As has become a tradition, we start our literary year with a post entirely written by YOU, our wonderful customers. Without you, we wouldn’t be going into our 42nd year. Without you, all of us would be out of jobs we love. Without you, we wouldn’t know what to read!
Thank you for you continued support and to everyone who sent in their favorite books of 2013: Shelley Anderson, Carl Everaert, Karen Foo, Michelle Schulte, David Swatling, Linde Simpson, Marjolein Balm, Jonathan de Souza, Darice de Cuba, Luke Sondelski, Gabriëlle Linger, Laura Baaijens, Oona Juutinen, Sara Raap, Tess van Brummelen and David Young.
A quick note on ebooks: I try to add a link to the ebook version of each title. Unfortunately, the availability of ebooks seems to change on a daily basis. Some ebook links may therefore not work when you read this, although they worked when I put this post together. Try again next week, though; perhaps that particular publisher has come to their senses again, who knows… 🙂
“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” — Oscar Wilde
“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” — Anne Lamott
“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” — Madeleine L’Engle
More of these quotes over at Flavorwire!
I am a great fan of melancholy books with a first-person narrative. Ethan Canin, Mohsin Hamid and Rose Tremain write these kinds of books. All three of their books feature stories that look back on life. Ethan Canin is my favorite; Carry Me Across the Water is a truly breathtaking novel with an uncommon storyline. Mohsin Hamid has only written three books. I’m very curious how he develops further as a writer. After a, in my opinion, weaker second novel (The Reluctant Fundamentalist)(ebook here), his third is again a powerful story. Rose Tremain is a great writer. Although I liked Merivel: A Man of His Time a little less than Restoration (ebook here), the book in which Merivel appears for the first time, he remains a character to love.
I chose McGregor because of his serrated, distant style. A style, by the way, that I haven’t found in any other writer. Very special.
I picked a short story collection by Adiga. I’m a lover of short stories, a form that Canin and Tremain are masters of, too. The truth is that I thought Adiga’s The White Tiger (ebook here), his debut if I’m not mistaken, was incredible. I hadn’t read a book before that so radically and brutally dissected Indian society. But I read that one before 2013 so it didn’t qualify for this top 5.
Blogmistress’s note: a small paperback edition of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is expected in February.
The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
These two books actually made me crave my daily train commute. I have never been so happy to go to work before… all just because the commute gave me a legitimate excuse and uninterrupted time to bury my head in the adventures taking place in the streets of Barcelona.
American Gods (ebook here) and Anansi Boys (ebook here) – Neil Gaiman
One of the first thoughts that popped into my head was: is the author on drugs? How did his imagination take him to such weird/crazy places? Some books you read and forget but not these books. The stories are so original that I don’t think I can ever forget them.
The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Cried buckets when I read the book, especially towards the end. And the book makes you marvel at the author’s ability to play with time and space.
Etiquette and Espionage – Gail Carriger (ebook here)
Funny and exciting, I also love this book because it introduced me to the wonderful Gail Carriger. She has such a funny writing style, not to mention very addictive.
Blogmistress’s note: Read Natalie Gerritsen‘s You Review here.
The Parasol Protectorate Series – Gail Carriger
When I found out Etiquette and Espionage is sort of a prequel to the Parasol Protectorate Series, I just had to read it of course. I haven’t finished yet (I’m currently reading book four) but it has been one addictive read.
Blogmistress’s note: Because someone somewhere will want to know, here are the 5 books making up the series: Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless (ebook here) and Timeless (ebook here). Also, the ebooks of the first 3 titles are currently not available for our region for some reason only the publisher knows.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians – Rick Riordan
I reread the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series because it had been a while and it’s my favourite series after Harry Potter. I just love Percy Jackson; Greek myths, great characters, adventure, humor, drama, slight romance. It has it all!
Blogmistress’s note: For that same someone who wanted to know all the parts of the Parasol Protectorate… These are the books that make up Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (ebook here), Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters (ebook here), Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse (ebook here), Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth (ebook here) and Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian (ebook here).
Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club – Benjamin Alire Saenz (ebook here)
I’ve resisted short stories for too long. These magnificent seven make up my favorite book of the year.
American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men – David McConnell
Unflinching look at murders of gay men in the USA, in a literary style reminiscent of Capote’s In Cold Blood.
And on a personal note, thanks to whoever at ABC arranges pitch sessions with Oscar at Lebowski Uitgeverij. I stopped by and he invited me to submit my own debut psychological thriller set in Amsterdam (which will be published in the US in Fall 2014 by Bold Strokes Books).
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov (ebook here)
I had wanted to read this book for a long time and finally did when my book club decided on it. Very well–written, very layered, and sparked a lot of interesting discussion.
National Thought in Europe: A Cultural History – Joep Leerssen
A book written by my professor for one of my classes in university on the development of national thought and nationalism in Europe. Simply put, it’s a historical account of national thought and what that exactly means, in countries all over Europe and in a myriad of different situations. I love it because it’s very clear without being oversimplified and it is incredibly useful. I keep referring back to it in classes, but it also provides a lot of background information for anything concerning European history and/or politics.
Er ist wieder da / Look Who’s Back – Timur Vermes
Hitler wakes up in 2011. Hilarity ensues – but also a lot of valid criticism and a refreshing perspective on today’s society that makes you go “.. I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Hitler..” before going “Right. Yeah. There’s the Hitler we know!” just moments later.
Please note that the English edition will be published in April.
A Storm of Swords – George R. R. Martin
I finally started reading A Song of Ice and Fire this year, but A Storm of Swords really stood out for me. Mostly because I read it during my trip through the Rocky Mountains this summer and because I finished it in two days.
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel – Rolf Potts (ebook here)
This little book is simple yet effective. Lots and lots of practical information combined with the sort of anecdotes that make you want to pack your bag and leave at once. I loved it.
A Tale For The Time Being – Ruth Ozeki (ebook here)
A gripping book about a Japanese schoolgirl, Nao, who is severely bullied at school. It gets so bad she wants to commit suicide. She all writes this down in her diary, which is found by Ruth on the American West Coast a year after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. She starts reading the diary to her husband and that’s how she learns about Nao, but what she doesn’t find out from the diary is if Nao and her family are still alive.
Mastering The Art Of French Eating – Ann Mah
Shortly after Ann Mah and her diplomat husband have settled in Paris after their time in Beijing, he is called away to work in Baghdad for a year. Francopile and author Ann Mah turns this into an opportunity to dive into the art of French eating by going into the city and surroundings and delving into the history of a few significant French dishes – from Soupe Au Pistou to Boeuf Bourguignon – and talking with experts and locals about the dishes she writes about. Besides writing about food, she tells about her life as an expat in Paris. For readers who have been to France this book offers a much-needed return visit! For readers who know nothing about France, this book will get them started on a new love affair!
Blogmistress’s note: a You Review of this book will be posted later on in January.
Astor Place Vintage – Stephanie Lehmann
Amanda Rosenbloom has her own store in New York City, Astor Place Vintage. But with Manhattan’s rising rents and a troubled economy, it’s tough to keep the business alive. Meanwhile, she can’t bring herself to end an affair with a man who really should be history. When Amanda finds a journal sewn into a fur muff she’s recently acquired for the shop, she’s happy to escape into the world of Olive Westcott, a young lady who lived in New York City one hundred years ago. A great tale that connects two women living in New York but in different time periods, past and present.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide New York City 2014 (ebook here)
I have a weak, weak spot for New York books. The Eyewitness Travel Guide 2014 has again done it for me. This new edition has even more beautiful pictures of the city and most importantly, up-to-date information about everything to see and do in New York City. Can’t wait to use this guide one day when I go and visit NYC!
