Something(s) to read, 2013

Up here above the 42nd parallel the weather is such that I'm staying inside and reading more, and you might also plan to spend extra time indoors in the next few weeks. Or months. So in case you wondered, here are the best books I read in 2013, complete with my brief notes to myself about them. They're in no particular order -- they're all good and some are even better than that.

I hope you find something new here that you like!


Black Holes & Time Warps
Kip Thorne
Excellent, and worth working your way through it slowly to feel the wonder of what's going on out there.

We Learn Nothing
Tim Kreider
Contains the best essay on politics I've read in ages: "When They're Not Assholes". He's a terrific writer all around.

John Adams
David McCullough
An admirable book about an admirable person. McCullough gives him a pass on quite a lot, but makes a good case for doing so. And Jefferson comes off poorly, certainly by comparison, and that may be fair...though the book is titled Adams, so there's a selection bias here.

My Beloved Brontosaurus
Brian Switek
Fine overview of the current state of the art in dinosaur research. He's also a great speaker, so if you get a chance to see him, do it. (I did months after reading the book, so no selection bias here, I don't think!)

Animal Wise
Virginia Morrell
Great survey of the current state of research into whether animals have minds (yes) and how they think (more and harder than we give them credit for). See above about speaking excellence.

Mary Roach
Great as usual. Just read everything she's written, okay?

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth
Chris Hadfield
If you've seen his videos from space, you know you can expect earnestness and honesty and humor. You get it here. (And I got to meet him here in Michigan, and the wonderful Schulers Books.)


The Art of Fielding
Chad Harbach
Very well written; more than a baseball book, though it's that too. I would read another just like it, but this is too good do a sequel.

Science Fiction/Fantasy

Kim Stanley Robinson
Sweeping, epic, real. You know the drill with KSR. Great, as usual.

The Name of the Wind
Patrick Rothfuss
No closure at all, but effortless (seeming!) writing and a good epic style and story. I read the next one too, and it just about drove me crazy in some respects, the least of which is that closure thing. But the guy can write!

The Sorcerer's House
Gene Wolfe
Puzzling, but pulled me through quickly. Much more there than meets the eye, and the transitions between reality and faerie realms were slick and disorienting, just the effect he intended, I'm sure.

Zone One
Colson Whitehead
Layered and elliptical and digressive and funny. Not sure what the point was, or is, but I'll think about this again, and will read more by him. He's a terrific writer. And was a great year for hearing first-rate authors speak!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman
Beautiful. His best. Cf. Mary Roach above, though they could hardly be more different in subject matter and scope. (Also cf. above re. getting to hear him speak. Dang, it was a really great year for that.)

Young Adult

Rachel Hartman
Superb, and funny, and real-feeling. A well-built world and a sequel awaits. We're lucky, we readers!

A Hat Full of Sky
Terry Pratchett
Another Wee Free Men and Tiffany Aching delight.

Graphic Novels: Fiction

Marble Season
Gilbert Hernandez
Just about the perfect kids book, or rather, a book about what it's like to be a kid.

You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack
Tom Gauld
Odd and fun and a book-lover's book

Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen
Excellent, and I think subtler than I gathered on first reading. And I gathered me some subtlety, I think. So I'll read it again.

Boxers & Saints
Gene Yang
Oh Gene, you can do no wrong. This is a terrific matched pair. Deep and broad and human.

Strange Attractors
Charles Soule, Charles and Greg Scott
Good premise, well executed. Solid fun with some math as seasoning.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl
Faith Erin Hicks
Fun, light, peppy, funny.

Building Stories
Chris Ware
Amazing formal work, again. Depressing story, again. Worth feeling sad about.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Tony Cliff
A delight. Really and truly rollicking. I read it on the web, I read it in print, and I'll read it again and again in print again. It really is a delight, and notice how I don't stoop to the Turkish pun there?

Bad Houses
Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil
A straightforward story that isn't -- the story structure is clever and handled deftly in both the writing and the art. Impressive and enjoyable.

Graphic Novels: Non-Fiction

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller
Joseph Lambert
Wonderful depictions of Keller's inner life, and how she learned. I was floored by how good this is.

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Hits the trifecta: First rate in both story, significance, and art.

Lucy Knisley
Great book, and bonus: recipes!

Alec "The Years Have Pants"
Eddie Campbell
He's been great from the get-go, it seems, and at 638 pages, is itself remarkable how consistently great he's been.

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