Top 25 Books Read in 2013
As 2bitmonkeySis kindly pointed out to me, I read a lot this year.
Yup, that’s a lot.
As the year comes to a close, here is a review of the books I liked best in 2013 (all those I rated 5 stars on Goodreads), in order from favorite to least favorite. Keep in mind that these are the best of the best, so even the books at the bottom of this list are very highly recommended for your 2014 reading list.
The best music-related book I’ve ever read. Period. If you have any interest in indie music whatsoever, don’t be intimidated by the size of this book. Just dive right in.
The perfect novel. It is equal parts intriguing plot, beautiful language, brilliant dialogue, memorable quotations and thought-provoking moral quandaries. No other book is at once smart, funny, descriptive, and complex. It has everything a novel should.
Do I really need to convince you to read Palahniuk’s first novel? How about this: This is a rare case where I’ll say the movie is equal to the book. So if you’re not a reader, go see the movie!
Great book for people who are smart and curious. Silver is more of both than probably anyone going right now. As a society we are lucky he decided to write a book.
The defining history of a decade of basketball that would otherwise be lost forever. I never read oral histories, but so many people praised this book that I had to give it a try. 400 pages later it’s probably the best sports book I’ve ever read.
6. Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, Nassim Nicholas Taleb – LitMonkey review
Page after page of practical wisdom, some of which seems intuitive in hindsight, some of which is completely counter-intuitive. In either case reading Taleb’s theories as he so illuminatingly describes them is a highly educational experience. It will change the way you think.
When your mind is ready to take the journey, you will understand.
8. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness , Susan Cahalan
Cahalan has a wild story to tell, but what makes Brain on Fire a special book is her storytelling ability. It’s a brief trip through madness, but one that the reader is able to take with her due to her excellent prose. Unlike many books about mental disorders, you don’t need to relate to Cahalan to appreciate her ordeal – you can see alternately see yourself in the place of her parents, her boyfriend, or her friends. (And a special thanks to 2bitmonkeySis for recommending it!)
Possibly my favorite book from possibly my favorite fiction writer. There’s a possibility that this novel by Hornby may only appeal to people who at some time or another have been sad. But if you have, this is a book you’ll feel good about, in the way that a Smith record makes you feel good when you’re sad. And let’s be honest – who hasn’t been sad at one time or another?
Diary captures everything that makes a Palahniuk book great – it’s suspenseful, complicated, quirky, well-written, expertly paced and chilling without being overly gory. It is also a psychological masterpiece and perhaps Palahniuk’s best achievement in criticizing certain aspects of society, the area in which he excels. I considered ranking it above Fight Club, which is probably all you need to know.
11. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, Jon Ronson – LitMonkey review
Despite popular misconception, this is not a how-to book for identifying psychopaths. If you can go into the book without that expectation and if the topic of the human psyche interests you, I believe it’s impossible not to immensely enjoy this thought-provoking book.
The book is probably 25% made up, but who makes up stories any better than Hooky? Plus, that means 75% of it is true! Reading Unknown Pleasures caused me to write several thousand words about Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Not many books have that kind of effect. Hilarious, heart-wrenching, and different than everything else you’ve ever heard about Ian and the band. Fans would be remiss to skip this band biography.
Purports to be about learning to play the guitar, but is actually so much more. Marcus is a thinker, and he articulates his thoughts about music, language and the mind brilliantly. My favorite quote: “If I had to sum up human music for intergalactic travelers in a single concise phrase, it might be this: Repetition, with variation.” If thoughts like this intrigue you, read Guitar Zero, even if learning to play guitar doesn’t.
Wonderful first-person account from a young woman suffering from manic depression. In some ways better than fiction, as her experiences resonate more than any fictional account possibly could.
A serious (but still funny) book for anyone who (a) likes The Big Lebowski and (b) isn’t already well-versed in the Zen school of thought. Like Zen for dummies, from the perspective of The Dude.
My favorite Sedaris book, hands down. Probably the funniest memoir I’ve ever read.
Here is how you read a 33-1/3 book: Don’t pick up the book you are 100% fluent with the music, until you feel like you’ve fully digested the album and fallen in love with it. Then, and only then, read the book while listening to the music, repeating songs, verses, guitar riffs, and drum solos as the author dissects each of those elements into its most elemental parts. Handled this way, as a companion piece to Daydream Nation the album, the book enhances the listening experience through the sheer enthusiasm and effort that Stearns puts into it. Which is exactly what a 33-1/3 book is supposed to do.
Both the prose and the photos are laugh out loud funny. Best “Urban Outfitters” book I read this year.
19. Game of My Life New York Yankees: Memorable Stories of Yankees Baseball , Dave Buscema – LitMonkey review
Buscema interviewed a number of Yankee legends and asked them one question: “What was the game of your life?” Each player chose a single game and talked about what they remembered, what it meant to them, why it stood above all others. If you’re a Yankees fan, this book is not to be missed.
A first-person novel told from the perspective of a boy with Asperger syndrome. I had serious doubts about this one, but Haddon pulled it off. Autism is at once both tragic and funny – Haddon manages to capture that combination in this story.
More than just a book of photographs, or even a book of memories of Marilyn, an interesting look inside the mind of someone who used Marilyn to achieve his life’s dreams. (Probably one of many people who did that.) Plus, photos of Marilyn.
The story of how a dozen television dramas transformed TV as an entertainment medium. Sepinwall’s approach – interviewing show creators, writers and network executives, and reporting in detail the behind-the-scenes drama that made these shows possible – creates a narrative about how interesting and smart television is made, especially in a time before people used the words smart and television in the same sentence. A fascinating read despite the fact that I’d only seen 4 of the 12 TV series covered.
A must-read for any serious professional football fan. Super Bowl XXV has been underrated historically; it’s time that someone gave it its proper due.
The books that spawned LitMonkey. Books about reading books. How meta. If you’ve gotten this far down this list and still want an A+ read, try these.