My Top Five Books of the Year Through June (2013)

5 favorites

I’ve read lots of pleasant books this year, books that were well-written, compelling stories with believable characters. But I haven’t read many books that changed my world like I did last year. Nothing that is on the same level as Excellent Women, Death Comes for the Archbishop or The Song of Achilles. Therefore, I found it hard to choose my top five books of the year so far because everything I’ve read has been about on the same level of excellence – everything really good, but not earth shattering for me. So,after much thought and debate, I’ve chosen the following five as my favorites through June. A nice surprise is that I read two of them for my book club.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson“The writing in Life After Life is quite beautiful, the kind of writing that gets to your heart and  makes you think and ponder the purpose of life and the nature of human behavior. I really loved the setting and the time period (England and the early twentieth century) and was mesmerized by the scenes set during the London bombings during World War II. I worried about how Atkinson would finish the novel, but the ending is perfect and complete.”

The Innocents by Francesca Segal ” Francesca Segal has done a marvelous job of transforming Wharton’s tale into a 21st century story of duty vs. desire. The setting is brilliant and utterly fascinating and the characters are all complex and sympathetic.”

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett “I think Ann Patchett created a quiet masterpiece with State of Wonder. I enjoyed it, engaged with it and was emotionally affected by the story more than I have been by a novel in a while. Her writing is understated yet gorgeous and she doesn’t judge her characters – she tells their story and leaves the interpretation to the reader.”

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles “The two best things about this novel are the setting and Katey. Towles conjures the allure of the city with his vibrant descriptions of the buildings, the streets, the nightlife, the energy and bustle. Katey is described with the same enthusiasm. She is smart, funny, clever, sassy and self-reflective. It is a joy to watch her make her way in the world and discover who she wants to be and how she wants to live. She narrates the story and her voice is completely endearing and authentic.”

The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford“Jean Stafford is a vivid storyteller who shows an utter lack of sympathy for her characters that I found disconcerting, but refreshing. Their weakness and folly is harshly paraded before us yet I understood and liked them the better for it. The confusion, bitterness and yearning of adolescence is painfully depicted so that we can identify with Ralph and Molly though we may not want to be in the same room with them.”

These are my five favorites of the 30 books I read during the first half of the year. I can’t wait to discover my favorites of the second half of 2013.

What are your favorites books of 2013 (so far)? Do you have any exciting plans for the weekend?

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Mini Thoughts on Recent Reads #3

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The Innocents by Francesca Segal – I was reluctant to read this novel because it is an updated version of The Age of Innocence, one of my very favorite books. This contemporary version of Edith Wharton’s classic Pulitzer Prize winning book takes place in northwest London in a tight knit and loyal Jewish community. Adam Newman is on the brink of marrying his childhood sweetheart, Rachel, when Rachel’s cousin Ellie, a stunning American model, returns to the family and subtly intrigues and entices him. She is a startling contrast to the unadventurous and clingy Rachel and Adam wrestles with his conscience as he slowly gravitates toward Ellie. Francesca Segal has done a marvelous job of transforming Wharton’s tale into a 21st century story of duty vs. desire. The setting is brilliant and utterly fascinating and the characters are all complex and sympathetic. The Age of Innocence flickers through this lovely novel, but it is definitely a strong book of its own.

Every Day by David Levithan – A wakes up every day in the body of a different teen. One day he wakes up in the body of Justin, a gruff and mean 16-year-old who mistreats his beautiful girlfriend Rhiannon. A spends the day with her and falls in love – but the next day he leaves her and wakes up as someone else. The rest of the novel finds A trying to connect with Rhiannon through different people and changing their lives in the process. It is a very clever premise for a book and I admit that I raced through the novel, anxious to know if A would ever escape limbo and find a body of his own. However, many of the characters (particularly the fat boy and the black girl) were stereotypes and treated with disrespect by the author. Levithan also has a obvious agenda for his novel, one that may aggravate some readers with its strong tang.

I still haven’t found a rhythm for my blogging this year, but that may change soon. My cousin and best friend, who is also my roommate, is moving to Colorado in a few days and, though I am terribly sad, I am trying to see the positive aspects of living on my own again. One of them is that I will have lots of time in the evenings to read, blog and comment on your blogs. I might have to cry on your shoulder for a while – I hope you will bear with me!

Have a beautiful week!