Best fiction books of 2013

Best fiction books of 2013 DEFAULT

The best fiction of 2013

Two novels will loom large under Christmas trees this year: Eleanor Catton's record-breaking Booker winner (longest novel, youngest author) The Luminaries (Granta), and Donna Tartt's vast study of art and loss, The Goldfinch (Little, Brown). Tartt's story of a young boy whose life is knocked off course by the loss of his mother is only her third book, and a decade in the writing. She has described her fiction as "painting wall-size murals with a brush the size of an eyelash", and The Goldfinch combines narrative grandeur with dazzling detail. The Luminaries is a similarly involving read – like a Wilkie Collins mystery set against the New Zealand gold rush – which slowly reveals a complex structure raising questions about fate, free will and the human search for meaning.

Other notable big reads this year included Karl Ove Knausgaard's autobiographical novel A Man in Love (Vintage), a brutally honest self-examination in what feels like real time, and Philipp Meyer's extraordinary epic of family, power and violence in the American west, The Son (Simon & Schuster). It was a strong year for American fiction generally, with Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers (Harvill Secker) introducing a fresh new voice, Thomas Pynchon riffing on the internet's early days in Bleeding Edge (Jonathan Cape), and Dave Eggers publishing not one but two critiques of the faltering American dream:The Circle (Hamish Hamilton), his second novel this year, is a compelling dystopian parable about the dangers of giving over our hearts and souls to Facebook, Twitter et al. In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah (Fourth Estate), meanwhile, Ifemelu leaves Nigeria and her husband-to-be behind for an assured and witty exploration of love, ambition, globalisation and the meaning of home.

For those in search of familiar comforts, 2013 was also a year of sequels and pastiche, with death no bar to an expanding bibliography. Fans of Ian Fleming and PG Wodehouse were treated to new books: William Boyd's Solo (Jonathan Cape) took Bond on an African adventure, while Sebastian Faulks' Jeeves and the Wedding Bells (Hutchinson) set Bertie Wooster off on a typically madcap caper replete with am dram and aunts. Joanna Trollope began a project to update Jane Austen, rewriting Sense and Sensibility (Harper Collins) for the internet generation (Marianne strumming Taylor Swift songs on her guitar). All three were respectable efforts with fun to be had by reader and pasticheur alike – though for a more illuminating angle on Austen, turn to Jo Baker's Longbourn, which cunningly retells Pride and Prejudice from the servants' perspective.

Bridget Jones was back, too, in Helen Fielding's much-anticipated Mad About the Boy (Jonathan Cape), but her fiftysomething heroine's misadventures with social media and the school run fell flat, even as diehard fans wept over the demise of Mark Darcy. Stephen King had more luck with Doctor Sleep (Hodder & Stoughton), in which the little boy at the centre of The Shining has grown up to be a damaged adult, still with psychic powers. Nostalgia was bittersweet in Roddy Doyle's The Guts (Jonathan Cape), which caught up with the music-mad hero of The Commitments, weighed down by illness and middle age, while Elizabeth Jane Howard, now 90, added a final volume, All Change (Mantle), to her upper-class family saga the Cazalet chronicles – still comfort reading supreme.

We bade a sad goodbye to Iain Banks this year; his final novel, The Quarry (Little, Brown), was published only days after his death from cancer. With a central character raging against a terminal diagnosis, surrounded by old friends who've either sold out or drifted into life's doldrums, it's a spiky finale to an extraordinary publishing career, and features Banks's trademark rants against political laziness and greed along with his easy humour. Also blurring genres to great effect were Marcel Theroux's Strange Bodies (Faber), a speculative page-turner that takes in everything from Dr Johnson to reincarnation, and Javier Marías's The Infatuations (Hamish Hamilton), a metaphysical murder mystery.

Off the beaten track, Juan Pablo Villalobos followed up his Guardian first book award-shortlisted Down the Rabbit Hole with a satire of Mexican politics and dysfunctional families, Quesadillas (And Other Stories): black comedy done with a light touch, it's stylish, scabrous, and hugely enjoyable. Chasing the King of Heartsby Hanna Krall, meanwhile, is a spare, startling tale of love and survival during the Holocaust, written by a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto and brought to a wider audience by Peirene Press.

