End of the year retrospective in list form? Hell, why not—everyone else is doing it and I feel left out. But a list of what? Top 5 Best Breaths Inhaled During 2013? Top 5 Attempt to Cook Dinner (That Didn’t Result in Setting the Kitchen on Fire)? Top 5 Epic Faceplants (From Tripping Over My Own Feet)? Or the Top 5 ‘Oh Shit’ Moments (Snicker If You Must)?
No, self, no. I’m all about the words after all, and while I could count down the Top 5 Works I’ve Written in 2013, no one else would know what the hell I’m talking about, so I went with the next best thing.
These, my friends, are my Top 5 Reads of 2013. They are not necessarily new releases—in fact, only two debuted during the past year. But they’re the books I read and loved, the ones that struck a chord and will stay with me forever, in my memory, in my gut, and in my library.
So now, in no particular order and without a drumroll…
Cari’s Top 5 Reads of 2013
1. Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
This is one of those ‘question everything, think for yourself, and question everything again’ books, but Letters to a Young Contrarian surpass anything I’ve read in the genre. I can’t really describe the effect—a sucker punch, perhaps—but the book definitely makes an impact, and I’m of the opinion it should be mandatory reading. Not for teenagers who are naturally rebellious, I don’t think most teenagers have the maturity to truly absorb the work, but mandatory reading for adults who have achieved the full ability to think critically (even if they choose not to do so) and may have become complacent. Go. Read it now. It’s short; I’ll wait.
2. The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, Tessa Graton
My Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/560975040
Oh. Oh my word. I’m not one for anthologies but I am a helpless flailing Maggie Stiefvater fangirl, so I took a risk and read The Curiosities despite my usual aversion to compilations. One of the alluring aspects for us writerly types lies in the margin notes from all three authors, scribbles pointing out excellent bits and giving more technical opinions on the word play and writing itself. Many of these I found quite useful, while others I enjoyed in that “Hee! I heart snark!” kind of way. The best aspect, however, is the quality within these pages: the stories are sometimes polished, sometimes raw, but always of high quality. Do not be turned off by the idea you’re reading work from writers who write for the young adult/teen audiences, for these pieces transcend that and a few of the short stories will stick in your brain long past the time you’ve put the book back on the shelf. There are no forced happy endings; in fact there are very few truly happy endings and very few flat out unhappy endings. Bittersweet is the best way to describe the work within The Curiosities.
3. Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights by Liam Perrin
My Review: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17568126-sir-thomas-the-hesitant-and-the-table-of-less-valued-knights
Liam Perrin’s Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights was my Awesome Accidental Find of 2013. I first stumbled upon it thanks to the GoodReads giveaway page but was too late to enter the contest for an advanced copy. Thinking the cover simultaneously silly and adorable, I read the synopsis and thought it sounded cute, and when a day or two later I found myself a few dollars short of free shipping on Amazon, this became my “Hell, Why Not?” addition to the cart. No regrets. This is a fun read, one I completed relatively quickly thanks to a ‘reading when I should’ve been doing other productive adult things’ approach, and I happy sighed so hard at the end. Perrin is one of those self-published authors who are damn good but a reader must sort through the mountains of muck to find, and he is well worth the effort.
4. Fiend by Peter Stenson
My Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/664106799
Zombies. Meth heads. Meth heads fighting zombies. That’s all that remains in the world and, assuming you’re not one to clutch your pearls, it’s pretty fucking awesome. This is more literary than you might expect, certainly not of the same ilk as the churned out, burned out zombie crap that’s been flooding the market lately. Stenson’s writing style is a bit different but excellent for the story he’s telling, although I’ll admit that some quotation marks would’ve been nice. I don’t have anything to say on a literary critique level, only that I really enjoyed this and loved the ‘fuck that nonsense’ ending.
Okay, so a two-for-one entry is cheating but hear me out: I read one to better absorb the other. First came Jenny Boully’s work, a deeply weird and poetic version of J.M. Barrie’s classic story, much darker with threatening undertones running throughout. Boully’s writing style is eerie and beautiful and, unfortunately, rather difficult to follow unless you know the source material. I read not merely… the first time, understood it but didn’t really get it, and because I’m nothing if not an obsessive reader, I hopped online to order a copy of Peter and Wendy. (The original, not the Disney-fied, abridged for younger children version.) It came as a bit of a shock to me that I’d never read it before, Peter and Wendy is freakin’ classic lit for goodness sakes, so how did I miss it? That’s what I get for being uppity as a young’un and having a reading level far above my age. So I read Barrie’s original and was moved by it, by how shady it really is, how different from the Disney movie and the faint feeling of dread that permeates the text, tones one only picks up on as an adult. And then I went back and reread Boully’s novella and really got it, was in fact disturbed by it while simultaneously pretty damn impressed. These definitely stick out in my mind amongst the 77 books I read this past year, and in my memory they will be forever linked. Hence my two-for-one cheat.
Now go forth, my lovelies, and embark upon a new year. May 2014 treat you well!