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer – Katie Alender
Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots. But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette. This book is so unexpectedly brilliant. The author did a great job with leaving little cliffhangers at the end of every chapter. She kept the pace very fast, and there was an stunning and thrilling end to this well-written story. I loved the historical twists the author put in this book, and the lovely Paris backdrop.
Blogmistress’s note: a paperback edition is due out in February.
A Handful of Dust – Evelyn Waugh (ebook here)
I can’t believe it took me this long to read Evelyn Waugh. His satirical points of view of the young and wealthy Brits of the first half of the twentieth century are wonderfully written. It’s not like I’m feeling forced to read his works, as I sometimes do with other authors; I genuinely enjoy his writing and style.
The Gone series – Michael Grant
Michael Grant’s take of a society gone to hell is extremely addictive. Think William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (ebook here) meets Stephen King’s The Mist and you’ve pretty much got the Gone series. Everyone above 15 suddenly disappears and the kids have to fend for themselves. It’s such a simple premise and yet it makes you wonder how far children are willing to go to protect themselves from others – especially when those others are just kids as well.
Blogmistress’s note: Here are the books making up the series: Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear and Light. Read Oona Juutinen‘s You Review of Light, the final part of the series, here. A paperback edition of Light is expected in April.
Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress – And a Plan to Stop It – Lawrence Lessig
I’m not a huge non-fiction fan; even less so when it focuses on politics, but Lessig writes with an extreme passion. He wants his fellow Americans to figure out what he is just now starting to scrape the surface of: The American political system is broken, and it is perhaps too late to fix it. Lessig substantiates his claims with examples that go into extreme detail, and he does his best to provide solutions even if he himself believes they won’t really help. A must-read for anyone wanting to research American politics.
Wool – Hugh Howey (ebook here)
I’m a big fan of dystopian fiction, so Wool is right up my alley. The story of people living underground, away from a post-apocalyptic world where the air has turned poisonous is just too good not to read through. Put in the fact that there’s a conspiracy going on and this book has easily become one of my favorites. I have yet to read the second (ebook here) and third part (ebook here) of the series, but I’m sure they won’t disappoint.
Blogmistress’s note: a regular paperback edition of Dust (the third part) is expected in February.
Under the Dome – Stephen King (ebook here)
Forget the television series – which is good in its own right – and pick up the book. While it is one of King’s bigger stories, it reads easily and I found myself well into the book until deep in the night. King writes with such detail about the small town that is suddenly cut off from the rest of the world. A true treat for any King fan and a wonderful start for any King novice.
Blogmistress’s note: Read Steven‘s Staff Review here.
Darice de Cuba
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain (ebook here)
I never stood still about the fact that I’m “different” from most people around me. Quiet really opened my eyes to things about myself I was not aware of. This is one of those books that really hits home on the “know yourself” theme. Being an introvert or an extravert has impact on your social, family and work life. In this age being an introvert is looked down on and this book helps establish the importance of introverted people.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brene Brown (ebook here)
I’d seen her TED talks and was really moved by them. I especially like her book because it’s not just some idea she is sharing but she actually researched the subject of shame and vulnerability for years. As a person who likes evidence and facts this is a big plus.
The book helps you accept and understand yourself better whether at work, within family or when meeting new people. In an age when people are more closed–off and everyone is striving for some kind of perfection, this book reminds us that we all struggle daily and how to deal with it.
If anyone buys this book I’d also recommend buying Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton. His photography with short stories about individuals is a fine example of people showing their vulnerable side, and that everyone struggles and has stories to tell.
Inferno – Dan Brown (ebook here)
First of all, I don’t expect high quality literature from Dan Brown, so I’m not disappointed like many people with his latest book. I take it at face value for what it is: a nice thriller with a fictional plot laced with current issues. Dante is a favorite subject of mine and this book kept me up way past my bedtime until I finished it. A nice easy read for the weekend.