But there are three novels I've pressed most enthusiastically on people this year. Jim Crace's Booker-shortlisted Harvest (Picador), about land enclosure and dispossession, transports the reader into a past that feels more present than the world outside, yet also sheds an uneasy light on today. Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane (Headline Review) weaves fantasy, realism and memoir to construct a fairytale of childhood brimming over with meaning. And Kate Atkinson's Life After Life (Doubleday) – though it put off some readers with its endlessly regenerating heroine and Hitler cameo – swept me away with its profound and beautifully written exploration of fate, family, endurance and a changing England.


The 10 Best Books of 2013

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The year’s best books, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.


By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95.

By turns tender and trenchant, Adichie’s third novel takes on the comedy and tragedy of American race relations from the perspective of a young Nigerian immigrant. From the office politics of a hair-braiding salon to the burden of memory, there’s nothing too humble or daunting for this fearless writer, who is so attuned to the various worlds and shifting selves we inhabit — in life and online, in love, as agents and victims of history and the heroes of our own stories.

By Rachel Kushner.
Scribner, $26.99.

Radical politics, avant-garde art and motorcycle racing all spring to life in Kushner’s radiant novel of the 1970s, in which a young woman moves to New York to become an artist, only to wind up involved in the revolutionary protest movement that shook Italy in those years. The novel, Kushner’s second, deploys mordant observations and chiseled sentences to explore how individuals are swept along by implacable social forces.

By Donna Tartt.
Little, Brown & Company, $30.

Tartt’s intoxicating third novel, after “The Secret History” and “The Little Friend,” follows the travails of Theo Decker, who emerges from a terrorist bombing motherless but in possession of a prized Dutch painting. Like the best of Dickens, the novel is packed with incident and populated with vivid characters. At its heart is the unwavering belief that come what may, art can save us by lifting us above ourselves.

By Kate Atkinson.
A Reagan Arthur Book/Little, Brown & Company, $27.99.

Demonstrating the agile style and theatrical bravado of her much-admired Jackson Brodie mystery novels, Atkinson takes on nothing less than the evils of mid-20th-century history and the nature of death as she moves back and forth in time, fitting together versions of a life story for a heroine who keeps dying, then being resurrected — and sent off in different, but entirely plausible, directions.

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By George Saunders.
Random House, $26.

Saunders’s wickedly entertaining stories veer from the deadpan to the flat-out demented: Prisoners are force-fed mood-altering drugs; ordinary saps cling to delusions of grandeur; third-world women, held aloft on surgical wire, become the latest in bourgeois lawn ornaments. Beneath the comedy, though, Saunders writes with profound empathy, and this impressive collection advances his abiding interest in questions of class, power and justice.

[ Here are the 10 best books of 2019. ]


The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead
By Alan S. Blinder.
The Penguin Press, $29.95.

Blinder’s terrific book on the financial meltdown of 2008 argues that it happened because of a “perfect storm,” in which many unfortunate events occurred simultaneously, producing a far worse outcome than would have resulted from just a single cause. Blinder criticizes both the Bush and Obama administrations, especially for letting Lehman Brothers fail, but he also praises them for taking steps to save the country from falling into a serious depression. Their response to the near disaster, Blinder says, was far better than the public realizes.

Bush and Cheney in the White House
By Peter Baker.
Doubleday, $35.

Baker succeeds in telling the story of the several crises of the Bush administration with fairness and balance, which is to say that he is sympathetic to his subjects, acknowledging their accomplishments but excusing none of their errors. Baker, the chief White House correspondent for The Times, is fascinated by the mystery of the Bush-­Cheney relationship, and even more so by the mystery of George W. Bush himself. Did Bush lead, or was he led by others? In the end, Baker concludes, the “decider” really did decide.

Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
By Sheri Fink.
Crown, $27.

In harrowing detail, Fink describes the hellish days at a hospital during and after Hurricane Katrina, when desperate medical professionals were suspected of administering lethal injections to critically ill patients. Masterfully and compassionately reported and as gripping as a thriller, the book poses reverberating questions about end-of-life care, race discrimination in medicine and how individuals and institutions break down during disasters.

How Europe Went to War in 1914
By Christopher Clark.
Harper, $29.99.

