Best Books of 2013

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I love this time of year. I love all the fun parts of the holidays, the change in the weather, and the end-of-the-year lists.

I read and listen to a lot of books during the year. But there is no way for me to catch or read everything. So it’s a treat to look at the collections of best-of, see what I’ve read, see what I would like to read, and see if I agree with the assessments. Also, I love the long view. I spend a lot of time with my head down, focusing on the details of caring for my young children, doing the laundry, and writing. The end of the year is a time when I get to stand up and look around at the landscape of the year’s books. Haroo!!

As I began researching the lists for this year, it was a little overwhelming. There are so many lists! Here is my best of the best of 2013 book lists.

Media Lists

For 2013 the folks at NPR Books decided that they’d created enough lists. They created a sort of Venn-Diagram app that allows readers to explore 200 notable books by category. Realistic Fiction, It’s All Geek to Me, Rather Long, and Rather Short, to name a few. The result is both eye-catching and easy to use.

The New York Times has multiple lists. First, there is the list of the ten best books (five fiction and five nonfiction) selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. If you like a broader view, you can check out the 100 most notable fiction, poetry, and nonfiction books also selected by the editors. Looking for books for the children in your life? Or for yourself? YA fiction isn’t just for YAs. Consult the list of notable children’s books, including the categories of Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Picture Books.

Slate has a list of lists. Their staff picks can be found here. Then there is the list of 19 books that you’ve probably not heard of, but the staff at Slate thinks you should’ve. A list of the  best lines from books published this year can be found here. Dan Kois, senior editor at Slate and contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, shares his favorites here.

The New Yorker invites contributors to list their favorite books read, but not necessarily published in 2013.

Check out staff picks from the Huffington Post and The Atlantic.

Booksellers

Amazon includes comprehensive lists by category, Top 100 editors’ picks, favorite gift books, celebrity picks, a Kindle reader's guide to their 20 favorites. Amazon’s favorite book of the year: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Barnes & Noble lists bookseller picks in fiction, nonfiction, children, and teens.

Getting Social

Goodreads provides lists chosen by readers. To qualify, books must be published for the first time in the United States in English. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini was voted the best Fiction Book of the year.

Prizes

Literary prizes are a special best-of that comes with extra prestige, book sales and prize money. There are many. Two of my favorites that are awarded in the fall are the National Book Award and the Man Booker Prize.

The National Book Foundation awards the National Book Award to the best book of the year (according to the judges) written by an American citizen and published by an American Publisher in each of four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Young People’s Literature. The judges have been accomplished writers, known for exemplary work, in each of the four categories. For 2013, the foundation added critics, librarians, and booksellers to the panel. This year’s winners in the four categories include: Fiction--The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, Nonfiction-- The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer, Poetry-- Incarnadine: Poems by Mary Szybist, and Young People’s Literature-- The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata.

First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is awarded each fall to the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland as determined by a panel of judges. The Judges include authors, critics, poets, politicians, people with range of experience and a passion for good fiction. If you have some time and are looking for some outstanding books, checking the long or short list of the Man Booker Prize is a great start. This year’s winner was The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, which also made the best-of lists from many other sources.

Well, that should get you started on your holiday reading and Christmas lists. Care to share your favorites from this year? We’d love to hear what you read and loved in 2013. Also, any sources for best of that you rely on that we’ve missed. Bring them on!

/Leslie