Blogmistress’s note: the paperback edition will be out in May.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook – Deb Perelman (ebook here)
As a foodie I’m always on the look out for new cookbooks. The Smitten Kitchen is from food blogger Deb Perelman, whom I have been following for years. I love cookbooks by food bloggers because they are filled with day-to-day recipes they have used many times at home in daily life in contrast to professional chefs who release one book after another. The Smitten Kitchen has a huge bonus point: Deb cooks everything in her small New York kitchen, proof that a small kitchen should not hold you back in cooking anything you want.
I’d also buy this book for its great photos alone.
De nieuwsfabriek: Hoe media ons wereldbeeld vervormen – Rob Wijnberg
This year I also read one Dutch book which made my favorite list.
It’s hard to have missed Rob Wijnberg’s name this year. He has been all over the local news and even international news with his crowd-funded news platform De Correspondent, for which he also just won Journalist of the Year award.
De Nieuwsfabriek can be seen as a manifesto for De Correspondent. An eye opener, especially if you feel like the newspaper only brings bad news and always the same kind of news nowadays. This book gives you a different perspective on news and how you interpret it. Plus, if you like philosophy, Wijnberg doesn’t disappoint. It’s a nice and short easy read for in between heavier subjects.
Ender’s Game (ebook here), Speaker for the Dead (ebook here) and Xenocide (ebook here) – Orson Scott Card
I love Ender. This book has had perhaps my favorite protagonist I’ve ever read. It was a fast and exciting read that also had deeper themes on war and politics. It’s definitely one of my favorites now. It’s interesting that for being first written in the late seventies, its descriptions of future things are still plausible thirty to forty years later. And my to-read list has definitely just increased by 3 new books (actually a lot more, just 3 more in the first series alone).
Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
” ‘Ha.’ Pause. ‘Ha.’ Pause. ‘Ha.’ ”
This book was great, chilling, and one I’ll keep on the shelves to pull out at Halloween. I had just finished The Shining (ebook here), which was good, but this book gave me the shivers and kept me wanting to dig in. The plot uses a circus and bit of camp around it and fears associated with mortality and innocence to paint a creepy tale. The above quote was the cause of genuine nervous laughter, a creepy feeling when reading it – then having to laugh at myself for being scared of a book.
Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers – Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (ebook here)
A great book with an easy to apply model on how a business functions. It lays out the anatomy of a business and how to innovate in a practical and effective way. It has a lot of visuals and relevant examples, such as LinkedIn, Skype, Google, and Apple, that connect to modern innovation and business.
Papillon – Henri Charrière
This book goes into my favorites and Papillon is added to one of the 5 people I’d like to have lunch with. His character is so filled with hope that it is contagious, affecting the reader and obviously the real-life characters he came in contact with who often root for or help him out in some way. He had an appetite for life that made him appreciate and remember so many aspects of it, tempered by all his experiences, and then poured out all these stories, characters and observations for others to experience as vividly as can be done in the pages of a book. Probably there is some fiction weaved into this autobiography, but that’s ok, even with a grain of salt I still really enjoyed it.
All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy (ebook here)
Well-written in a very unique style that lends heavily lends itself to the experience of the story. It’s a coming of age Western that has subtle language but a lot of meaning. The only problem I had with it was that they were often eating tortillas which made me crave Mexican food.
Archangel’s Legion – Nalini Singh
Nalini’s Guild Hunter series is one of my favorites and this installment didn’t disappoint. I was on my way to the drugstore when I checked my mailbox and saw the book had been delivered courtesy of the ABC. Instead of putting the book back and going to get my stuff, or even going back upstairs and into my apartment, I suddenly found myself an hour later still standing in the hallway downstairs reading, while many a bemused neighbor came and went by. I couldn’t tear myself away from this perfect combination of action, humor and sexy times. I eventually did make it back upstairs and continued to read the book in one big gulp, only to have to wait a year for the next installment.