Clark manages in a single volume to provide a comprehensive, highly readable survey of the events leading up to World War I. He avoids singling out any one nation or leader as the guilty party. “The outbreak of war,” he writes, “is not an Agatha Christie drama at the end of which we will discover the culprit standing over a corpse.” The participants were, in his term, “sleepwalkers,” not fanatics or murderers, and the war itself was a tragedy, not a crime.

By Sonali Deraniyagala.
Alfred A. Knopf, $24.

On the day after Christmas in 2004, Deraniyagala called her husband to the window of their hotel room in Sri Lanka. “I want to show you something odd,” she said. The ocean looked foamy and closer than usual. Within moments, it was upon them. Deraniyagala lost her husband, her parents and two young sons to the Indian Ocean tsunami. Her survival was miraculous, and so too is this memoir — unsentimental, raggedly intimate, full of fury.

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2013 Rules & Eligibility

The 2013 Goodreads Choice Awards have three rounds of voting open to all registered Goodreads members. Winners will be announced December 04, 2013.

Opening Round: Nov 05 - 10

Final Round: Nov 12 - 17

The field narrows to the top 10 books in each category, and members have one last chance to vote!

Books published in the United States in English, including works in translation and other significant rereleases, between November 26, 2012, and November 17, 2013, are eligible for the 2013 Goodreads Choice Awards. Books published between November 18, 2013, and November 17, 2014, will be eligible for the 2014 awards.

We analyze statistics from the millions of books added, rated, and reviewed on Goodreads to nominate 15 books in each category. Opening round official nominees must have an average rating of 3.50 or higher at the time of launch. Write-in votes may be cast for eligible books with any average rating, and write-in votes will be weighted by the book's Goodreads statistics to determine the top five books to be added as official nominees in the Semifinal Round. A book may be nominated in no more than one genre category, but can also be nominated in the Debut Novel category. Only one book in a series may be nominated per category. An author may receive multiple nominations within a single category if he or she has more than one eligible series or more than one eligible stand-alone book.

My Top 10 Favorite Fiction Books!

See the rest of TIME’s Top 10 of Everything 2013 lists here

10. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, Isabel Greenberg


A graphic novel set in a mythical time when the world is still young, about a man from the North Pole who travels to the South Pole, where he meets a woman. They fall in love, only to discover that because they’re from different poles they repel each other magnetically and therefore can never touch. (Never mind that opposed magnetic poles actually attract each other, just go with it.) To fill the void between them they spin stories—fantastical, funny, wise, often touching yarns, which Greenberg both tells and illustrates with warm, whimsical beauty. We get to listen in.  —Lev Grossman

9. Lexicon, Max Barry


Secret societies are thick on the ground in fiction these days, but Barry has founded one of the most intriguing yet: the Poets, a shadowy group that has so mastered the art of persuasion that normal people have no choice but to do exactly what they say. Told with infectious humor from two points of view, one Poet and one non-, Lexicon starts at top speed and never slows down. It’s unquestionably the year’s smartest thriller. —Lev Grossman

8. The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer


Five oddball teenagers at an artsy summer camp become friends, and they decide to call their little group The Interestings. Summer ends, but life keeps going, and Wolitzer keeps on following the five into their various futures. The years and decades roll forward and their ambitions and crushes and jealousies and flaws mold their lives into strange, imperfect, unexpected shapes — one becomes a therapist; the other, the creator of a wildly successful cartoon; another, a fugitive from justice. Wolitzer’s novelistic vision is so broad that it embraces the entire tapestry of their interwoven fates, and her glorious novelistic intelligence maps the complex five-way bonds between them with magnificent precision. —Lev Grossman

7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman


Slender but exceedingly deep, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the story of a little boy in mid-century rural England who is accidentally drawn into a struggle between an evil spirit who’s trying to take up residence on Earth and his neighbors, the Hempstocks, who are much more powerful and less human than they appear. It’s a strange and beautiful and frightening fairy tale; it’s also the master fantasist’s most emotionally raw, personal novel to date. —Lev Grossman

