Best and Not Best Books of 2013

My overall total number of books read in 2013 was down considerably this year. I spent 2013 reading a lot about technology and web development, most of which didn’t come in between two covers. I managed 38 books this year and it was totally the year of the series. Almost everything I read was part of a series of books, some of which I only read because I felt committed to following through with the storyline. (I should revisit that policy in 2014.) I also re-read some favorites (shout out Harry Potter) and I’m leaving those books off this year’s list. I think this is the first time the Not Best books have outnumbered the Best books. I just wasn’t very impressed this year. As always, my list is completely subjective and in no particular order.

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Best and Not Best Books of 2010

2010 was the year of series and sci-fi…because that’s a lot of what Amazon was giving away.

Best of 2010

The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt
Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand – James Barron
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West – Gregory Maguire
The Alienist – Caleb Carr
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
The Nanny Diaries – Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Nanny Returns – Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
The Bean Trees – Barbara Kingsolver
The Unit – Ninni Holmqvist
Howard’s End – E. M. Forster
Angelology – Danielle Trussoni
Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi
Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates – David Cordingly
No Dominion – Charlie Huston
Half the Blood of Brooklyn – Charlie Huston
Every Last Drop – Charlie Huston
My Dead Body – Charlie Huston
In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer – Irene Opdyke
Mudbound – Hillary Jordan
Deception Point – Dan Brown
Push – Sapphire
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – David Wroblewski
Septembers of Shiraz – Dalia Sofer
Swimming Lessons – Rohinton Mistry
Darkness on the Edge of Town – Brian Keene
A Scattered Life – Karen McQuestion
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America – Erik Larson
Bright of the Sky – Kay Kenyon
A World Too Near – Kay Kenyon
The Brooklyn Follies – Paul Auster
The Trial – Franz Kafka
AWOL on the Appalacian Trail – David Miller
Note by Note: A Celebration of the Piano Lesson – Tricia Tunstall
Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload – Mark Hurst
Soul Identity – Dennis Batchelder
Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France – Peter Mayle

Not Best of 2010

The Pawn – Steven James
The Rook – Steven James
Cape Refuge – Terri Blackstock
Southern Storm – Terri Blackstock
Al Capone Does My Shirts – Gennifer Choldenko
Flags of Our Fathers – James Bradley
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
More Blood, More Sweat, and Another Cup of Tea – Tom Reynolds
Petals from the Sky – Mingmei Yip
The Angel of Darkness – Caleb Carr
His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, #1) – Naomi Novik
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Ireland – Frank Delaney
Beautiful Lies – Lisa Unger
A Memory of Wind – Rachel Swirsky
First Flight – Mary Robinette Kowal
Tinkers – Paul Harding
Her Last Letter – Nancy Johnson

My Digital Reading Revolution

I’m on year three and counting with my Kindle–and still using version 1, because the SD card is just too big a draw to me to upgrade. My Kindle was a Christmas gift from my husband back in 2007 and it took no time at all to load it up with books and kiss paper goodbye!

Kindle 1 with skin from Decal Girl

No, that’s not how it happened at all.

I love gadgets and reading, so I adored my Kindle from the beginning for being the best of both worlds. I had no idea when I opened the box that I would eventually get rid of hundreds–hundreds and hundreds–of paper books in favor of digital versions. But that’s exactly what happened. I was kind of a book hoarder, ahem…collector, and my small apartment was crammed with somewhere in the neighborhood of about 2,000 books. This was a huge problem whenever I had to move, because books took up about half the boxes and friends were always reluctant to move them. I generally moved all the books by myself first, then called friends in later to help with the rest.

The Kindle was such a book-like piece of plastic that it didn’t take long for me to begin considering a purge. This prospect was helped along by our looming halfway-across-the-country move. I started taking a good look at my shelves and mentally dividing books into categories:

  1. Sentimentally Attached
  2. Manuals
  3. Good but Unneeded
  4. Why Did I Keep It?

That fourth category was a no-brainer. Any book that I couldn’t see a reason to have went to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I said goodbye to a couple hundred books that way straight off the bat.  The Manuals category was also fairly straightforward; anything that was still relevant stayed.  Then I went to work on category one: Sentimentally Attached. It took several months to choose books for this category, but when I was satisfied, that left me with the largest category: Good but Unneeded. These were given away to friends, mostly (thank you Myspace and Facebook). Those that couldn’t find homes were released into the wild.  When it finally came time to move, I managed to cull the sentimentally attached group even further, down to fewer than a hundred books.  Among them are a book that includes a note from my great-grandmother and several favorites from my childhood.  We ended up packing just a few boxes of books to bring with us.

I didn’t intend to stop buying paper books all together, but that’s what happened.  I replaced some of my paper books by buying digital versions from Amazon or downloading them for free from Project Gutenberg.  Mostly I just moved forward–all of my new books were Kindle books.  What’s weird is I still love visiting bookstores and perusing the books.  I just don’t buy anything.  I make mental notes of what looks good and then check Amazon to see if they’re available for Kindle.  My recent acquisition of an Android phone now lets me read my Kindle books on the phone and it allows me to share books with my husband on his Droid.  I don’t think I could ever go back to plain paper now.

One wish:  Kindle support of EPUB files…