Last year’s reading recap was largely a complaint that I didn’t find many books to recommend with enthusiasm. I’m happy to report and share about the books I read and enjoyed in 2013–definitely a good reading year for me! I went into this year noting it had been awhile since I’d read a truly great new novel. I’m happy to report I read not one but three top-notch novels that I’d enthusiastically recommend. Six very good works of non-fiction round out my 2013 list of good reads. I get most of my books from the library, so many of these books were published prior to 2013.
My 3 favorite novels
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. One of the better novels I’ve read in awhile. Does a nice job of pulling together the stories of a wide range of New Yorkers in the 1970s. The tales are linked by a real event, a tightrope walk between the twin towers.
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. She opens with some powerful language, quickly drawing the reader into the world of a fortyish single woman who feels she isn’t fully living life. She then develops a complicated relationship with a family of three visiting Cambridge, MA for the year. Messud saves up a surprise for the end. After reading the final page, I was left wondering what happens next!
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. Vivid language paints a picture of the struggles of one large family during and following the Great Migration. Hattie, the matriarch moves from the South to Philadelphia as a teen, marries at a young age and ekes out an existence for herself and her children. The story covers the diverse paths her children take and her own quest to find her own happiness. This is Ayana Mathis’ first novel, a good start!
6 works of non-fiction worth reading
Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back by Andrew Zolli. Disasters such as Hurricane Sandy called attention to the concept of resilience–the factors that can make a system more able to withstand crisis and change. Zolli breaks down the concept well and provides many good examples of the concept in practice.
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. Definitely a top read of 2013, and one I’d encourage parents and educators to read. Tough presents research on what makes children succeed in a very accessible manner, with great examples of initiatives that help children succeed even in difficult circumstances. I wrote more on this one here.
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle. This one made my 10 Books That Have Influenced Me list so of course needed to be on my best books of 2013. This book got me thinking further about how technology is changing us, and what we can do proactively to lead balanced lives in a digital age. See 10 Ideas for Finding Your Own Walden in a Digital Age for more on that.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. One-third to one-half of Americans are introverts, yet in our highly social culture the needs and inclinations of introverts are often under-appreciated. This book is a good step toward setting that straight. I wrote a bit more on this one here.
Leadership and the Art of Struggle: How Great Leaders Grow Through Challenge and Adversity by Steven Snyder. Of course we all know it’s a good idea to learn from our mistakes. Easier said than done! This book does a good job of breaking down the process and mindset necessary for leaders to grow in response to the challenges with which we are confronted. I found this helpful to draw upon working to develop a new strategic growth plan this year at Social Capital Inc.
The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti. Entertaining (true) tale of the author’s quest to find “the world’s greatest cheese” and the character that makes it in the Castille region of Spain.
I read about 25 books in total, and must have done a good job choosing them as cutting it to 9 wasn’t that easy. I left off some good books with local interest (on Terry Francona and Whitey Bulger) and a real page turner (the final Stieg Larsson novel). I hope my 2014 and yours are similarly packed with good reading!
Full disclosure: Book links on this blog go to Amazon, via my Amazon affiliates account. Should you choose to purchase one of these books, I get a small percentage of the sale.