The Best of 2013 in 2014

The Best of 2013 in 2014

[I wrote this piece in mid-December of last year, saved it as a draft, and completely forgot to publish it. Dummy. So despite being well into 2014 at this point, here are my favorite books of 2013.]


I rather enjoy a good year-end “best of” list (even if NPR Books is tired of them). So when I started compiling my practically obligatory Best Books of 2013 list, it dawned on me that very few of the books I read this year were actually released this year.

It’s rare that I read a book when it first comes out, not for any particular reason other than my book queue is perpetually long and by the time I do get down to the business of reading a new novel, it’s no longer a new novel.

So with that being said, this post actually contains the Top 10 Books I Read in 2013 Despite the Fact That Some Are Quite Old. But that doesn’t make a very sexy blog title, does it?

OpenlyStraight 1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene. This book came in second, behind the Harry Potter series, in Entertainment Weekly’s recent bracket game that asked the question “What is the Best Young Adult Novel of All Time?” I can see why it made it so far in the poll. It’s a touching, if a little predictable, read that I devoured in two days time (lightening pace for me). I hear a film version is on the way.

2. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg. This is an interesting take on the traditional coming out novel in which the main character, Rafe, decides to go back into the closet when transferring to a new school. A funny, touching and enjoyable read.

3. Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. I adore the Muppets (Rowlf’s my fav) and consider Jim Henson and his band of puppeteers to be geniuses. This lengthy and in-depth look at his life offers a wealth of insight into that brand of genius. At times a slow read (there are plenty of anecdotes that don’t move the journey forward with any momentum), the examination of Jim’s work style and the evolution of beloved characters like Kermit, Ernie and Bert make the clunky parts worth trudging through because the good stuff is great.

4. Where You Are by J.H. Trumble. Trumble did put out a new book this year, but Where You Are, released December 2012, was in my queue ahead of it. Trumble writes books about difficult subject matter without being difficult to read. I’m not saying you won’t have to shake off the story each time you take a break, but that’s a good thing. It means you’re invested in these characters. Can’t wait to get into the next one.*

ElephantofSurprise5. The Elephant of Surprise by Brent Hartinger. Hartinger’s Russel Middlebrook series is one of my favorites in the realm of gay-themed Young Adult. This latest installment holds true to the breezy tone of the earlier books. Keep your eyes out for the film version of Geography Club, the book that introduced us to Russell.

6. Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith. As I’m sure you all know by now, Galbraith is actually J.K. Rowling. After the disappointing Casual Vacancy, I went into this one with some trepidation, but Rowling, er Galbraith, did not disappointment. A nice, page-turning detective novel.

7. Impossible Odds: The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan and Her Dramatic Rescue by SEAL Team Six by Jessica Buchanan, Erik Landermalm and Anthony Flacco. Buchanan was a 27-year-old humanitarian aid worker in Africa when she and a colleague were kidnapped by Somali pirates and held for three months. This is a fascinating recounting of her experience as a hostage and eventual dramatic rescue. Loved it.

8. Proxy by Alex London. There are some good lessons to be learned in this story about Knox, a troublemaking rich kid, and Syd, the “proxy” from the wrong side of the tracks who is contractually obligated to serve out Knox’s frequent punishments in this dystopian novel that Hunger Games fans might enjoy. Making Syd a gay character is a nice touch, and is actually what led me to this book to begin with, but I’d hardly call it a “gay novel.” It’s an enjoyable read, although I did sort of see the end coming pretty early on, and I thought an epilogue would’ve offered a little more closure, but those are minor complaints.

Faitheist9. Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious by Chris Stedman. Religion fascinates me, but I admittedly know little about it. I was raised in a Christian household, which played a large role in my struggled acceptance of myself during my adolescence. I had enough internalized teen angst to make Angela Chase say, “Dude, chill out.” [If you know who Angela Chase is without googling it, let’s be best friends, ‘kay?] It was a process that left me with an extremely open mind and interest in other world religions – something that far few Christians have, in my humble opinion. Stedman’s journey from fundamental Christian to atheist to interfaith activist is a brave and fascinating one.

10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I enjoy revisiting the classics every now and then, so this year I paid a visit to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, whose adventures I hadn’t read since I was probably about the age of these two beloved characters. While Tom’s tales are terrific, I prefer being inside Huck’s head, so his journey is making the list. (Sorry, Tom!) 

4 thoughts on “The Best of 2013 in 2014

  1. *Despite listing this book's follow-up, Just Between Us, on my list of Books I Wish I'd Read in 2013, I actually managed to read it before the ball dropped on New Year's Eve. And it very much deserves as spot on this list. But I decided to leave the post as originally written. Let's just call both of Trumble's books 4a and 4b on this list, shall we?

  2. Love you, Matthew!

    That's an interesting list! I've only read 4 (5 if I include 4a and 4b :)) and skimmed a 5th. Looks like I have some reading to do! BTW, has Brent Hartinger contacted you about the project he's working on? He asked me to pass it on to anyone I think might be interested, so if you're possibly interested, go check out his blog. I'm sure the project's posted there. I'd give you more details if I could remember them. 🙂

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