Happy 2014, everyone! 2013 was a big year of positive growth and change for me, and I’m super excited to put my new found optimism and drive to use in 2014. Not to mention that, let’s be honest, 2014 is a much more aesthetically pleasing number than 2013. Can’t go wrong judging things by how they look, right? “Always judge a book by its cover,” that’s what I always say.*
In terms of reading, 2013 brought me a year of books that made me think and respond and feel passionately, if not always in a positive way, at least in a thoroughly-engaged sort-of-way. The books I read in 2013 inspired (rough estimate) 10,000,000 texts of outrage/joy to my most patient-beyond-words, willing-to-engage-with-me-about-books-she’d-never-read friend (endless thanks, Theresa) and hours of ranting to my partner (thanks, dear).
For this post, I combed through my far too detailed excel sheet where I keep track of all my reading stats to present the best and worst of my most memorable reads of 2013.
Here’s to a new year of books and blogging!
2013 by the numbers
- Total books read: 147
- Pages read: 16,644 / Hours listened: 985 or ~41 consecutive days
- Fiction: 57% / Non-Fiction: 43%
- Print: 43% / E-books: 7% / Audio: 50%
- LGBTQ books: 54
- Books borrowed from the library: 111
- Month highest number of books read: April, 20
- Month lowest number of books read: February, 3
BEST novel, published 2013: The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud–The discussion of the likability of female characters and sexism in publishing that this novel inspired was interesting, but I think it’s rather unfortunate that it served as a distraction from the fact that The Woman Upstairs is brilliant and complicated and an important work of modern literary fiction.
WORST novel, published 2013: The Return by Michael Gruber–I read this in October and all I remember about it is that I gave it a C-…and I only remember that because I wrote it down. I should really stop being such a sucker for blurbs from Stephen King.
BEST YA novel, published 2013: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan–Let’s put it this way: I had all the feels, all the tears, and all the love for the LGBTQ community. Beautiful.
BEST queer novel, published 2013: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
BEST queer novel, back-list: After Delores by Sarah Schulman—I picked up a copy of After Delores at my local gay bookstore ** after reading Schulman’s amazing memoir, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination. It’s so relevant and filled with three-dimensional lesbian characters that you’d never guess it was originally published in 1988.
WORST book featuring a president: I was ever-so disappointed with Just Plain Dick: Richard Nixon’s Checkers Speech and the “Rocking, Socking” Election of 1952 by Kevin Mattson. I’m usually a sucker for all things Checkers, but I draw the line at the invention of the Nixon’s thoughts, as Mattson does here.
BEST fictional representation of a president: (I had to get a little more specific with this category since it wasn’t very fair, since I read the second installment of Robert A. Caro’s LBJ biography series, Means of Ascent, and Caro is simply the best.) Taft and Wilson, The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates–Woodrow Wilson Brings On the Devil would have been too limiting a title, I suppose.
WORST representation of a literary figure: Dorothy Parker, Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister–The best part about this book is that it convinced me to check out Parker’s work, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.
WORST execution of a BEST idea: American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men by David McConnell—I hoped for an in-depth examination of the use of the “gay panic defense,” but after being assured in the introduction that the book would not be “academic” in any way, I got gruesome, sensationalized accounts of murders of gay men with no examination of the why’s and what we can do to stop them.
BEST underrated novel: The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell
WORST YA novel from the 1970s with gay characters: The Man Without a Face by Isabelle Holland and Trying Hard to Hear You by Sandra Scoppettone—Whenever I start to feel sad about how far we still need to go, I think about these painfully depressing books and feel better about how far we’ve come.
BEST detective: Lacey Flint, S.J. Bolton—Serious, complicated, thrilling mysteries with a dash of humor and wit and a great female detective. Thumbs up.
WORST history book: The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin—I just can’t get into hero worship of Theodore Roosevelt.
BEST history book: Ready For a Brand New Beat: How “Dancing in the Street” Became the Anthem for a Changing America by Mark Kurlansky—A thorough cultural exploration of 1964 that gets my nerdy, history-loving heart grow eight sizes.
WORST book about pop culture: The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things edited by Anna Holmes, Kate Harding, and Amanda Hess—More like The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Straight White Lady Things. BAM.
BEST book about pop culture, fiction: Reality Boy by A.S. King—Not only does this book explore what happens to a family after the reality show’s over, it also provides an interesting perspective on the effects of trauma.
BEST book about pop culture, non-fiction: With Amusement For All: A History of American Popular Culture since 1830 by LeRoy Ashby—I was surprised that I was most interested in the sections about country music and wrestling and NASCAR, which is a little out of my personal wheel-house these days.
And one more thing… My #1 goal for reading in 2014 is to read with intention and avoid picking up “buzz” books that don’t interest me, since reading just to be part of the conversation–no matter how annoying or frustrating the book may be–didn’t really work well in 2013.
*I have never previously said this.
**Does this make me sound like a hipster?