Top 7 Books I read in 2013

yes, the obligatory end of year list! All are welcome to skip ahead to the comment section and tell me what your favourite read of the year was- I need more recommendations. Obviously, these weren’t all published in 2013 (only 1+3). Presented in no particular order: 

Old Books and Key


1. Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
it’s hard not to love her writing style, and the way it paints images with just one or two well-chosen details. Her Thomas Cromwell is ruthless, brilliant and deeply sympathetic.

2.The Garden of the Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng
This might very well be the most beautifully poetic book I read this year. It is set in the tea plantations and gardens of Malaysia’s Highlands and deals with the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Malaysia. The main character, Judge Yun-ling Teoh, is forced to seek out the help and expertise of  an enigmatic Japanese gardener to create a memorial garden for her younger sister, who died in a Japanese POW camp.

3.Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
Easily the best 2013 debut I read.  Set in an impoverished and isolated Iceland during the 19th century, Agnes Magnusdottir stands convicted of the murder of her lover Nathan. She is sent to a farm to help the family there with their labours while she awaits her execution. Very stark and impressive

4.Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
I finally came around to reading this final volume over the summer. While it has its flaws (I know not everyone is a fan) there was a lot here to think about it. I loved the ending scenes with President Snow, they took me by surprise and left me with a sinking feeling that hasn’t entirely gone away yet, months later. 

5. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
this was the first Christie I ever read. Ten people are invited to an island through a hoax, and when they get there it turns out they are trapped and being murdered one by one by a mysterious foe. Chilling and addictive.

6. The Count of Monte Christo – Alexandre Dumas
Dumas is most famous for his Three Musketeers (one of those books everyone knows the basic story of, but hasn’t read-including me) but I have hunch this book might be his best. A young sailor, Dantes,  is arrested for supposedly helping Napoleonic factions plot his escape from Elba, and sent to prison without trial. He there meets an enigmatic character who reveals to him the location of a fabulous treasure, and he sets out on a journey of revenge on the three men who destroyed his life. This is a rare novel that actually deserves the epithet ‘epic.’

7. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
A group of highly unpleasant classics majors at an exclusive liberal arts college kill one of their class mates and try to get away with it. I always knew that too much Plato was soul-destroying. This was my first introduction  to Tartt; while I love the Goldfinch even more, this one takes me back to my little student room in England.



4 thoughts on “Top 7 Books I read in 2013

  1. Some great picks you have! (Have read four of them and really want to read The Garden of Evening Mists). Hard to say what my favourites of 2013 were (partly because I actually didn’t read that much this year..). I enjoyed reading the Fault in Our Stars (John Green) and the Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman). I also really liked Vaslav (Arthur Japin), but I know you’re not a fan of his work ;). Oh, I almost forgot the final installment of the Power of Five series (my favourite teen fantasy series after Harry Potter). It’s called Oblivion (Anthony Hororwitz), but that’s just something I have been waiting for since I was 13 (yeah, it actually took him 5 years to bridge the gap between number four and five…)

  2. Ellyn says:

    Aah, I’ve been wanting to read Neil Gaiman for a long time, that book sounds like something I’d like. You don’t happen to have a copy I could borrow? I’ve heard a lot of good things about John Green as well, might have to pick up one of those. Can’t recommend the Garden enough, it was amazing. Especially so since we’ve been to the same part of Malaysia as he describes on holiday. Some interesting descriptions of Japanese culture as well, if you’re interested.
    I’ve not even heard of the power of five (oh god,am I old??). Was it worth the wait? 🙂 Five years, that’s even longer than I’ve waited for A Dance with Dragons (which also took 5 years to write)

  3. Jacqueline says:

    Nice overview, Ellyn, including some real classics! Secret History is still one of my favourite books. Would definitely recommend The Spinoza Problem by Irvin Yalom, as I would all his books.

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