As we near the end of 2013, I thought, like all other somewhat self-centers millennials, it might be fun to write a few year-end posts reflecting on my favorite pop culture ventures this year. To start it off, I’ve decided to discuss my favorite books I read in 2013, and I’ll move on to TV and movies closer to the end of the year (there are still too many worthwhile movies to see before I can make my decisions!). So, in the order in which I read them, here are the 10 books I most enjoyed this year.
1. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, completed January 2013
There isn’t much more to say than that this is a rather perfect read, especially in winter, for all female audiences. I’d also like to say it’s appropriate for male readers, but there’s something about the March women that speaks to women of all ages. This is one of those stories that can simultaneously warm and break your heart, and it certain to be one you’ll want to revisit.
2. A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, completed March 2013
It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a Hemingway fangirl, so you can’t be too surprised here. Not only does this book present Hemingway’s characteristically simple writing style, it also features the idyllic setting of Paris in the 1920s. As a French major who loves Papa Hemingway, this book is basically catnip for me. An added bonus: my favorite Hemingway wife, Hadley, is present for the majority of the book. She’s perfect, and you should read this, but only after familiarizing yourself with some of Hemingway’s great fictional writing. This cannot be fully appreciated if you don’t know Hemingway’s writing or life to some extent.
3. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, completed March 2013
In all fairness, this was a reread, but it doesn’t get any less devastatingly perfect the second time around. In fact, I think I cried more this time because I knew what was coming. Even though this book was just released last year, it’s become an instant classic; it’s an absolutely essential read for young and old audiences. John Green, you’re a god. And an added perk: the film adaptation will be released in June of 2014, so if you haven’t read this yet, be sure to before then.
4. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, completed May 2013
Another reread, but also a perfect classic. I reread Gatsby before the new film was released, and I was happy to realize that I was just as enamored with the book now as I was when I first read it four years ago. Fitzgerald’s story is timeless and brilliant; I feel like I marked or underlined every other sentence because I loved the language so much. If you’re looking for “easy” but literary reading material, this is a must read.
5. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, completed May 2013
Before I started this novel I basically knew the whole story; I remember hearing my fellow students complain about the ending my junior year of high school. This knowledge, however, did not stop me from loving the 100-page novel so important to feminist literature. I understand why my classmates disliked this story in the past, but since I was four years older when I read it, I think I had the necessary perspective to understand how great it really is.
6. Divergent, by Veronica Roth, completed June 2013
I debated reading this series for a while before finally buying the first installment on a whim, and I’m so very glad I did. This series is definitely for fans of The Hunger Games as it also features a strong-willed teenage female as the story’s heroine, but it’s important not to compare the two series too often. The film adaptation of Divergent comes out in March of 2014, and the sequel begins filming in April, so read this over Christmas break if you want to be part of the hype for what I imagine will be the next big thing in teen reading.
7. The Penultimate Peril, by Lemony Snicket, completed July 2013
I’m happy to say I completed the entire Series of Unfortunate Events in 2013, and there’s really only one reason why this one stands out as my favorite: this book had one of the funniest lines I’ve ever read in children’s literature (if you’re interested, I posted it as a quote in July after finishing the book). The entire series is great, but I’m not sure I’ll ever quit laughing over some of the humor in this one.
8. The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith, completed August 2013
This is probably the most talked-about book of 2013 due to its real author: J.K. Rowling. It was definitely worth the fuss. The twists and turns are sure to keep readers’ attention, but the story also keeps to a rather straight and simple format that makes it an easy read. I certainly hope Rowling feels compelled to continue this in the future.
9. My Antonia, by Willa Cather, completed August 2013
Like The Awakening, My Antonia is a notable work of female literature, though the settings and events of the two couldn’t be more different. As an almost-native of the plains of Nebraska, this novel speaks to me in a way that’s probably difficult for most readers to comprehend. Cather captures the frontier lifestyle of Nebraska perfectly; one reason I enjoyed this book so much was that I felt so at peace when reading it. I could feel the wind and smell the earth that can only be understood by visiting the region. This is certainly a novel I’d recommend, but a regional recognition is almost imperative to really appreciate it.
10. The Giver, by Lois Lowry, completed November 2013
I had a hard time picking my final book, partially because this fall I took a long time to get through one reading project, but also because nothing else was really standing out to be as especially stellar. Maybe I’m being picky, but I had a hard time picking great books from those I read this year. On a positive note, I read several things outside my normal genres this year and completed some bucket list goals (A Series of Unfortunate Events, for instance) while exceeding my year’s goal by 10 books (so far). Ultimately, my favorite book I’ve read recently was probably The Giver, though I wasn’t totally satisfied by it. I liked the story so much for probably three-quarters of the novel, but I felt like Lowry rushed through the book’s climax and conclusion so much that I was left in a lurch. The ending chapters struck me as very odd, and I’m interested to see if it plays better on screen when the film adaptation is released in 2014.
So, what books did you read this year? If nothing else, here’s to a 2014 filled with quickly turning pages and stories worth reading.