because this series reaches near soap-opera proportions when it comes to angst. Frankly, I thought it worked, and I eagerly await the final volume in the series which I believe is due out this year.
I love series. Can you tell? Another book that I thought fully delivered was Cold Days, an installment in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Butcher keeps getting better with each book.
In addition to fiction of all kinds, I love memoirs. If it’s a first person account of somebody whose come through something awful and lived to tell about it, I’m there. Two very different books top my best memoirs of 2013 list. The first is A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a liberated woman found herself sitting on her roof, covering her head, and calling her husband “master” by Rachel Held Evans, in which the author takes on the task of living her life as the woman described in the much touted Bible verse Proverbs 31, going so far as to camp outside in her yard in accordance with the law that menstruating women not be under the same roof as a man. But don’t be thinking Evans is some religious zealot with an anti-Feminist agenda. Her project, begun in good faith was one religious woman’s attempt to reconcile her own beliefs with those set forth in the Bible. Or, were they really set forth in the Bible? Regardless of your spirituality, this book is an interesting and insightful read.
The second of my top memoirs was Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett. It is the story of the author’s friendship with Lucy Grealy, the author of Autobiography of a Face. Due to facial cancer as a child, Grealy’s face was disfigured, something that she underwent surgery after surgery to correct during her too-short adult life. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship was terribly beautiful and beautifully terrible. For a week after reading it, I found myself crying for no reason, and then I’d realize I had been thinking back to the book. If you’ve read anything by Patchett, you already know that she, like no other author, has that effect on readers.
Another memoir I loved was Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s Elizabeth Gilbert, so what more can you say? Honestly, I don’t understand why this book didn’t get at least as much attention as Eat, Pray, Love. For my part, I liked it better.
We all know how much I love books on writing. My favorites this year were The Badass Writing series by Lisa Creech Bledsoe and Sonja Foust. They are straightforward advice for writers that will have you laughing out loud. I return to these books time and again when I start taking myself too seriously or feeling like the world is dependent on the quality of my next sentence. Another writing book I recommend is 2K to 10K: Writing faster, writing Better, and writing more of what you love by Rachel Aaron
I credit David Hewson’s Writing a Novel with Scrivener with helping me, well, write a novel with Scrivener. I’m pretty sure cutting my novel’s word count in half and completely creating from nothing what would be the last half of the published book– in five weeks– would have driven me to drooling insanity without Scrivener. Scrivener is software for writers that I believe has the power to change all human life as we know it and finally bring about world peace. Okay, maybe not, but it is seriously awesome software. And confusing. If you’re a writer, go buy Scrivener, then go buy Hewson’s book. I’m not kidding. Go, really, it will make your life easier.
You’d think a romance writer would have, I dunno, a romance novel on her reading highlights list. The truth is, I try to stay away from reading books that are similar to what I’m writing for fear that the tone or style of what I’m reading will seep into my writing. That’s why, when I’m in the thick of writing, instead of romance or fantasy, I read mostly nonfiction and memoir. There was one gem of a romance in my 2013 book roster though. The best romance novel that I read in 2013 was … drum roll please … The Best Man by Kristan Higgins. If you are unfamiliar with Higgins work, you are in for such a treat in 2014, because once you start reading her, you won’t stop until you’ve read her entire back list. She is an auto-buy author for me. She’s an excellent gateway author for friends who think all romance novels are bodice rippers like the ones from the 1980’s.
So now, dear readers, what were your reading highlights of 2013? Feel free to link to your own blog posts on the topic in the comments.