Blogmistress’s note: …and another series! 😀 Archangel’s Legion is the 6th part of the Guild Hunter series. The previous five are: Angels’ Blood (ebook here), Archangel’s Kiss (ebook here), Archangel’s Consort (ebook here), Archangel’s Blade (ebook here) and Archangel’s Storm (ebook here).
May We Be Forgiven – A.M. Homes (ebook here)
Flawed, brilliant, dark dark humour… It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I love so much about this novel… the characters? the plot? the redemption? all / none of the above?
I love this book. I don’t know why, but that’s alright isn’t it?
Love Does – Bob Goff (ebook here)
Bob is a little crazy. Case in point: he left his phone number at the end of his book (yes, his actual number) just in case anyone calls for a chat. From various reviews, from ordinary people and journalists alike, he answers his phone too.
I had a blast reading this book. Bob is a little crazy and his life reflects that. More importantly he doesn’t just talk and spout platitudes or scriptures. He really does the whole “love your neighbour” thing, in his own crazy Bob way, of course. This book does more than just tell Bob’s story, it encouraged me to have blast doing like Bob does, and being more active in loving people.
And if I ever figure out what to say, I may have to call that number.
The Riyria Revelations series – Michael J. Sullivan
This book has been described as classic or old-school fantasy, and it is that. It has wizards, dwarves, elves, and peasants and thieves who rise to do great things. Normally this is the type of fantasy I try to stay away from. Color me surprised then when I completely fell in love with the first book, and rushed to get the rest of the series. When I finished the series I had a hard time starting something new, missing the characters I had come to love. The series has all the classic elements, but with a slight twist to keep it interesting. Is the Riyria Revelations groundbreaking fantasy? Nope. Is the Riyria Revelations awesome fantasy? Most definitely.
Blogmistress’s note: This series is currently most easily found as 3 omnibus editions: Theft of Swords (parts 1 and 2: The Crown Conspiracy + Avempartha)(ebook here), Rise of Empire (parts 3 and 4: Nyphron Rising + The Emerald Storm)(ebook here) and Heir of Novron (parts 5 and 6: Wintertide + Percepliquis)(ebook here).
Magic Rises – Ilona Andrews
This series just keeps getting better. I keep waiting for one of the books to disappoint, but it hasn’t happened yet. This book managed to punch me in the gut in the first 10 pages and it doesn’t stop there, by the end I was a little heartbroken. While some things didn’t change (Curran is still Curran, Kate is still badass), the story took place in a new place, giving us more of a glimpse into the rest of the world. Really the only thing to hate about this series so far is the wait between books.
Blogmistress’s note: Magic Rises is part 6 of the Kate Daniels series. Here are the first 5 parts: Magic Bites (ebook here), Magic Burns (ebook here), Magic Strikes (ebook here), Magic Bleeds and Magic Slays.
The Clockwork Three – Matthew Kirby
Everything you could possibly wish for in a children’s book! I say children’s book, but any adult who appreciates a nice adventure with a magical atmosphere will devour this too. It enchanted me from the first page and kept me captivated till the very end. I love how the three main characters’ stories came together so well, but were also very intriguing before they intertwined. A+, for sure!
The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides
Had I not been a fan of Eugenides, I would never have given this a go. A girl having to choose between two guys? It’s been done over and over and over again… But not often in such a way that you feel smarter afterwards. A realistic, addictive and clever read that shows people at their best and worst.
Kissing the Witch – Emma Donoghue (ebook here)
A collection of fairy tale retellings that is more about atmosphere and emotion than it is about plot. Each story introduces a character that will get center stage in the next story, which makes for an ever-fresh and interesting collection.
Little White Duck: A Childhood in China – Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez
A beautifully illustrated graphic novel containing eight short stories about a girl growing up under Chairman Mao and the time after his reign. It’ll only take half an hour to read, but it’ll stay with you for much longer.
