I was going through my Manage Your Kindle (aka manage your reading habit) list just to remind myself of what I’d been reading this year. Quite a lot, but not everything meets my book-hog criteria of good writing and great storytelling: that page-turning quality that sweeps you in. Books I didn’t want to end. Many also packed interesting information into great stories and plots. Here is a list of novels I read in 2013 (not all of them published this year) that did that for me:
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. Though I don’t usually like druggies, Boris is my favorite character in quite a while. Art and the underworld.
Sycamore Row, John Grisham. I am a sucker for Grisham and Turow, who evidently practiced law just long enough to write entertainingly about the legal system. This novel continues the story of Grisham’s best, A Time to Kill.
The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert. This story went on, satisfyingly, through the entire lifetime of an odd and brilliant woman and brought in lots of intriguing information along the way. About … mosses.
The Burgess Boys and Olive Kitteredge, Elizabeth Strout. I don’t usually like short stories because they are, well, short. But Strout strings stories together so they become extremely satisfying novels.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler. Girl raised with chimp. Odd family.
Americanah, Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi. Nigerian émigré returns home. Those whole two worlds. Loved it.
The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud. Weird, obsessed main character with whom I strangely identified.
Life after Life, Kate Atkinson. Read anything by Kate Atkinson. Now.
A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki. Indescribable. Strange. Great.
The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson. Incredible but probably rather accurate portrayal of life in North Korea.
Quite a few memoirs also met my criteria of at least decent writing, good storytelling, and, usually, new information.
My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor. This is one great lady. I’m glad she’s made it to the Supreme Court.
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing, Anya von Bremzen. The author of one of my favorite cookbooks (Please to the Table) writes about 20th Century Russia through food.
A House in the Sky, Anna Lindhout and Sara Corbett. Kidnapped in Somalia. Need I say more?
A Fort of Nine Towers, an Afghan Family Story, Qais Akbar Omar. Title says it all.
Until I Say Good-bye: My Year of Living with Joy, Susan Spencer-Wendel and Brett Witter. Most of this was written with a thumb on an iPhone. First-person account of ALS, Lou Gerig’s Disease.
Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head, Jen Larsen. Title says it all.
Shouting Won’t Help: Why I–and 50 Million Other Americans–Can’t Hear You, Katherine Bouton. Because I have age-related hearing impairment I think everybody should read this.
After Visiting Friends, A Son’s Story, Michael Hainey. A personal mystery, set in a city I know well, Chicago.
And finally, two straight nonfiction books that also made the cut for me:
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo. Incredible storytelling backed up by long, meticulous research.
The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, Margalit Fox. One of those page-turners that some science writers are smart enough to write. About deciphering Linear B, the earliest Greek script.
What did you read this year that might feed my story habit? Recommendations, please!