I was always an avid reader, but definitely lapsed during my college years. Between required readings for class and all the non-class activities I’d rather have been doing anyway, I found little time to read just for the sake of reading. Though I would happily have stayed a full-time student for life, one benefit of having graduated is now I have more time to read, and can read what I want. I checked out my Goodreads account recently and realized: I read a lot of damn good books in 2013. Books I wanted to rave about, give as gifts, and read over again. I didn’t get around to blogging reviews on all of them (only Contact and American Savage) but thought an end-of-year reading round-up would be even better.
The rest of this list will be presented in no particular order, but I feel I simply MUST bestow the title of Best Book of the Year, nay, one of the BEST BOOKS EVER, upon Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I remembered Tina from Weekend Update, and years later 30 Rock quickly became one of my favorite television shows of all time. I’m a fan of funny ladies and always loved Tina, but this book really took me by surprise and blew me away. I listened to her narration on the audio book before reading it again on paper, both times laughing uncontrollably through the entire work. Humor is hard to pull off on the page, and Tina did it masterfully. But she also wove that humor into memoir, essay, and some damn good words of wisdom for the rest of us. Simply the best.
Around the end of high school I had grown bored with fiction, and switched to reading books about science, history, and culture instead. I gradually found my way back to the made-up stories as I became more and more into science fiction. One of my biggest pet peeves EVER IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD is that bookstores lump “Science Fiction” into the same category as the “Fantasy” genre, making me painstakingly sift through all the dragons and magic in search of the space operas and futuristic distopias. My distaste for fantasy carried over into television, where I dragged my heels quite a bit before giving in and watching Game of Thrones with my boyfriend. I was hooked, and wanted to read the books immediately.
I read the first four books of A Song of Ice and Fire this past year, and just recently tore into the fifth. I would compare it to the Harry Potter series, which is high praise coming from me. The plot lines, the mystery, the character development, the magic, the suspense… the books are a masterwork, laden with beautiful imagery, mythology, and page-turning suspense. George R. R. Martin says he’s a slow writer and hasn’t announced a date for the sixth book yet, and mentioned the series might end up being more than 7 volumes. All I know is, he better GET ON THAT SHIT before he dies!
I found and read a science fiction book this year called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu. This book should probably just be called straight up literature. The story centers around a time-machine repairman and his dog, lost together in time. It’s an abstractly written and breathtakingly beautiful meditation on life. Just a great blend of science and spirituality, rolled in with a little humor too.
The best non-fiction books I read this year were Quite: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, Dan Savage’s American Savage, An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage, and Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky.
My last reads of the year were two books I took to Mexico with me, both written by comedians. The first was Rob Delaney’s book (Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.) which I found both funny and very, very touching. He is without a doubt the “funniest man on Twitter”, but I had no idea until recently how open he was about his own struggle with depression, and how devoted he is to the cause of mental illness awareness. The book was touching, and sweet, and funny.
The second comedy book I took to Mexico was Egghead, by none other than Bo Burnham. As if the 20-year-old whiz-kid hadn’t conquered enough with his comedic and musical talents by already having three Comedy Central specials under his belt, he goes and writes a frickin’ book. A book of poetry. Illustrated by one of his friends, the book is both an ode to and parody of the work of Shel Silverstein, who created the best children’s books of all time and whose work I have tattooed on my back. To see Bo flourish in such a style is magnificent; he is sharp-witted, hilarious, and creative to the bone. A true jack-of-all-trades, Bo is simply a prodigy.
Well, that was my year in books. Now onto 2014!