The Tiffany Aching series (The Wee Free Men (ebook here), A Hat Full of Sky (ebook here), Wintersmith (ebook here) and I Shall Wear Midnight (ebook here)) – Terry Pratchett
These books follow a brave and sweet young girl – who just so happens to be the only witch in her village – while she grows up. The adventures are exciting, often hilarious and packed with very colorful characters (literally, in the case of the Nac Mac Feegle).
MaddAddam – Margaret Atwood (ebook here)
Margaret Atwood is, simply put, my hero. The only negative thing I can think to write of this book, the final part in the trilogy started by the equally amazing Oryx & Crake, is that it is the final book in the trilogy.
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green (ebook here)
Nobody does simultaneously heartwarming and heartwrenching like John Green. Since reading this book for You Review, I have forced numerous friends and family members to read it and it is my New Year’s resolution to continue doing so.
The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
This book was so inspiring I read it twice this year. I haven’t yet begun my own Happiness Project (or, to be honest, any other improvements to my life) but the book made me feel like I could; that such a change would be possible. And isn’t that exactly what a good self-help book does?
The Unseen – Nanni Balestrini
This no-holds-barred-and-no-punctuation-used story of autonomism in 1970s Italy completely swept me off my feet. Balestrini combines beauty and brutality in such a special way, making you want to have a little cry and then go and start a revolution.
Made from Scratch & Barnheart – Jenna Woginrich
Jenna Woginrich has it all – a vegetable garden, a flock of chickens, sheep and even a sheep dog. Her books about a city gal’s transition into a homesteader are the reason my barnheart (“that sudden overcast feeling that hits you while at work or in the middle of the grocery store checkout line. It’s unequivocally knowing you want to be a farmer — and for whatever personal circumstances — cannot be one just yet. So there you are, heartsick and confused in the passing lane, wondering why you cannot stop thinking about heritage livestock and electric fences”) got worse and worse this year, showing absolutely no signs of ever getting better.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen – Steven Erikson
I’m cheating here, by counting all ten books of the series as one book (hey, it’s called Malazan BOOK of the Fallen). I had planned on reading this series for a while (picked up Gardens of the Moon, part one, back in 2011) but a nudge by a colleague finally got me to start. And I could not put it down. I had to buy all ten parts just to be able to enjoy more of this fantasy story that goes so much further than I’ve ever read before. We have a strange land, different people and creatures, magic and gods. But we also have history, and a really well worked-out back story. And morally ambiguous characters. My colleague warned me that after Steven Erikson’s Malazan books nothing would ever come close, and with regards to fantasy writing he might be right.
Blogmistress’s note: …a ten-book series, then! 😉 Here they are: Gardens of the Moon (ebook here), Deadhouse Gates (ebook here), Memories of Ice (ebook here), House of Chains (ebook here), Midnight Tides (ebook here), The Bonehunters (ebook here), Reaper’s Gale (ebook here), Toll the Hounds (ebook here), Dust of Dreams (ebook here) and The Crippled God (ebook here).
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams (ebook here)
I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (ebook here) when I was young, and have reread it several times since then. But yet I never picked up Douglas Adams’ other series, Dirk Gently. I corrected that wrong this year and I’m glad I did. Douglas Adams humor and a strange view on how the world works, Dirk Gently has it all. I saw the BBC series a long while ago, and it may be my bad memory of the series, but I enjoyed the book so much more.
The Explorer – James Smythe
I read about The Explorer by James Smythe on one of the SF-blogs I frequent, and just from their description I knew I had to have it. I got it as a gift for my birthday, and by then I wasn’t even sure why I chose it. I had seen no reviews, and it hadn’t won any awards (yet), why did I think this was a great book? I have no idea why I thought it, but it sure is! Take a journalist accompanying a space mission who loses his travel companions one by one, until he is the last one there. And that’s just the first third of the book. The rest was simply brilliant; I could not stop reading.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman (ebook here)
A new Neil Gaiman, need I say more?
In case I do, it has that fairy-tale feel that I just love about his books (think Stardust)(ebook here) and a world where magic is normal.