6. NOS4A2, Joe Hill


It takes a deep and thorough knowledge of the human soul to frighten properly, and the depth of Hill’s knowledge is fully apparent here. NOS4A2 is the license plate of the Rolls-Royce Wraith in which the book’s villain abducts children and takes them to a thoroughly demonic theme-park world called Christmasland; it falls to Vic, a woman with a curious gift for finding things, to stop him. This is a horror novel, no mistake, and a searingly, upsettingly scary one, but it’s also a rich study of human evil and a lavish display of raw writing talent. —Lev Grossman

5. The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert


Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love made her a household name; now she reminds us that she began her career as a writer of fiction with this masterly tale of overflowing sensual and scientific enthusiasms in the 19th century. Gilbert’s heroine is Alma Whittaker, a cerebral, insatiably curious spinster who wanders the globe in search of exotic flora but who stumbles on that more elusive and baffling natural phenomenon, love. —Lev Grossman

4. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri


A life-spanning novel about two brothers from Calcutta: one dies young, in an act of political violence, and one lives on, trying to make sense of his brother’s death and pick up the loose threads he left behind, which include a pregnant wife, whom the surviving brother marries. Lahiri’s graceful, measured prose ticks off the years and registers, precisely and with deep pathos, the strange, surprising, melancholy and very occasionally wonderful changes that time wreaks on us all. —Lev Grossman

3. The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner


Kushner’s second novel (and second to earn a National Book Award nomination) tells the story of Reno, a young woman striving for success in a man’s world of land-speed racing, the gritty 1970s New York art scene and (eventually) radical politics in Italy — three disparate settings brilliantly realized in Kushner’s vivid prose. Her heroine is a bracing twist on the archetypal self-made man. Observant and impressionable, adventurous and unsure, Reno is caught in the act of self-making, and her unguarded spirit mirrors the revolutionary spirit of the age.  —Radhika Jones

2. Tenth of December, George Saunders


One of America’s premier satirists, Saunders has made a career out of laying bare the shallow, corporate-infused discourse of contemporary life. In his collection of 10 searing stories, he reveals what lies beneath that Orwellian language: not (as we might expect) spiritual emptiness, but love, hope, aspiration and compassion, amid the darkest of human experience. Individually the stories showcase a remarkable array of voices — the desperate mother of an unmanageable child; a cancer patient determined to die with dignity; a young boy torn between disobedience and heroism. Together they emphasize how little divides us, in our timeless desire to be understood. —Radhika Jones

1. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson


“Dying is an art, like everything else,” Sylvia Plath wrote in “Lady Lazarus.” “I do it exceptionally well.” So does Ursula Todd, who is born in England in 1910 and dies again, and again, and again. Whenever Ursula dies — at birth, or from drowning at the seaside, or at the hand of an abusive husband, or by her own hand — her life restarts, by some mysterious magic, and in her new life she tries to correct the mistakes of the old one. This is one of those fantastical novels, like The Time Traveler’s Wife, that tells us more about the realities of being human than most realist novels do. Among its harsh realities are life during wartime in both London (in one life) and Berlin (in another), set-pieces that can stand with anything in the literature of the Second World War. By its nature, Atkinson’s basic conceit gives rise to a gorgeous braid of storytelling that reminds us how gloriously polyphonic novels can be — Life After Life rhymes and chimes and harmonizes with itself, adding layers of complexity as it goes, in a bravura performance as great as anything published so far this millennium. Particularly as it all serves a story that is, in its essence, primally simple: like all of us, Ursula wishes only to live her best life, to be who she ought to be — watching her try and fail and ultimately triumph in this basic human task is the most thrilling and moving experience fiction has to offer this year. —Lev Grossman

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Books best 2013 fiction of

He fumes what needs to be done, and I assure him, as a native. It seems to me that I know his whole eternity. He and I have already figured out how to numb my daddy. He is heady - Mr. Jenkins, that is.

Top Ten Fiction Books of 2013

The next day, in the morning, women began to visit Yulia and give her urine to drink. Kalom Yulia was also fed but less. Julia was getting more and more accustomed to the role of the women's toilet and she liked it. In the evening Olga Viktorovna once again came to see Yulia - Well, how do you feel - Olga asked.

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Their members have already been sufficiently strengthened. The game was even lightly played with the hand along its trunk. I got on the couch. It was a little uncomfortable, to become a cancer on it.

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