2013 was a year when some well established authors proved why they are loved. From George Saunders to Khaled Hosseini to Neil Gaiman, most of the names on this list will be familiar. There is, however, one awesome debut in our Top 10 of 2013. It was one of the best books I read this year and is a great choice for those looking to discover a new author.
'Tenth of December' by George Saunders
Can a short story satisfy as well as a good novel? George Saunders makes a good case that it can with Tenth of December
, a collection of ten short stories. He also demonstrates the power of a collection. While each story stands on its own, the book clearly has themes and that run throughout and the stories are more powerful taken together. Saunders's stories are very domestic, but definitely raise large ethical questions. Readers might be surprised, too, when science fiction elements pop up (although even those who do not read science fiction should not be put off by the way it is used in these stories. Some of my favorites include "Victory Lap," "Semplica Girls" and "Tenth of December," although I recommend the collection as a whole.
'A Constellation of Vital Phenomena' by Anthony Marra
In the initial weeks after the release of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
, I wondered if this debut novel would be the next Kite Runner
. It has not been as successful, but I predict this will not be the only "Best of 2013" list it makes, and I hope that the acclaim will bring the novel more readers. Indeed, this story about the Russian-Chechen war (the first English novel about the topic), is a beautiful and well written novel that contains depth, character and a plot that you will want to follow until the end. Anthony Marra is one to watch, and his debut should not be missed.
'The Lowland' by Jhumpa Lahari
Jhumpa Lahiri has gained acclaim for her stories about Indian families in the United States. Her latest book, The Lowland, also looks at characters who emigrate from India to America. The story, which spans decades, is gripping and moving, and will probably teach readers some new things about Indian history.
'And the Mountains Echoed' by Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini's first two books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, established his place as a great author. In And the Mountains Echoed, Hosseini once again writes about Afghanistan. His maturity as an author comes through in a story that readers will not want to put down.
'Maya's Notebook' by Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende is already a popular Latin American author, and Maya's Notebook
just adds to her reputation. This novel is the story of a girl raised in San Francisco who becomes addicted to drugs after her grandfather who raised her dies. When she runs away from rehab, her grandmother sends her to a small island off the coast of Chili to recover with a friend of the family. While not a light read, Maya's Notebook
is not difficult and is one that her fans and new readers would enjoy.
'Big Brother' by Lionel Shriver
Lionel Shriver takes on obesity in her latest novel, Big Brother. The story of Pandora and her morbidly obese brother, Edmund, who comes to stay with her for several months, also examines just how far we should go to help our families and how to navigate competing loyalties (in this case, husband and brother).
'Sisterland' by Curtis Sittenfeld
is the first Curtis Sittenfeld
novel I have read, and it made me want to go back and read others. Although Sisterland
is billed as a novel about two psychic sisters, it is not a supernatural story -- one of the vampire or witch novels that have become so popular. This is a book about family relationships, coming of age and how the choices we make shape our lives. Much of the action takes place in the domestic sphere -- the everyday of marriages, raising kids and interacting with extended family. Sittenfeld writes believable and sympathetic characters, but also provides enough weight to the plot to keep the pages turning.
'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' by Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane excels at using fantasy to explore issues of good and evil. This is a dark story involving suicide and family secrets. It is a slim novel that was originally intended to be a short story, but Gaiman is able to produce something deep in this little Ocean.
'Life After Life' by Kate Atkinson
is best known for her Jackson Brodie detective novels, such as One Good Turn
. Life After Life is a very different story -- one that involves the same character being born, dying and being reborn again and again -- but readers can expect the same high quality, thoughtful writing that Atkinson is known for.
'The Interestings' by Meg Wolitzer
Meg Wolitzer explores friendship, marriage, career and expectations in The Interestings. "The Interestings" is the name a group of teenage friends at a summer camp for artists gives to their clique. The novel follows these teenagers as they grow and take different paths in life.