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Favourite books of 2013

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Initial post: 3 Nov 2013 13:23:17 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Nov 2013 13:23:39 GMT
C. Rucroft says:
So all the Christmas stuff is out and, with less than two months to go till the big day, it got be thinking... What have been your best reads of 2013? And are there any that you were looking forward to but left you disappointed?

My favourite reads have been:

Gold by Chris Cleave - never read anything by him before and wasn't sure about this but I absolutely loved it.
What have I done? by Amanda Prowse - the writing was brilliant and the story had me gripped.
The storyteller by Jodi Picoult - you couldn't call this enjoyable due the subject matter but it's classic Picoult. Amazing.
The holiday home by Fern Britton - looked down on by some but was a great Summer read.
Just what kind of mother are you? by Paula Daly - in my top 5 reads ever.
Just brilliant and I can't wait for her next one.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - just left me feeling like an idiot for not reading his work sooner. Incredible.


Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley - expected to be shocked and was left bored.
Alys, Always by Harriet Lane - all the positive reviews made me think I was going to be blown away. I was left with the weirdest, dullest book ever.
My Husband Next Door by Catherine Alliott - my favourite author seems to have gone totally off the boil.

Posted on 4 Nov 2013 18:54:58 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Nov 2013 18:55:07 GMT
Command and Control, by Eric 'Fast Food Nation' Schlosser. Fascinating stuff.
Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Ron Rash.

Lion Heart, by Justin Cartwright. Pathetic.
The Divine Comedy, by Craig Raine. Worse.

Posted on 5 Nov 2013 20:23:57 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Nov 2013 20:26:20 GMT
monica says:
Oh C. Rucroft you were waiting quietly until someone took pity on a thread with a good idea that wasn't gathering posts, weren't you?

Particularly memorable ones so far:

Hong Kong: Front Door / Back Door: The most gorgeous photography book I have
Ananios of Kleitor The most consistently funny book I've ever read
Rupert: A Confession
At Home: An Anthropology of Domestic Space (Space, Place & Society) (Space, Place, and Society) Because besides being good it sparked an interest in domestic anthropology
Justice Undone (Shad Thames Books)
Fra Keeler
Sailor from Gibraltar (Oneworld Modern Classics)
Death In Spring
The Green Paradise: 1900-16 v. 1: An Autobiography
Custom House of Desire: A Half Century of Surrealist Stories
Windows in Art, Masters
The Life of Christ in Woodcuts, Reid
New Engineering, Yuichi Yokoyama

Got a bit carried away, there. Stinkers I'd expected more from:

The Winner Stands Alone, Coelho--I'd thought Coelho was one of the many serious literary writers from Latin American I'd never read. He *isn't*. Well, he's from Latin America but otherwise now I've read him, he can't be taken seriously, he's not literary, and he's certainly not a writer.

Seven Years, Stamm

The Hireling, Hartley

Skin Lane, Bartlett

Defining Moments in Books, Daniel--Hey, I know, we'll round up everyone we've ever met and ask them to choose a literary defining moment. But we gotta make sure that they know they can choose any booky thing they feel like writing about--it doesn't matter coz no matter what it is we'll call it a defining moment & then it'll seem important.

The Outermost Dream, Wm Maxwell

edit: amazon will allow only 10 'product' links in a post

Posted on 5 Nov 2013 21:32:55 GMT
gille liath says:
It hasn't been a vintage year, but books I haven't immediately wanted to throw out the window include:
Through Jaguar Eyes - Benedict Allen
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
A Study of History - Arnold Toynbee
Life of Robert Burns - Catherine Carswell
Journeyman - Ewan McColl
Growth of the Soil - Knut Hamsun (actually a forum recommendation, this!)
Selected Letters - DH Lawrence
Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales - ed. Alison Lurie

Hoped for more from The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold - an early example of the high concept novel by Evelyn Waugh - and the book I just finished, Power of the Dead by Henry Williamson. I convinced myself it looked interesting but was just same old, same old - still, only cost me 50p.

Monica, I was embarrassed last year by the gift of a Coelho book. It seems to be a sort of underground cult, like Scientology or something...

Posted on 6 Nov 2013 12:07:00 GMT
VCBF (Val) says:
The Slaves of Solitude and Hangover Square: A Story of Darkest Earl's Court (Penguin Modern Classics), both by Patrick Hamilton, an author I had not read before.
The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War, an interesting view of writers and the London Blitz.
Auto Da Fé, an odd book, not five stars but definitely memorable.
Of Human Bondage (Vintage Classics).
HHhH and Mendelssohn is on the Roof make a memorable pair.

