I didn’t read as much as usual in 2013 but the books I did read were mostly amazing, unputdownable and memorable. So here is a short list of 7 of my favourite books from last year and a few words accompanying them to explain why in particular I enjoyed them so much.
Bastard Out Of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Set in the 1950’s and early 1960’s in rural South Carolina, this novel gives an interesting as well as unsettling insight into the life of a young girl at the margins of society. Socially stigmatized in different ways (poor, probably mix-raced, illegitimate child), Ruth Anne, called “Bone”, has to face hardships and discrimination from a young age on. She lives in a dysfunctional nuclear family in which the seemingly loving mother is oblivious to and powerless against Bone’s abusive step-father Glen.
I really liked this book and I was at times so immersed into the story that it was unputdownable. Though the story is at times quite unsettling, it still is fascinating in that it offers a glimpse into a reality that is so different from mine. The story is narrated from Bone’s point of view. The voice and language used to narrate this book are clear, convincing, and go straight to the heart, without ever needing to be sentimental or over-dramatizing. The characters are interesting and convincing, too, with different dimensions to their personality and personal history, which made them and the whole story in parts unpredictable, and thus surprising and really engaging.
Blankets by Craig Thompson
This graphic novel is amazing, I read it in one session because I just couldn’t put it down. A good story with great illustrations. Tragic, heartbreaking, hopeful, funny: it’s all that and so much more. I especially liked the detailed drawings, personally I love to look at the pictures and search for the small things – and I discovered that Craig, the protagonist of the story, and I have a very similar taste in music. But that just by the by.
Häschen in der Grube by Maria Sveland
A captivating novel that could be a young adult book just as well as it is a book for every other age group. It tells the story of twelve-year-old Emma und Julia, two best friends who come from very different kinds of families. Emma is brought up by her young single mother who is rather a friend to her daughter than a typical mother. Julia grows up in a burgeoise, quite wealthy and intact family – or so it seems from the outside. A lot is happening for the girls that summer – Emma has a boyfriend, they go to parties and there is this strange man out in the woods who is chasing after them. And something is also affecting their friendship – Julia is changing and withdrawing from Emma.
This book made it to my list of my all-time favourite reads. It is unputdownable, full of subtle suspense even though it is not a thriller. I liked that the author touched an important topic – violence against girls and women in our societies, be it domestic and sexual abuse, the general underlying misogyny in everyday life, or hate speech, rape culture and general discrimination at the workplace or everywhere else in the public and private sphere. And it is written in a way that it really gets to the reader very subtly,
it makes your stomach and gut clench and will stay with the reader for quite a while after the last page is finished. So it basically covers everything I like about a story: it is intriguing, memorable and touching upon a very important topic, plus I like Svelands writing style.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
This books tells a love story, the story of teenagers Eleanor, a plump, awkward redhead who is the new kid at her school, and Park, who is a huge music and comic book nerd. It is a very bittersweet story, because there is a lot that Eleanor does not want anyone to know about her and her family. Wonderfully written, I would love to read more from Rainbow Rowell in the future.
The Kite Runner (Graphic Novel) by Khaled Hosseini; Illustrations by Fabio Celoni
I have wanted to read this book for a while, so I grabbed it and took it home from the library as soon as I saw it. The drawings are beautiful, and I was quickly engaged in the story of Amir and Hassan, two boys from different social and ethnic backgrounds living in Afghanistan. To make it short, this is a really heart-breaking and sad story, and yes, I also shed a few tears when reading it. It is a story about friendship and the mistakes people make which cause them to lose some of their friends for stupid, ego-centric reasons.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
My first Vonnegut ever and I freaking loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. I don’t know why I didn’t start reading his books earlier on but anyway, I’m so glad that I finally did. The description on its back is dead on: it’s a tragic read, yet you cannot cry, and at the same time it is funny, yet you cannot laugh. Wonderful imagery and language, I like Vonnegut’s writing style. It’s sarcastic and ironic and matter-of-factly all at the same time. This book made it to my all-time-favourite reads. So it goes.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
A non-fiction novel chronicling the events closely before, during and after Hurricane Katrina from the perspective of a muslim couple who live in New Orleans. This book I could only hardly ever put down, even when I was dead tired and exhausted after a long day. I could identify with the characters and was drawn into the story very quickly.
2013 was a good year for me in general, and my reading choices were no exception from that.
How was 2013 for you, book-wise and in general? Any books/movies/TV series/music you can recommend?