As we head into 2014, I’d like to share my top books of 2013.

Last month a friend asked me to pick my top ten books of all time and that was one of the hardest lists to write. So I’m only picking from what I read in 2013 for this.

I’ve read over 60 books this year and these are the ones that stood out for me. The books on this list are from multiple genres and were published in various years.

Here’s my list of favorite books that I read in 2013:

1.) The Twelve by Justin Cronin

This is the second book in The Passage trilogy. The Twelve left me unsure of what I could possibly read after it because I couldn’t think of anything that could follow this.

This is the kind of story that I strive to create someday. It is a beautiful story about humankind, it is an adventure and a tale that takes you out of your world and into another.

The characters grab you and make you a part of their lives. I was shocked by some of the twists and had to talk to people about it even though they weren’t reading the book and had no clue what I was going on about.

It kept me awake late into the night because I could not put it down.

The Passage is the first book in the trilogy and I read it right before this one. It was really good and engrossing, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as this one. That being said, you have to read the first one to understand the second.

The third book, The City of Mirrors, is due to be published sometime in 2014. I cannot wait!

 

2.) The Lost City of Z by David Grann

I enjoyed every single word of this book. I love the era that it takes me back to, a time when people risked their lives to explore.

A time when the world wasn’t connected to everything by technology, when people could disappear and no one would know what truly happened to them. It amazes me to think that this wasn’t that long ago.

It fascinates me to read books like this that are recounting things that really happened. I am intrigued to learn about how people used to live, and how explorers did what they did.

Percy Fawcett may have disappeared, but his story lives on. You have got to admire a man who fights that hard for what he believes, even when most people think that he is crazy.

 

3.) Under the Dome by Stephen King

This book is 1074 pages, but it could have been 1000 pages more and I would have loved every second of it. I finished this in less than a week.

Stephen King is a master at creating characters. The good ones and bad ones. I hated the Rennies with every fiber of my being. I was planning ways for them to be tortured or killed. Or both.

That is talent. To be able to create fictional characters that people feel so strongly about is amazing. The good characters are soooooo good.

This book is a triumph. I will certainly read it again. It breaks your heart, makes you angry as hell, makes you laugh, makes you cry, and makes you think.

You are missing out if you don’t read this. Especially if you don’t read this and only watch the mini-series on television.

The series is fine, but it is a different story. It is missing some great characters and story lines. The book is an easy and fantastic read.

 

4.) The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

This book sucked me in. It is well written and enthralling. It is a great story and also reawakened a fondness for Chicago.

I enjoyed the history and architecture tidbits, like finding out how the Ferris Wheel was invented. I found that fascinating.

The parts about Holmes are horrifying, yet also intriguing. The idea that someone can be so well known among his neighbors and no one is aware of his being a serial killer is scary.

The tale of building the World’s Fair, even without the weaving in of the serial killer story, is suspenseful. The hurdles that had to be overcome were large and daunting.

Even knowing beforehand that the World’s Fair took place and wasn’t a huge failure, I was on edge reading this. It was so perfectly worded and paced that it read like a novel.

This non-fiction recount of a magical time in our past is a must-read.

 

5.) Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

If you don’t already follow HONY on a social media site, you should. Sure, there’s not a lot of reading to be done in this book, but it is a delight.

Stanton has a knack for getting people to share personal information and capturing beautiful moments in his pictures. This book isn’t so much about people in a specific location as it is about humankind in general.

This book is great for making you smile or lifting your spirit. Open it up to any page and what you see there will make your day that much better.

I enjoy this book so much that I sent a thank you to Stanton.

 

6.) Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost

I love everything by J. Maarten Troost. He’s one of the most entertaining and hilarious travel writers that I have ever read. I read Lost on Planet China years ago and it has stuck with me. I can still recall his descriptions of the pollution in the air vividly.

This time we find Troost in Vanuatu, among cannibals. His ensuing adventures are endearing and so very funny.

I have always felt that this man gets me. His introduction to this book in particular perfectly described how I was feeling about my own life at the time.

A great, self-deprecating author that I might possibly have a little crush on. Read his work. It’s highly entertaining.

 

7.) Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

This is only 80 pages long, but it is 80 pages of amazing. It is intelligent and uplifting.

If you create anything or consider yourself a dreamer, you should read this. I keep it close so that I can pick it up and feel understood.

Life can go wrong and when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art. I’m serious…. Make it on the good days too.

 

8.) The Green Mile by Stephen King

Yes, Stephen King is on here twice. I have always enjoyed his work, but what I’ve read this year of his makes me realize what a great writer King is.

I had seen this movie a few times and I know how much better the books always are. The Shining is a great example of this- the book is 100 times better than the movie. This book is no exception.

When I finished this, I had tears on my face and all I kept thinking was, “wow”. I may even have said it out loud.

Read it. And then read it again.

I learned a terrible thing: sometimes there is absolutely no difference at all between salvation and damnation.

 

9.) The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

The first thing I want to say is that if you think you don’t need to read this book because you saw the movie, think again.

The movie and the book are two completely different stories. The movie is great. The book is amazing.

This story is so real. Pat peoples is such a great character and a seriously wonderful person who was dealt a shitty hand. Some parts are so heartbreaking.

I love the ending, where he pushes aside his own feelings for a moment and is able to recognize what he has in front of him.

The therapist, Cliff, is such an awesome character in the book. He plays a much larger role than in the movie. He is truly great. The father is also a different character entirely in the book.

This is such fantastic writing and an earnest look at someone dealing with difficult situations.

 

10.) Looking for Alaska by John Green

You cannot go wrong with John Green. Everything he writes is golden. If this were a list of what I read from last year The Fault in Our Stars would be high on it.

This is a wonderful story. It is beautifully written and reads with ease. It made me laugh and cry.

Miles, the main character, is searching for his “Great Perhaps” and memorizes the last words of famous people.

This will make you think about your choices and how you live your life. I love this paragraph from the book:

There were so many of us who would have to live with things done and things left undone that day. Things that did not go right, things that seemed okay at the time because we could not see the future. If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.

 

11.) Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

From the beginning there was no question that Agnes was going to die, but I still found myself hoping that she would find reprieve.

This book is a dynamic story that has real characters (portrays people that actually lived, but also are written in a way that makes them human to the reader).

The setting is as much a character as any of the people. It’s a beautiful look at Iceland and a wonderful recount of history.

It makes you think about truth and how it can vary based on the person who tells it. It makes you think about innocence and justice.

Hannah Kent did a great job with her debut novel and I will definitely read her again.

 

12.) Everything Must Go by Elizabeth Flock

This is a beautifully written book. I was pleasantly surprised. I found it at the library and really didn’t expect much at the time. I had never read Elizabeth Flock or heard of this book.

This is the story of Henry, who is unremarkable, but wants to be remarkable. He is a man who made a mistake as a child that he cannot seem to outlive, and that his family won’t let him outlive.

I found it very easy to identify with Henry and his story. I also found it scary, how simple it was for him to stay in his rut, getting older and not even realizing.

We are left with a sense that maybe, just maybe, there will be a happy ending for him. But we don’t get to see it. We see the possible beginning of it.

Flock is a very talented author and I look forward to reading her other work. This one was certainly worth the read.