A Tale for the Time Being, apologies to those who loved it. I enjoyed several of the books on the Booker shortlist; none were that memorable but I'm singling this one out as most forgettable.
Gone Girl, write out 1,000 times: "I must not pay attention to hype, unless I enjoy being disappointed by books".
Save Me The Waltz (Vintage Classics), now I know what people mean when they describe books as overwritten. The author must have put a lot of effort into every word in every sentence, but unfortunately it does not come together to make up a half-way decent novel.
A Bright and Guilty Place: Murder in L.A.. The best bits are the quotes from Raymond Chandler's novels. There aren't enough of them.
Nancy: The Story of Lady Astor. Why write a new biography and leave out most of the information in the earlier ones? I mean WHY? What is the point?

I wish I could forget:
The Mosquito Coast, still irritating me six months after reading it.

...and I'm glad I'm not the only person underwhelmed by Paolo Coelho. I like the scientology comparison.

Posted on 6 Nov 2013 14:36:12 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Nov 2013 14:38:12 GMT
I Readalot says:
Haven't been particularly disappointed by any this year but favourites include:

Fobbit - David Abrams
Maddaddam - Margaret Atwood
The Infatuations - Javier Marias
The Return - Roberto Bolano
Salvation of a Saint - Keigo Higashino
Marina - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Night Film - Marisha Pessl
Alex - Pierre Lemaitre
The Kills - Richard House

Just noticed that most of them were originally published in languages other than English.

And I add my voice to those who can't see the appeal of Coelho. In one of his many articles (published in Between Parentheses) following Coelho getting the vacant chair to the Brazilian Academy for popularising the Brazilian language Roberto Bolano calls him 'a kind of soap opera Rio witchdoctor version of Barbusse and Anatole France before questioning how Coelho could have popularised the language across the world as basically most readers read the books in anything but Brazilian and also has a go at his lack of vocabulary.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 17:14:10 GMT
i think light by michael grant is good, and although it was out some years ago, the hunger games catching fire with the new film cover is quite good

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 19:48:13 GMT
gille liath says:
Is there a Brazilian language? I thought they spoke Portuguese.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 20:05:33 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Nov 2013 20:09:33 GMT
I Readalot says:
Good point, possibly they have their own version of Portuguese. Anyway, that is why he was honoured. I think Bolano was having one of his many digs at the establishment for rewarding a popular novelist rather than one of the great writers. He wasn't a fan of Isabelle Allende either.

The idiot negger is about again, obviously someone who believes that a discussion involving literature has no place in this forum. At first I wondered if it was just the Coelho detractors but then noticed just about all the posts have them including the OP.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 20:10:30 GMT
gille liath says:
I suppose it's the same way John Wayne used to speak 'Amurrcan'.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 20:18:56 GMT
monica says:
Nah, you're thinking of a cosmetic waxing dialect.

I am stunned to hear Coelho got any sort of academy chair. Standard issue product from airport bookshop. What struck me was that the writing itself was okay--his style was smooth most of the time--but he's as thick as two planks--you can tell that by what he sees fit to include, where he includes it (a wiki-like page on wine during a murderous encounter e.g.), and what he thinks profound & original (our concerns can seem petty when we look below us from a plane).

Val, you wouldn't explain what you say re Mosquito Coast . . .?

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 21:07:02 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Nov 2013 21:08:25 GMT
gille liath says:
Two, in fact: Brazilian and Hollywood.

(Well, you started it!)

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 21:29:19 GMT
I Readalot says:
I read The Alchemist about 5-6 years ago and I must have thought it was okay (can't remember a thing about it now) as I also read Veronica Decides to Die, then to my shame attempted a third - can't remember which one - I gave up on it quite quickly. He seems to be particularly popular with those who have bought into 'The Secret' and other ask the universe for what you want kind of books.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 21:59:43 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Nov 2013 22:00:27 GMT
monica says:
Once again, I'm surprised that he's ever been regarded as anything other than airport thicko/beach bimbo reading. Implied compliment there, inasmuch as I shouldn't think you'd bother picking up 3 books by a writer of such stuff and an overt compliment for 'ask the universe for what you want kind of books'.

gille liath, if there's such a thing as a Hollywood waxing job I don't want to know what it is. I can't get my head around high heels, never mind that. As it is I'm trying to rid myself of the image of a would-be starlet with a supra-pubic tattoo whose inscription features words containing 'ao' with appropriate & no doubt painfully applied tildes.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 22:21:03 GMT
gille liath says:
Doesn't sound like John Wayne to me. But okay: if you don't wanna know, I won't tell you...

Posted on 6 Nov 2013 22:22:18 GMT
I agree about Coelho too. When I did my year in Spain and was reading anything I could get my hands on, I read The Alchemist, which I thought was ok, but I read Veronika Decides To Die, which I really liked. When I came home, I bought a bunch of books that were going cheap in Fopp (I should have known then!) and Read The Devil and Miss Prym and I Sat By The River Piedra And Wept. And I really don't know how I managed to finish either of them, I think I thought that I should enjoy them because he is so popular. I have learned my lesson!