S. – J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
S. is a book you have to see, touch and feel to enjoy. Imagine an old library book (Ship of Theseus by V. M. Straka) in which two university students write back and forth in the margins, analyzing the book and figuring out who V. M. Straka was. They also collect small pieces of Straka (letters, telegrams) and their own memorabilia (postcards, napkins) in the book. Together it makes for an interesting read (you read Ship of Theseus, and the margin notes which have been written over several periods, indicated by the color pen used) and a great if not confusing story. I’d love to reread it in a year or so, when I am sure there will be many analyses posted online. A great experience, not just a great story!
Palo Alto – James Franco
James Franco is best known for his successful acting career, but he’s also a very talented writer, artist and director!
Palto Alto is his debut collection of short stories, named after and taking place in the town he grew up in. Franco’s writing is disturbingly powerful, poetical, absurdly blunt and intelligently funny.
“The movie made me so depressed and I knew the world was ending.” – p. 40
I got Actors Anonymous, his first novel, for Christmas this year: very excited to read it!
Just Kids – Patti Smith (ebook here)
Legendary musician, poet and artist Patti Smith offers us glimpses of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and their life together in New York City during the 60’s/70’s. I suggest keeping a notebook at your side to write down the numerous artists, musicians and writers Patti Smith mentions. Just Kids is a remarkable and honest memoir about growing up, friendship, love and creativity. I shed a few hundred tears near the end.
“He was an artist, and he knew it. It was not a childish notion. He merely acknowledged what was his.” – p. 13
The Incal – Alejandro Jodorowsky and Mœbius
A masterpiece among graphic novels. Mœbius delivers gorgeous drawings and vivid coloring, and Jodorowsky brings an action-packed and always strangely surprising story. Both Moebius and Jodorowsky are marvelous artists. A friend of mine actually met Jodorowsky in Paris this month!
If you love The Incal, I highly recommend Before The Incal (the prequel to The Incal) and The Metabarons Ultimate Collection (a spin-off).
Blogmistress’s note: Read Michael Minneboo‘s review of The Incal here.
Hellboy, Seed of Destruction – Mike Mignola
Mike Mignola is brilliant and inspirational, because of his writing and his art.
“Darkness gives way to greater darkness, shadow on shadow. But one of those shadows has a shape. And, I think, a name.”
I also recommend The Amazing Screw-on Head by Mignola and a Hellboy spin-off series B.P.R.D.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (ebook here)
A jazzy and glittering love-story of obsession and awaiting doom. I enjoyed the new film with Leonardo DiCaprio as well.
“As we passed over the dark bridge her wan face fell lazily against my coat’s shoulder and the formidable stroke of thirty died away with the reassuring pressure of her hand.” – p. 142
Other faves of 2013
V for Vendetta – Alan Moore and David Lloyd
A frightening account of a totalitarian state, with magnificent character-portrayal.
“Those rich and mysterious forces that stir in the shadowy depths of the human soul… Those inexpressible longings… When their time is come they shall not be denied.” – p. 50
One of my all-time favorites is Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen.
The Complete Illustrated Works – Edgar Allan Poe (ebook here)
Haunting, lyrical, beautiful. Edgar Allan Poe is an excellent short story writer and poet.
“Anaxagoras, it will be remembered, maintained that snow is black, and this I have since found to be the case.” – short story ‘Loss of Breath’
Blogmistress’s note: I couldn’t find an edition that was marked as both complete AND illustrated. Here’s one of the complete editions, but there are a lot of others out there!
Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut’s strength lies in his spot-on observations and fabulously black humor.
“Each one of us has to be what he or she is.” – p. 267
Another favorite Vonnegut (and birthday present) of mine is While Mortals Sleep (ebook here).
Conan and the Jewels of Gwahlur – P. Craig Russell
I’m a huge Conan fan ever since reading this comic.
