The Year in Books, 2013

It turns out that a crazy year in life makes for a good year in books.  I spent a week in the hospital, a couple of months on bed rest, sold our house twice (long story), had a baby, packed up and moved two weeks after giving birth, moved again a few weeks after that, went to the beach (twice), celebrated my tenth wedding anniversary, had a very strong year professionally, threw some parties, and read 145 books.  Not bad for 365 days.

The 145 books span lots of genres, but I didn’t count books read out loud to the kids (which would make for a bigger total, but you have to draw the line somewhere).  I also edited four full-length books this year, but didn’t count those since two of them haven’t been published yet and I haven’t read the final published versions of the other two yet.  I don’t set reading goals, for the same reason that I don’t set goals about how often I want to breathe per minute.  Now if only I could get some other good habits to be so easily automated!

Of the 145, a few stood out as superlative.  Links are to my longer reviews, and links to the quarter round-ups are below that in case you want snippets of the whole set.

Best Fiction

  • Wolf Hall* – Completely amazing, award winning historical fiction about the Tudor era.
  • The Distant Hours–This well-structured, well-researched historical/mystery/family drama would be an excellent choice if you only have time for one novel.  I loved the pacing and the way the author combined historical fiction and the theme of mother/daughter/sister relationships with a mystery. 

Most Thought Provoking/Life Changing

  • To Change the World – a UVA professor’s excellent treatise on what it really requires to change a culture, and how to have an impact on the world.
  • Sabbath – Nuanced, deeply thoughtful exploration of the meaning of Sabbath (not superficial rule keeping or indifference, in case you were wondering).  Highly recommended.
  • A Circle of Quiet–This is my new favorite book on life, work/motherhood/life balance, and writing. Highly recommended.
  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art–If you’re a Christian and an artist of any kind, especially if you’re a writer, you have to read this book.  Seriously.  Go get it now.  The reflections on taking time to just be are incredibly helpful. 
  • Bittersweet – I’m not sure how to characterize this exceptional book, since it’s about writing but just as much or more about life and difficulty and faith and relationships and parenting and identity and tons of other things.  Quite possibly relevant to everyone, whether or not you’re a writer (or a parent, or a foodie, etc).
  • Imagining the Kingdom* –  An incredible book on how character is formed through stories and liturgy (both secular and religious).  Possibly the best book I’ve read all year.
  • Desiring the Kingdom* – Tied with the book above for best book of 2013, this one technically comes first, and talks about habits and character and liturgies through the lens of understanding how our definitions of the good life impact who we are.  Phenomenal.  Do not miss these two books.

Best Food-Related

Best Education/Parenting

For similarly short reviews of the rest of the books I read in 2013, check out:
The 36 books of the first quarter
The 61 books of the second quarter
The 23 books of the third quarter
The 25 books of the fourth quarter
Thank you so much for reading A Spirited Mind, and to everyone who clicks through to Amazon from my affiliate links.  And thank you for your thoughtful comments, emails, and messages throughout the year.  Here’s to a great year of reading in 2014!

What were the best books you read in 2013?  What’s on your list for next year?

7 thoughts on “The Year in Books, 2013

  1. Wow! I had a rough year, but it didn’t make me read more. Maybe in the future that will happen 🙂

    I love this list. I’ve read several of these, but am putting the others at the top of my list!

    I read The Distant Hours per yer recommendation and loved it.. I just started Wolf Hall on audio. I’m wondering if it isn’t the best format as I feel a little lost right now. I’m hoping that I just need to further into it (just started). I’m thinking of switching to book format though. I love that time period and since Brian studies that heavily right now, I really want to read it.
    Johanna recently posted..Books Read in 2013

    1. Definitely switch over,right away! I would say Wolf Hall is absolutely one that needs to be read in book form, not listened to, because it’s so complex. When you’re reading it, it’s much easier to keep track of the characters and also to appreciate the amazing way Mantel writes.

  2. I just wanted to say that I look forward to your reviews and a lot of what I read comes from your recommendations! 🙂 One of my faves from last year is Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber. Such a beautiful story of finding her faith in Jesus.
    Catie recently posted..Update

  3. As always, thanks for your reviews!!! I get lots of great recommendations from you and am looking forward to the reading year ahead! (already started on an awesome book — “a million little things” — you may have recommended it. I can’t remember…)
    Heather L. recently posted..Mondays are for Grace

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