You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Lady Demelza's Year in Books 2013

Happy New Year, everybody! Cheers!

I meant to spend the New Year's Eve putting this post online, but instead, I spent the evening socialising with Loved Ones over drinky-poos like a normal human being. I'm so pleased with myself. So here we are with my Year in Books for 2013.

1. Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn 2012
2. The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide by Francine Jay 2010
3. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin 1974
4. The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman 2012
5. Wild Women edited by Sue Thomas 1994
6. Ignorance by Michele Roberts 2012
7. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson 2012
8. European Mythology by Jacqueline Simpson 1987
9. The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody 2008
10. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 2011
11. The One Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson 2009, English translation 2012
12. World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler 2008
13. Precious and the Mystery of Meerkat Hill by Alexander McCall Smith 2012
14. The Witch of King's Cross by Nevill Drury 2001
15. This We Can Say: Australian Quaker Life, Faith and Thought by the Australia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Inc. 2003
16. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas 2006 (my review)
17. The Virago Book of Fairy Tales edited by Angela Carter 1991
18. The Witches' Book of the Dead by Christian Day 2011
19. A Visit From the Footbinder by Emily Prager 1993
20. The Earth Path by Starhawk 2004
21. The Lover's Path by Kris Waldherr 2006
22. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks 2007
23. An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks 1995
24. Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks 2001
25. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger 2009
26. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter 1967
27. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan 2008
28. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin 1968
29. Sweetbitter Love: Poems of Sappho - A New Translation by Willis Barnstone by Sappho ca. 600 BCE, English translation 2006
30. The Gate by John Connolly 2009
31. Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino 1965, English translation 1968
32. A Quaker Book of Wisdom by Robert Lawrence Smith 1998
33. In My Skin by Kate Holden 2005
34. The Curly Pyjama Letters by Michael Leunig 2001
35. The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales edited by Angela Carter 1993
36. Becoming Sister Wives by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn Brown 2012
37. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay 2004
38. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 1908 (re-read)
39. The Secret Lives of Sex Workers by Krystal Smith 2012
40. You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh 2001, English translation 2009
41. The Red Chief by Ion L. Idriess 1953
42. The Gypsies by Jan Yoors 1967
43. The Music of What Happens by John Straley 1996
44. Tom Bedlam by George Hagen 2007
45. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren 1945
46. London: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd 1997
47. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman 2013
48. The Sending by Isobelle Carmody 2011
49. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1 - The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson 2006
50. Dublin: Foundation by Edward Rutherfurd 2004
51. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver 2009
52. Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay 2005
53. PopCo by Scarlett Thomas 2004

I'm really struggling to pick a best book this year, which is how it should be. I try to read only the best books to start with. But I know you want to know, so I forced myself to whittle it down to a shortlist. My top picks for 2013 are -

Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks. This is the story of Sacks' childhood and his obsession with science and chemistry, and also the single best book on the history of science I have ever read. This is one for all the science geeks out there. You will wish that you had had Sacks' childhood.

The Gypsies by Jan Yoors. I found this book randomly on the shelf in the library and reading it was such a surprise. I never knew such a book existed. In the 1930's, a twelve-year-old Belgian boy ran away from home and joined a Roma tribe. He lived with them for many years and later in life wrote this book about his experiences. I believe it is the only published text to report such intimate knowledge of the life of this closed society. It's an extraordinary story, and depicts a stunningly beautiful way of life that is all but lost in this modern world. I am so very thankful that this man took the time to write this book, and that I found it.

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas. Thomas was my great New Discovery of the year. I just recently read PopCo, and I loved every minute I spent with that book so much. I am working on a review on it now and I will post it soon.

I want to give a special award for the funniest book I read this year, which was The One Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Absolutely laugh out loud, do not read this in a public place unless you mind making a spectacle of yourself. And why not, I say. It would be a great thing if people engaged in spectacular laughter more often.

The crappiest book I read all the way through this year was The Secret Lives of Sex Workers by Krystal Smith. It's a bit of sad story, I'm afraid - not the sex workers' stories, but what happened to that book. I have never in my life found a book with such blatantly terrible production values. They couldn't even spell the same word the same way twice. Not even the author's name, which appears with different spelling on different pages. The punctuation appeared to have been sprinkled on like confetti. Nobody even bothered with any fact checking. A footnote tells us that Rohypnol is cocaine. I just can't even begin to tell you how bad it all was. On the dedication page, the author made the unusual choice of dedicating the work to the people who worked on the book with her, her editor, proof-reader, even the typist. If I had been involved with such a dismal atrocity I wouldn't want anyone to know about it. At least the sex workers got to use assumed names.So why did I get all the way through to the end of such an embarrassment to the publishing industry? Because, just as promised on the cover, the stories were intriguing and fascinating. There's a reason why this subject is such a publishing goldmine.

I'm happy to report that I finally got around to re-reading a favourite book this year, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I got around my hang-ups about spending time re-reading books by reading it aloud to my goddessdaughter. It's been so wonderful to share it with her.

I'm linking up with Click Clack Gorilla's Book Lover's Blog Hop.


  1. Yey for the Tiny Homes book! :)

    How was the Daylight Gate? That is one by Winterson that I haven't even heard of yet.

    And how did you feel about World Made by Hand? I felt kind of "well that was ok but not really special" about it. I want to try some of his non-fiction though.

    Oooh Starhawk. I have been meaning to read her for a while too.

    So many great things on this list!! And some things I want to put on my to-read list as well.

    1. It's such a funny story, that Tiny Homes book. Last year I did spend New Year's reading and blogging. Just after midnight I read the Tiny Homes and found you in it! When I had just linked to your blog only a couple of hours before! Really, what are the chances?

      Speaking of chances, I can hardly believe that, out of all the books in the world, we ended up with more than one of the same titles on our lists.

      I would agree with your opinion on World Made By Hand. There were a lot of things I liked about that world, but then again, I didn't bother reading the sequel.

      Starhawk I would consider one of the most important living writers. I met her once! Excitement! I would start with The Spiral Dance or Dreaming the Dark.

      The Daylight Gate is Winterson's most recent title. Yep, it's the usual Winterson magic.

  2. Right, I'm going back through everybody's lists with goodreads open on another screen so that I can make a note of some of these fabulous-sounding books. I was the same with 100-year-old, have his second book now to start on too. Looking forward to that. Nice list.

  3. intriguing list, I love Lloyd Khan, read shelter a long time ago