As 2013 draws to an end with all its ups and down I have for the second year written down each and every book I have read over the year. This morning I looked back at the 92 books I have read over the course of 2013 (yes I know I am addicted to books but there are worse addictions to have) and picked my top twelve of the year. So roughly in the order they were read here is my pick of books for 2013.
1. The Memory Cage – Ruth Eastham
Read this book with my daughter namesake of the author. It is about a Serbian boy who has been adopted by an English family. He has terrible memories of the Serbian War and what happened to his family but tries to keep these to the back of his mind. His adopted Grandfather has Alzheimer’s and the wee boy creates a scrap-book about the 2WW to keep his Grandfather’s memory alive. In doing so family secrets are brought to life as are the wee boy’s painful memories. But this brings healing for all in due course. Ruth and I loved it. I personally loved the special relationship between the boy and his Grandfather.
2. Land of Decoration – Grace Maclean
This is a book by a debut author. It is very good though also very disturbing. The story centres round a wee girl in a Welsh mining village whose mother died in childbirth. Her father is part of a Christian cult and the daughter is totally immersed in this too and is bullied at school as a result. So she develops the belief that she can perform miracles to sort the bullies out but it all goes very badly wrong.
3. Silver Dark Sea – Susan Fletcher
I really like Susan Fletcher as an author. This book is set on a fictional Scottish island which had immediate appeal. It is about a man who is washed up at sea but is still alive. Once well his presence on the island changes lives and mends people. The islanders wonder if he is the mythical fisherman who resides for a while on the island before losing his legs to the sea once more. Is he?
4. The fault in our stars – John Green
This is in many of the top reads of 2013 so was thought carefully before adding it to the list. But it deserves a place not least it took my out of my comfort zone. Here is what I wrote about the book in my book journal
” A hard read. A funny read. A read that makes you think. For a parent a hard read about teenagers with cancer how they handle that and their relationships with their parents and each other. A read that will make you cry but also is so positive.”
5. Light between two Oceans – M Steedman
This was a book bought when I found myself at the hairdressers without a book so bought in a well-known newsagent. Then lost the next 24 hours to reading it. It is a fantastic book about a couple living on a remote island off the New Zealand. The couple have just lost baby after baby in succession when a boat comes to shore with a dead man and a baby who is still alive. Against the husband’s judgement they keep the baby which has consequences for not just the couple. Loved this novel it was so beautifully written and a compelling story which gave you insight into each and every character.
6. Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure – Joanne Harris
The final in the Chocolat series I loved the first book struggled with the second but the third was as good if not better than the first. It is a wonderful book truly a joy from start to finish. Beautiful and inviting yet some dark characters. Twists and turns. Rural France . Just perfect loved it.
7. Island Wife – Judy Fairbairn
My only non fiction of the list though it read as fiction and I read it in one sitting. About an English family who sink all their life savings into an Estate in Mull. About their growing family how they make ends meat and about Grannie at the gate. Special.
8. Garden of Evening of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng
This was the Sir Walter Scott prize for 2013 given at the Scottish Borders Book Festival. A beautiful book about a Malaysian prisoner of war who survives the war in a Japanese war camp but her sister doesn’t. She wants to build a Japanese garden in her sister’s memory and approaches the ex gardener of the Japanese emperor who now lives in Malaysia. In doing so there is healing but also more pain.
9. One Man and his Dog – Eva Ibbotson
This is a book I read with my son though I have read the majority though not all of her books with my daughter. Eva sadly died a few years ago and this is her last book. It’s about a boy whose mum and dad are time poor but wealthy and the boy wants for nothing. Yet wants for everything and wants a dog. His parents hire a dog for a weekend though the boy thinks it’s for keeps. When he learns the truth he and the boy run away. Wonderful book that money doesn’t buy happiness and also that dogs are important in life!
10. After Flodden – Rosemary Goring
I live not far from Flodden and to my shame have never been and till I read this book and heard the author speak at our local bookshop Mainstreet Trading I knew the basics. This is a fictional account of what happened after the battle and much of it is set in the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh. Read and immerse yourself in this period of history and find yourself back in the time of the Reivers. Compelling writing that draws you into the story and also made me think of current day politics. If England had and they could have attacked Edinburgh post battle they would have walked right in and history today would be very different.
11. A tale for the time being – Ruth Ozeki
This was a book recommended by my friends at Mainstreet and I struggled twice to get into the book. Confess was on the point of giving up when I made a break through got through the first couple of chapters and away I was. Mesmerizing and very clever. It is about a woman who lives on an Island in Vancouver. She finds a diary of a Japanese girl washed up on the shore. The diary makes compelling reading but it is also leading up to the Tsunami. Does the girl survive and her parents and her newly found grandmother?
12. Entry Island – Peter May
I am a great Peter May fan and again have heard the author in person and often tweet with him. I re-read his Lewis books again for the third time this year and will no doubt do so again. One of my favourite days of the summer was taking the route of Fin the main character from Harris right the way down the Uists to Eriskay to the church where the altar is built from a boat and Prince Charlie’s beach where much of the story of Lewis Man takes place.
I have been looking forward to the new book all year now that the Lewis Man series is at an end. As I knew from Peter May that this one was set in Lewis and Harris and also Canada. I have great affection for both places so was looking forward to the book and confess that as I did with Chess Men I downloaded it on my kindle at full price. Entry Island does not disappoint and I read it as I always do with Peter May’s books far too quickly so look forward to reading it more slowly second time round. And I am delighted that I have bought the hardback as a present for my friend in Canada who also eagerly waits for the next book.
My favourite 12 books of the year. Reflecting this morning with my husband on my final chosen list we laughed that there was a common theme running through many of the books. That of Islands which reflects our 2013 year as we ourselves fell deeper in love with the Hebrides and with Harris in particular. We always have loved islands as children and especially since we have been together and its one of those dreams we have which this year has not left since returning from the Hebrides in July. Last night I dreamt yet again of the MV Hebrides sailing into Tarbet. I am drawn to books about islands as I am drawn to islands. https://fionadranesblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/a-life-long-obsession-with-scottish-islands-and-cal-mac-ferries/
There has also been a theme about relationships particularly those of older folks with children and this again has touched me as this year we sadly lost a lady who was like a Grandmother to my sister and I and even last week a to let sign reminded me of yet another older lady who touched my childhood. So perhaps books reflect your life in the current as well as the past. https://fionadranesblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/time-goes-by-so-quickly/ and https://fionadranesblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/mrs-hamiltons-flat-is-for-let/
Finally although the above books were my top choice of 2013 six books nearly made the grade so thought they were worth noting.
1. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
2. Capital – John Lanchester
3. Pets alive or dead – Marina Lewaka
4. Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriary
5. The Fall – Charity Norman
6. Accidental Apprentice – Victor Swarup
This list is personal to me but I hope it inspires you to read one or two on the list. As I move into 2014 I know it’s a new year with new challenges and opportunities and a whole year of new books can I break the 100 barrier next year? Who knows. Happy New Year one and all and HAPPY READING.