“A velvet-footed shadow, he melts into the thickets. Scarcely the rustle of a leaf proclaims his passing.”
Hard Boiled – Frank Miller, Geof Darrow and Claude Legris
One word: crazy! A mind-boggling futuristic tale.
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
A true classic! Cynical yet heart-warming.
“Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas.” – p. 1
Dead until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) – Charlaine Harris (ebook here)
I absolutely adore the TV-series True Blood, based on Harris’s Southern Vampire Mystery novels.
“I’d been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar. (…) I was waiting for my own vampire.” – p. 1
Anne Marie Klaarhamer
Blogmistress’s note: The above are the Dutch translations of the first 4 (of 6) parts of Knausgård’s series called My Struggle (Min kamp). Only books 1 and 2 have been translated into English so far; they are A Death in the Family (ebook here) and A Man in Love (ebook here). In March part 3, called Boyhood Island, will be published.
Wolf Hall (ebook here) and Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel
Great description of the life of Thomas Cromwell and his era. I liked the way the historical novel is laced with details about his personal life and the habits of that time. Almost as if you watch a movie. Beautifully written; I really enjoyed the language.
De afvallige – Jan van Aken
Worth to be translated in English. An interesting story, set at the end of the Roman Empire, when a lot of people were moving around Europe and all kinds of religions clashed or coexisted. A time of history that I don’t know much about, and now a little more. But most of all it is a very well-written and entertaining story.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – Dave Mitchell (ebook here)
A good read, a fictionalized Dutch history of a period I didn’t know much about. It very nicely shows the great differences between Dutch (European) and Japanese culture. It made me google the historic facts, to find out that the historic context was not accurate, but loosely based on real events and people.
Independent People – Halldór Laxness (ebook here)
This was my souvenir from our holiday in Iceland. I didn’t know that they had a Nobel prize laureate (1955). After travelling round a prosperous Iceland, it was interesting to read how people lived during the early 20th century and to read about Laxness’s ideas. It was not so easy to read, but well worth it.
Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel Prizewinning economist and author whose speciality is the borderline between economics and psychology – what you might call behavioural economics. In this book he examines in great depth how we make decisions in our daily lives. In doing so, he reveals that we are not in fact the rational animals that conventional economic theory would have us believe ( the so-called “homo economicus” ) but much more strongly influenced by irrational factors such as the fear of loss, even in situations where a logical analysis of risk/reward might suggest otherwise.
He identifies 2 methods of thinking, Fast (quick, emotionally driven, impulsive) and Slow (considered, calm review of all the facts, rational) and shows that Fast thinking dominates our decision-making, occasionally supported afterwards by Slow thinking when we try to justify our decisions to ourselves. In doing so he completely knocks away the central pillar of all economic theory since the days of Adam Smith and Bentham‘s utility ideas. Anyone who has followed the history of economic boom and bust from the Tulip Mania of the 17th century and the South Sea Bubble of the 18th century through the Wall Street Crash of the late 1920’s to the Internet bubble of the late 90’s and the insanity of the recent/current financial crisis can only acknowledge the correctness of his conclusions.
Kahneman wears his enormous learning very lightly and is quite happy to acknowledge his own shortcomings. My favourite anecdote describes when he was asked, early in his career, to write a Training Manual for the Israeli Army, in collaboration with a number of other experts. In preparation for the first meeting of the group, Kahneman did some academic research into the history of similar projects and discovered 2 things : 1. 90% of all projects were never completed and 2. those that did reach fruition took an average of 7 years. He presented his findings to this group of highly intelligent academics during the meeting – and what did they decide? They came up with a 2 year project plan! Result: (you guessed it) the project was abandoned after 18 months with very little achieved ….
The book is superbly written and every sentence contains something of substance. The reader is occasionally asked to work quite hard to keep up, but the result is more than worth the effort – I learnt more from this book than any other 5 put together and I strongly recommend that it be taught in schools at the appropriate level as an essential preparation for Life, The Universe and Everything.