It seems like an impossible task, considering the incredible books that we’ve been treated to in the past, but fiction seems to get better and better each year. 2013 was no exception. The Culturefly writers have narrowed down the exceptionally long list of novels to share their favourite books of the year with you.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Sophie Devlin
It’s been a busy year for Rainbow Rowell, who followed her 2011 debut Attachments with two books published in 2013: the hugely successful young adult romance Eleanor & Park in February, and then Fangirl, a fandom coming-of-age story published in September. In the real world Cath is an introverted eighteen-year-old dealing with social anxiety amid the massive upheaval of leaving home for the first time, but online she’s also a prolific writer of fan fiction set in the Harry Potter-esque Simon Snow universe. Fangirl is not only a funny and well-observed account of Internet fandom, but also a deeply moving story about becoming an adult, facing your fears, and negotiating real and complex relationships of all kinds.
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman – Clare Lowe
When it comes to Neil Gaiman’s novels, there’s very little to criticise. His 2013 novel debuted at number one on The New York Times Best Seller List and it’s a befitting accolade for the seasoned author. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was published in June and follows a man who returns to his hometown to attend a funeral only to get wrapped up in events that are decades old. The story is so good that Focus Features have acquired the film rights with Tom Hanks set to produce and Atonement’s Joe Wright in the director’s chair. This is one adaptation you won’t want to miss.
Heading Out To Wonderful by Robert Goolrick – Nell Young
Following on from his best-selling novel A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick’s Heading Out To Wonderful is a wholly believable tale that crafts basic human emotion with suspense and lust. It really is a book to be adored, with dark undertones and a feeling of being at one with the characters. Perhaps not the most complex book of the year but definitely one of the easiest to read, this novel is difficult to forget for all the right reasons.
Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett – Sue Sheard
I love the way Terry Pratchett writes and I love Discworld so there was never a doubt in my mind that, of all the new books I read this year, Raising Steam was going to be my favourite. With all its lovely footnotes and railway journeys, and its brief history to the advent of tourism and travel writers, it was a joy to read. The book cover is beautifully designed too, making it a fabulous gift for Christmas.
One Night In Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore – Natalie Xenos
Top of my list for the best books of 2013 would have to be Simon Sebag Montefiore’s One Night In Winter. An exquisitely well-thought out story, with a vivid, historical foundation and the power of humanity at its core, this is one of the most gripping and heartbreakingly tragic novels of the year. It’s a tale of survival and love in tough Soviet times and will stay with you for days after you turn that precious final page.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl – Amy Salter
Though not an instant literary classic, Pessl’s novel is certainly one the year’s most highly entertaining reads. For any film and literature buff, this book is a splendid mix of cinephilic craziness and psychological mind game. You’ll read it feverishly trying to mine all the clues, before suddenly coming to the end, when you’ll raise your head and wonder what the hell you just read.
Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch – Rosy Deacon
Fast-paced and utterly original, Aaronovitch’s supernatural crime series sees DC Peter Grant trying to bridge the gap between good old fashioned policing with the weird world of magic as he is trained by the last remaining wizard on the force – the mysterious Thomas Nightingale. The fourth book in the series, which uses London as a character in itself, sees the action relocate to the tower blocks of Elephant and Castle, where Peter must go undercover in order to work out how a strange suicide and an even stranger architect are somehow connected. It’s an inventive and imaginative work that will leave you desperate for the next installment.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes – Kim Evans
If you are equally enlivened by a description of a book that includes the words ‘time travelling serial killer’ as much as I am, you probably have The Shining Girls amongst your favourite books of the year as well. Simply for being the most gripping book I have come across in a long time, The Shining Girls was one of the most rewarding reads of the year, as well as the joy of reading something that includes and masters so many genres and ideas, and subverts them all.
Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green – Clare Lowe
Whilst technically not a standard novel, Katie Green’s graphic novel, Lighter Than My Shadow, is a culturally relevant and important debut that should be put up there with the seminal classics like Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Green’s skill is evident and her beautiful illustrations perfectly represent the anxiety felt throughout the novel. A deeply personal exploration of universal themes and a wonderful book to own.
Fish Change Direction In Cold Weather by Pierre Szalowski – Sue Sheard
Whilst this is actually a book from last year, it rivals many novels released this year. Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather focuses on the characters living on a street in Canada, with the emphasis on the youngest resident of the street, Joel. When Joel’s parents decide to separate he’s so unhappy that he prays to the sky to help him fix things. Joel is amazed when the sky obliges sending the kind of weather that has never been witnessed before, even in Canada. The book is a really easy read for one of those long dark days when there’s nothing much to do.
What book do you think was the best read of 2013?