The Best Books (and Blogger Voices) of 2013

 2013's best books river city reading

Though there are still two weeks left in December, I feel like I’m late to the end of the year list party. By this point even our lists have lists. Still, I loved looking back on my favorite books of 2013 and couldn’t help thinking about all the great blogs I’ve read throughout the year, too. So, instead of rehashing my thoughts on the books (c’mon, if you’ve seen my Facebook page, you know I love The Goldfinch), I’ll let my favorite reviews do the talking. 

The Son by Philipp Meyer
“In fact, it is that distinct lack of innocence – all around, across the board – that is the driving force to this novel; Comanche, Texas settler, Mexican homesteader, makes no difference. Everyone is flawed in the end – which makes this a perfectly imagined American epic when you think about it.” – The Book Catapult

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
“Within so many pages, stories and themes it is hard to imagine that every noun, verb, and piece of punctuation could have been labored over, chosen and discarded, but with Tartt it seems completely plausible. There is the sense that she is acutely aware of every single choice made in the novel and to such a degree that  the reader can only show their appreciation by  a commitment to reading slowly and thoroughly, absorbing every word.” – The Gilmore Guide to Books

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
“The way these friendships form, stretch, and break is marvelous. The Interestings is an engaging character study and a truly unputdownable story.” – The Relentless Reader

Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
“This is satire, folks. It ain’t pretty. Good satire is dark and over the top and funny at inappropriate moments. And Lookaway, Lookaway is one of the finest examples you’ll find today.” – Southern Spines

Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng 
“The backdrop for this lush novel is Mississippi during the first half of the twentieth century while it’s deep into Jim Crow savagery. The darkness and grit of life during this time period rings eerily true under Cheng’s hand: The fear that lives inside each soul like a black dog they cannot escape…” – Diane Prokop

Fallen Land by Patrick Flanery
“It eerily demonstrates the thin, malleable line between reason and madness and the illogical labyrinth of the American dream. It encourages the reader to ask: If someone wants you to be afraid, what can they gain by your fear?” – Fourth Street Review

The Humans by Matt Haig
“With short, easy-to-devour chapters bearing titles such as Detached Nouns and Other Early Trials for the Language Learner and The Melancholy Beauty of the Setting Sun, I raced through this book. I could not wait to read more, but I didn’t want to miss a thing.” – A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
“Marra takes care with every image, every turn of phrase. He is a writer who cares about language, about the impressions he leaves with his words. In the end you’ll come away feeling haunted but joyful – just like his characters.” – Read Lately

Want Not by Jonathan Miles
“Why is it so good? Because it’s exactly what fiction should be — it’s clever, funny, totally engrossing, sobering, and dammit, if it doesn’t give you a good attack of conscience.” – The New Dork Review of Books

Rivers by Michael Farris Smith
“Smith’s rich and descriptive writing enveloped me, parts were so eloquently written that I had to pause and read it out loud.  A glimpse of humanity in the midst of devastation, this is a novel that will reside within me for months to come.” – Jenn’s Bookshelves


  • Awww you’re so sweet, thanks for the mention. What a fun twist to the “best of” list — and I’ve found some new blogs to follow!

  • I want to read Lookaway, Lookaway so badly, but it is almost impossible to get in the UK and i’m not headed back to North America until Easter. It’s a long wait!! I also have THE GOLDFINCH and THE INTERESTINGS set aside for some cozy Christmas reading.

    • Hopefully The Goldfinch and The Interestings can tide you over until you can get to Lookaway, Lookaway! They’re all wonderful, you have some great reading ahead of you :)

  • Alison Law

    Shannon, I’m honored to have my post about Wilton Barnhardt’s Lookaway, Lookaway on your list. This is a great idea for rounding up the best books of the year.

  • Love this idea Shannon! Thanks for including my review of The Interestings :D

    We have a few similar favorites. Lookaway, Lookaway!!! Incredible book

  • Kerry M

    I love this approach to a year-end list… now my TBR pile has grown (again), as has my Feedly account.

  • This is a great list and such a fabulously unique way of sharing the best of 2013!! I love it!

  • So many great reviews and blogs! I have some review revisiting to do.

  • That’s a great idea! I haven’t read any of these books though quite a few of them are on my wishlist.

  • Kelly Massry

    I love this format! You’ve given me some new blogs to follow. Thanks for quoting my review!

  • The Book Wheel

    Great list! Many of these are on my list of books to read and I’m looking forward to them even more now.

  • Naturally I love this. Thanks for the mention!

  • Great list! May 2014 be just as exciting and engrossing.

  • What a great list and like most great lists I’ve not read many of them :P I have read The Son (which was amazing) and a book that will make my list A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

  • Jennine G.

    I love the links back to other blogs reviews! Very creative and a great way to give other insight!

  • Lindsay Healy

    What a lovely idea to share these reviews and to round up the year! Several books here that I need to investigate further!

  • Isi

    I love this idea for the list of your favourite books :)

  • Great list! I like that you have a some of the books that are getting lots of hype and some books that I haven’t heard of before :)

  • I haven’t read any of these books yet :( Great list though, I do want to read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena!

  • I’m such an idjit and so behind on my blog reading I didn’t even know about your kindness until now! Thank you so much for including me in such stellar company!
    I’ve got two from this list on my TBR- The Son and Vital Phenomena. Looking forward to both!

  • lulu_bella

    What an amazing way to do this kind of list! I absolutely love it. I haven’t actually read any of these, though The Goldfinch and Rivers are high on my list!!!

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