The best books I read in 2013

I don’t read anywhere near as much as I’d like to.  Here’s a brief list, more or less in order, of my favorites from 2013, most of which came out in earlier years.

  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (audiobook) — A wonderful mixture of science, sociology, and human interest, beautifully narrated.
  2. Pride and Prejudice (e-book) — Filling a gap in my education here.  I probably would have enjoyed it better in a print version, but it was wonderful nevertheless.
  3. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (audiobook) — David Sedaris has turned himself into a national treasure.  His essays are funny on their own, but even better when he reads them.
  4. Olive Kitteridge (print book) — How come no one told me about this novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize a few years ago?  It suffers a bit from being a series of interconnected short stories (like Winesburg, Ohio) rather than a true novel, but it’s still moving and beautifully written.  On the other hand, I tried listening to Elizabeth Strout’s latest novel, The Burgess Boys, and gave up on it for various reasons.
  5. Lawrence in Arabia (audiobook) — A long, engrossing look at the Middle East during World War I.  (It helps that I have a kid living over there now, in a country that didn’t exist back then.)  I should have read it rather than listened to it, since I wanted to study maps, see photos of the characters, etc.
  6. The Particle at the End of the Universe (print book) — I cannot understand physics, but I like to try.  Sean Carroll is a very engaging writer who really understands stuff like the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs Boson, to the point where I could delude myself into thinking this stuff finally made sense.
  7. The Signal and the Noise (audiobook) — I love Nate Silver’s 538 blog, and this book was pretty good too — a look at how prediction works (and doesn’t work) in various fields.  Again, I should have read it rather than listened to it — there were too many graphs I wanted to look at rather than have the narrator describe them to me.
  8. Telegraph Avenue (e-book) — Not Michael Chabon’s best novel, but still very enjoyable.
  9. Why Does the World Exist: An Existential Detective Story (e-book) — For some reason I’m interest in why the world exists.  I enjoyed this book a lot, although it also annoyed me a lot.  Here is my moderately clever review written with the limited vocabulary of Up Goer Five.
  10. The Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix (print book) — Filling another gap in my education.  The annotations and illustrations added considerably to my enjoyment of what by now is a familiar story.  On its own, Watson’s narrative wasn’t as interesting as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Other books I enjoyed: Lee Child’s One Shot and Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story.  I most emphatically did not enjoy Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy.(including the parts supposedly written by Shakespeare) or Lee Child’s A Wanted Man. Neither Kyd nor Child (hmm, that’s an odd juxtaposition) will care.

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One thought on “The best books I read in 2013

  1. Pingback: What makes a plot “arthritic”? | Richard Bowker

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