My Favorite Books of 2013


If it’s December, that means it’s time for the annual ritual of making “best of” lists. Well, I didn’t read all the books published this year (and neither did anyone else, for that matter), so I call my list “My Favorite Books of 2013 (as you’ve no doubt noticed above). There were so many great books published this year (more than any previous year?), that I couldn’t even get to all the books I wanted to read. I bought a ton of books and now have the largest “to read” stack of my long life. So I’ve listed the 23 books I really enjoyed and/or was impressed by, and created a supplemental list of books that have received great acclaim and, in most cases, which I have purchased and intend to read as soon as I’m able. Had I read more of the books in the second list, my list of favorites would obviously be different. I recommend each of my 20 favorites to you without reservation. If you’d like more information about a book, you can find reviews of several of them here, or you can use the usual sources for such information.


My 23 Favorite Books of 2013 (in loose order of preference)

The Light Between Oceans — M.L. Stedman

Nothing Gold Can Stay (stories) — Ron Rash

Bobcat and Other Stories — Rebecca Lee

You Are One of Them — Elliott Holt

Sparta — Roxana Robinson

The Golem and the Jinni — Helene Wecker

Burial Rites — Hannah Kent

The News from Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story — Joan Wickersham

News from Heaven (stories) — Jennifer Haigh

Kind of Kin — Rilla Askew

We Live in Water (stories) — Jess Walter

Mary Coin — Marisa Silver

The End of the Point — Elizabeth Graver

Flora — Gail Godwin

Flashes of War (stories) — Katey Schultz

Tenth of December (stories) — George Saunders

On Sal Mal Lane — Ru Freeman

Is This Tomorrow — Caroline Leavitt

The Rest of Us — Jessica Lott

Benediction — Kent Haruf

A Tale for the Time Being — Ruth Ozeki

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards — Kristopher Jansma

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia — Mohsin Hamid

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Books I’ve heard great things about, bought a copy of, and plan to read soon (in alphabetical order by author):

Americanah — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Cotton Tenants — James Agee

At Night We Walk in Circles — Daniel Alarcon

Life After Life — Kate Atkinson

Lexicon — Max Barry

The Wonder Bread Summer — Jessica Anya Blau

We Need New Names — NoViolet Bulawayo

The Light of the World — James Lee Burke

The Luminaries — Eleanor Catton

Southern Cross the Dog — Bill Cheng

The Narrow Road to the Deep North — Richard Flanagan (Australia only)

The Tilted World — Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

Songs of Willow Frost — Jamie Ford

We Are Completely Beside Ourselves — Karen Joy Fowler

Schroder — Amity Gaige

The Signature of All Things — Elizabeth Gilbert

Stop Here — Beverly Gologorsky

Tinderbox — Lisa Gornick

Local Souls — Allan Gurganus

Enon — Paul Harding

This is Paradise (stories) — Kristiana Kahakauwila

The Daughters of Mars — Thomas Keneally

The Flamethrowers — Rachel Kushner

We Are Water — Wally Lamb

A Marker to Measure Drift — Alexander Maksik

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena — Anthony Marra

The Good Lord Bird — James McBride

The Woman Upstairs — Claire Messud

The Son — Philipp Meyer

The Death of Bees — Lisa O’Donnell

Happiness, Like Water (stories) — Chinelo Okparanta

Amity & Sorrow — Peggy Riley

Hemingway’s Girl — Erika Robuck

The Peripatetic Coffin (stories) — Ethan Rutherford

Ghana Must Go — Taiye Selasi

The Celestials — Karen Shepard

Fools (stories) — Joan Silber

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots — Jessica Sofer

The Engagements — J. Courtney Sullivan

The Goldfinch — Donna Tartt

Men We Reaped — Jesmyn Ward

Eyrie — Tim Winton (Australia only)

The Interestings — Meg Wolitzer

Man Alive! — Mary Kay Zuravleff




  1. GREAT list – I’m cross-referencing this with my Goodreads lists right now. Thank you! Glad I’m in the “to read” pile!


    • Thanks Katey. Flashes of War is at the top of the “to read” pile. Other books are trying to distract me, but I promised you, Helen Benedict, Beverly Gologorsky, and Roxana Robinson that I would read your books and write a piece on women writing about war. I finished Sparta last week and was mightily impressed. That is an important book and SO well-written.


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