On Reading: My Books of 2013

January 2, 2014 § 5 Comments


I read. A lot.  In 2013, I decided to track the books I read for pleasure, so I created this stack.  It got dangerously tall and slightly unsteady around November.  This also doesn’t include the other two dozen books I read for classes and research purposes in 2013.  But of this stack of 33 books I read in 2013, I can happily report that almost all of them were excellent reads and all but a couple were, at least for me, important reads.  I have blogged about some them already. (Kim Eichlen’s The Disappeared; Eleanor Henderson’s Ten Thousand Saints (and here) Teofilio Ruiz’s The Terror of History; C.J. Shivers’ The Gun; Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind (also here); Terry Eagleton’s On Evil; and Amy Waldman’s The Submission).  Time permitting, I will write about more of these books.

So, for those wondering, the best non-fiction book I read last year was Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind, with Eagleton’s On Evil a close second.  As far as fiction goes, I’d say it was a tie between Hilary Mantel’s Bringing Up the Bodies, Zadie Smith’s NW and the grande dame of CanLit, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.  Here’s the interesting thing: I’ve never liked Atwood.  I’ve always thought that her ability as a writer couldn’t cash the cheques here imagination wrote.  But Oryx and Crake has caused me to re-think my position.  The next two books in that trilogy, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam are in my stack of books to read already.

The only truly disappointing book I read in 2013 was the 1993 Booker Prize winner, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, by Roddy Doyle, the great Irish novelist whose work I have always enjoyed.  Tant pis.


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§ 5 Responses to On Reading: My Books of 2013

  • Chabon, Diaz, Maddow, what a great list! Been wanting to get my hands on that Zadie Smith and the Stephen Tanner book myself.

    • John Matthew Barlow says:

      Thanks! Chabon’s always disappointed me, but this one was worth the read. Both of those Zadie Smiths were fantastic, the first two of hers I’ve read. Tanner was also a good read, came from a recommendation from a buddy on Twitter. Helps make sense of Afghanistan.

  • valerie petit says:

    Love the new site and you’re reading list………which I decided to make my own! Well, maybe not all of them but hoping to inhale some of your intellectualism purely through osmosis!! Good way to start the New Year!

    • Thanks, cuz! I’ve commented on a few of those books throughout last year, and I always wanted to deal with London Orbital properly here, just didn’t get the chance when I was reading it. Time to start the 2014 stack!

  • […] & Crake is the first part and MaddAddam is part three).  I mentioned Oryx & Crake briefly in my post in January about my 2013 reading.  There I noted I’ve never been an Atwood fan.  But this trilogy is […]

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