2013; A Reading Year in Review

At the beginning of 2013 I had promised myself ‘this year would be different’, I would be living in a new city and pulling apart the bubble in which I lived my life. Whilst it’s not gone entirely to plan I have dabbled, experienced, and learnt more this year – outside of my comfort zone – than I have before.

I may not have accomplished the life plan I envisioned, but boy has reading been magnificent! Much like 2012 I have discovered much, read old and new, encountered ACRs, and embraced more non-fiction than ever.

I have read 87 books this year, including two I couldn’t finish and not-including any poetry. That is 27 more books than last year and 32 more than the year before. I don’t expect to hit anywhere near this number in 2014, my unemployment being a major factor in such a high number of books read.


This year I gave 23 books a five-star rating on GoodReads, the same number as last year (freaky!). (In chronological order) they were:

  1. The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
    “This was no longer a great passion. Its pleasures were in its unhurried friendliness, the familiarity of it’s rituals and procedures, the secure, precision-fit of limbs and bodies, comfortable, like a cast returned to its mould.”
  2. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    The best piece of twisted fiction I have ever read, I even rank this above McEwen.
    “My lucky number is e.”
  3. Rebecca by  Daphne du Maurier
    I fell so far into this book I felt the anxiety of the protagonist, du Maurier’s writing being that powerful.
    “I was to marry the man I loved. I was to be Mrs de Winter. It was foolish to go on having that pain in the pit of my stomach when I was so happy. Nerves of Course.”
  4. Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
    You could never class be as either being fashionable or being much interested in fashion, apart from Coddington, who is possibly one of my most favourite of women.
  5.  Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    A stunning piece of literature, my absolute favourite book of the year.
    “The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
    When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.'”
  6. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
    An idealised portrayal of bucolic English life; wonderful without being saccharine.
    “He stood staring into the wood for a minute, then said: “What is it about the English countryside — why is the beauty so much more than visual? Why does it touch one so?”
    He sounded faintly sad. Perhaps he finds beauty saddening — I do myself sometimes. Once when I was quite little I asked father why this was and he explained that it was due to our knowledge of beauty’s evanescence, which reminds us that we ourselves shall die. Then he said I was probably too young to understand him; but I understood perfectly.”
  7. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
  8. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  9. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
  10. Maggie & Me: A Memoir by Damian Barr
    “The Grand Hotel survives. So does Maggie. So will I.”
  11. An Unquiet Mind: by Kay Redfield Jamison
  12. Fifty Shades of Feminism
    Everyone should read this book!
  13. My Brother My Sister by Molly Haskell
    “Rooted in the proverbial experience and the potent undercurrents of family, these propulsive forces of desire, rage, inhibition, and guilt affect the jobs we take (or don’t take, or fail at), the people we choose (or reject), our moods and memories. We’re constantly reminded of how often we act in certain ways contrary to our self-interest, or remember only what fits a chosen (or unchosen) scenario. Over and over again, we reenact patterns of behaviour and make perverse choices – older man, triangles, neediest cases, wounded or crazy or destructive partners – which fly in the face of reason and which e are ‘helpless’ to correct, and so which are hardly ‘choices’ at all.”
  14. The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie
  15. The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M. Davis
  16. Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
    Moving and beautifully written I see my sections of my religious childhood reflected in these pages.
    “I would cross seas and suffer sunstroke and give away all I have, but not for man, because they want to be the destroyer and never be destroyed. That is why they are unfit for romantic love. There are exceptions and I hope they are happy.”
  17. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  18. Straight White Male by John Niven
  19. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
    Naoki is the sweetest boy I could ever hope to read a book by (that sounds unintentionally patronising, but I mean it all the same).
    “Whenever I overhear someone remark how much I prefer being on my own, it makes me feel desperately lonely. It’s as if they’re deliberately giving me the cold-shoulder treatment.”
  20. Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn
  21. Just Kids by Patti Smith
    I have not the words to express how wondrous this book is.
    “We learned we wanted too much. We could only give from the perspective of who we were and what we had. Apart, we were able to see with even greater clarity that we didn’t want to be without each other.”
  22. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
  23. The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

Nothing this year has come close to replacing Parade’s End as my favourite book(s), not quite matching the intense feelings I experienced reading it. However, there have been so many enjoyable reads; I have read many books I would have previously avoided due to genre, and discovered so many interesting ones through joining NetGalley.

I don’t really have any ‘worst books of the year’ for 2013, mainly because if I wasn’t getting on with a book I decided to stop reading and not force myself through it. However, Orlando by Virginia Woolf and Is it Just Me by Miranda Hart, got my lowest rating on GoodReads, with the only one and two star ratings respectively.

Happy New Year, ofBooks readers, it’s been another swell year reading with you all.

What are you looking forward to reading in 2014?

14 thoughts on “2013; A Reading Year in Review

    1. Definitely! I’m reading my first non-fic of the year right now, although I think I’ll probably find most of my non-fic will be memoirs, which I feel is cheating a little bit.


  1. Like you, I loved Slaughterhouse Five, although I know others who haven’t been as caught up with it as we are. Go figure. 🙂

    As for what I’m looking forward to reading in 2014, I don’t know yet. I’m taking my reading as it comes…so we’ll see.


    1. I can’t imagine people not liking Slaughterhouse-Five, I feel it would be like meet an opposite. I think taking reading as it comes is the best plan, too much planning of my reading makes me not want to read.


  2. Happy new year, Alice! Whilst you might not be able to read as much this year, in reading so much last year you must’ve got through quite a bit of the pile which is good. It’s kind of nice when you don’t read anything to match your favourite. That sounds weird, I suppose, but at the same time it’s just nice to have a firm favourite.


    1. Happy New Year! I agree, sometimes it’s nice to know that you don’t love everything and have these special ones to keep close. I think the more I read the more I am able to discern.


  3. I’m looking forward to reading tons of nonfiction and journal articles and scholarly monographs in 2014! I finally have access to an academic library again after five and a half years without, and I love it and I want never ever ever to let it go. Wonderful wonderful academic libraries!


    1. Well that is quite the goal, it makes my non-fic sort-of-goal to read more seem pitiful, as I will no doubt cram it full of memoirs. I am jealous of your academic library access! Enjoy!


  4. Wonderful post, Alice! I hope you will discover even more in your reading in 2014. I really liked The Comfort of Strangers, so I’m definitely going to check out The Wasp Factory. Speaking of which, 2013 was a pretty shitty year with the passing of many great writers. Iain Banks’s was especially untimely.

    My goal for 2014 is simply to finish more books like I finish films but I think I need to be more specific to pull it off…


    1. Thanks, Melody! (I got your Christmas card btw and I have been meaning to email you and keep forgetting – thank you for it, I will respond eventually once the new year settles.)

      Loads of great writers passed last year, very sad 😦


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