As for books I have read this year, I have not read a book that will be in my top ten favourite books ever, and I do hope that I read a few more stunners in the next 2 months, but so far I have enjoyed:
* The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith / JK Rowling. Happy that I enjoyed this after not being able to finish The Casual Vacancy last year. I prefer a good whodunnit to a political and social commentary.
* Phantom and Police by Jo Nesbo - I love his books, Phantom nearly had my crying on a train at the cliffhanger!
* Wonder by RJ Palacio - beautiful book
* The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan - very hard and thought provoking read
* Whit by Iain Banks - I have discovered him a bit late, but of the 4 of his books I have read this year, I have enjoyed this one the most
* The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell. She can do no wrong in my eyes.

Most disappointing for me have been:
* The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood - I hated all of the characters, and thought it was really dull
* The Ocean At The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman - I love him, but this book just did not live up to all the hyperbolic hype it received, and I believed. Still beautifully written and an interesting idea but it just didn't seem to be long enough or contain enough flesh to be a proper novel for me.
* The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters - Fingersmith is one of my top ten books ever, but this novel was just a little slow moving for my tastes. Eagerly anticipating her next book though.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 23:03:18 GMT
I Readalot says:
Yea, picked up 3 before I learned my lesson, seem to have had a similar experience to Karen really. We definitely aren't selling as many of his books now and it is mainly his earlier titles particularly Alchemist and Pilgrimage.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2013 12:26:31 GMT
VCBF (Val) says:
"Mosquito Coast" has some good ideas for a story: appropriate development against that imposed from outside, utopian dreams versus practical solutions, etc. Unfortunately it was ruined by the author making the father too bonkers from the start instead of have him slowly become more delusional. Nobody with an ability to think would follow that lunatic down the road to the local hardware store, let alone into a jungle. Any message the author might have been trying to put across gets lost in the ridiculous, irrational, hyperbolic behaviour of Allie Fox.
Sometimes over-exaggeration can be funny, this isn't.

Posted on 9 Nov 2013 09:32:24 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Nov 2013 09:34:21 GMT
Always liked The Mosquito Coast - novel and film. I think it deals with the 'return to paradise' theme more realistically (and therefore better) than Lord of the Flies. Apparently the inspiration behind it was the Reverend Jim Jones, with a dash of VS Naipaul for Allie's personality.

When Theroux hit an inspired streak during the novel's creation, he would live every day almost exactly the same for weeks on end - right down to the same brand of fish fingers for lunch.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Nov 2013 11:52:03 GMT
monica says:
Did Theroux actually say that it was based on Jones? Asking because this is something I've googled fruitlessly before; Mosquito Coast seems so reminiscent of Jan Little's story (The Survival of Jan Little, also issued under Survive!). She & her daughter settled in Brazilian wilderness with a rather enigmatic man who at first seemed reasonable and competent but gradually became domineering & as I remember delusional, and Little had in the end to make her own way out of the jungle.

Posted on 9 Nov 2013 21:53:36 GMT
Last edited by the author on 10 Nov 2013 22:53:23 GMT
He did, Monica, in Sir Vidia's Shadow. Someone he knew (Shiva Naipaul) had covered Jones in a non-fiction book, and the idea of a lethally flawed messiah settled in his imagination.

Millroy the Magician is a variation on the same theme, but the central character is as nice as Allie was nasty.

Posted on 9 Nov 2013 22:31:46 GMT
Chris says:
Reading Mosquito Coast I was nodding my head and thinking this guy's alright, I like him. Wish I could have liked him all the way to the end.

Posted on 12 Nov 2013 00:21:05 GMT
Den says:
Excellent Books i've read this year
The Keep of Lost Causes - Jussi Adler-olsen
The Snowman - Jo Nesbo
Me Before You - Jojo Moyes (All time fav list)

Good books i've read this year:
The Outlander - Gil Adamson
The Expats - Chris Pavone

Some not bad but forgettable books:
A Sense of ending - Julian Barnes
News where you are - Catherine O'Flynn

Books i wish i hadn't bothered with:
Skios: A novel - Michael Frayn
Inferno - Dan Brown
Echo Burning - Lee Child

For the record, Mosquito Coast blew me away when i read it, however that was 20 years ago, i would probably not enjoy it so much now, Dr Slaughter (Theroux) was also a very good book.


Posted on 13 Nov 2013 15:43:55 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Nov 2013 15:44:32 GMT
Frank Mundo says:
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot diaz
12 Years a Slave: A True Story of Betrayal, Kidnap and Slavery (Hesperus Classics) by Solomon Northup
Even though it's made the worst book list by a few people, I liked The Road by Cormac McCarthy -- although maybe it wasn't this year I read but 2012. Not sure.
Black Crow White Lie by Candi Sary

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Nov 2013 21:55:56 GMT
I Readalot says:
Den, was a bit confused with the title of the Adler-Olsen book as I didn't recognise it, makes sense now, it was published in the UK with the title 'Mercy'!
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Discussion in:  fiction discussion forum
Participants:  13
Total posts:  33
Initial post:  3 Nov 2013
Latest post:  21 Nov 2013

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