Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Top Ten (Or So): Books Read in 2013

Man, 2013 had a lot of really enjoyable books. Also a couple of the lowest rated books, but it's the number of fabulous books that makes this list so hard to create. Therefore, of necessity (because I don't want to spend years making this--I'm already later than planned), this is rough, incomplete, and too long.

So here, in sort-of approximate order from least to most favourite, are some of my favourite books read in 2013:

--Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card. And I'm going to cheat and stick Shadow of the Giant with it, because I liked them for very similar reasons. The Shadows series is a set of mostly geopolitical thrillers--pretty much a bunch of genius young adults vying for world domination, in the aftermath of the Bugger war in Ender's Game. Genius kids and world domination? I can't ask for much more to make me perfectly happy.

--Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud. Great characters, very good world-building, and lots of promise for the future books.

--Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories by C. S. Lewis. And because they're both books of essays by Lewis, I'm going to cheat again and combine it with Reflections on the Psalms. Lewis is beloved by many, and for very good reason. In Reflections on the Psalms, he was in his usual brilliant mode of explaining Christian concepts better and more clearly than pretty much anyone else. In Of Other Worlds he discussed with such clarity ideas I'd held about books, and speculative fiction in particular. And that one unfinished story at the end will haunt me for a long time: it was so much exactly what I look for in a story. I would give much to read the completed version.

--Reflections on the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones. Another book of essays; like Of Other Worlds, it is also about books and ideas about them I've held for a long time, but been unable to articulate properly. This time it focuses on writing for children, however. (Picture of now sadly departed Diana Wynne Jones taken from The Guardian.)

--Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis. Amazing heroine, fun plot, the perfect fulfillment to a lovely trilogy.

--Shards of Honor and Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold. These two books are one story, usually combined into an omnibus called Cordelia's Honour. Adult scifi, of the best sort. It had depth of themes and characters I was not expecting, plus all the tech and space battles I enjoy in the genre.

These last three are so awesome, and yet so different, that I found it impossible to choose between them: a adult scifi novel, a manga series, and a children's fantasy book.

--The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Also, I'm sort of going to cheat again here and combine The Vor Game in this entry (because I read way too many good books this year). I loved the first books in the Vorkosigan saga, Shards of Honor and Barrayar, but these ones continued the great world and writing, and added Miles Vorkosigan. Who immediately jumped to my list of favourite characters.

--Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. I decided that although I didn't count manga towards my book count, I could count manga series in these lists, so long as I finished them in the same year. And I couldn't pass off such a brilliant series as this. I found it a little slow to get into properly, but once it got going, man. Not only was it full of characters I will remember for a very long time (guilt-ridden soldiers, villains being slowly redeemed, strange amoral antiheroes: Roy, Riza, Olivier, Greed, Scar, Kimblee, etc. etc.), but the plot drew together all its various threads and converged into the most climactic of climaxes. (Images of some Fullmetal Alchemist characters to the left by wallabri.)

--Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway. The characters, the familial relationships, the friendships... Like Fullmetal Alchemist, it was the characters that made this book. I loved every. Single. One of them. (Even the villains were rather sympathetic.) It was delightful and unique and made me feel very warm and happy, and was the standout of the year, even though it was only the second book I read this year.

Runners Up (In No Order Whatsoever and Possibly Missing Some Good Ones Because I'm Really, Really Bad at Making Up My Mind)
--Darkwater. Mysterious strangers, mysterious houses, mysterious time stuff.
--Goose Chase. Cute and fun, great heroine, unusual romance.
--Unbroken. Unexpectedly gripping; fascinating true-life story.
--Seraphina. Intriguing world--plus: dragons!
--Game. Serial killers!
--The Giver. Great middle-grade dystopian.
--Hero. Awesome and unusual romance.
--Ender's World. Interesting essays all about one of my favourite books ever, Ender's Game.
--Stray. Some really good world-building.

P.S. See also the Top Ten (Or So) list from last year.

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