It’s that time of year again! – when people could just about spew if they see another 'Best Of' list. Meanwhile, I look back on the reading year that’s been and say, “Gosh. I read a lot! … No, I mean, did I actually see daylight at all this year because that is a lot of books to have got through…” But now it’s December and I don’t have a vitamin-D deficiency so that in itself is cause for celebration.
Also cause for celebration is just how many books and fictional characters I fell in love with this year!
Now, normally I write a little spiel about why I've picked each book as an end-of-year favourite …
There’s the anthology ‘Just Between Us: Australian writers tell the truth about female friendship’ that suck with me for days and weeks after reading (I've actually re-read quite a few stories from that collection in recent months). I got into graphic novels in a big way in 2013 (after travelling to New York earlier in the year, where I explored some jaw-droppingly awesome comic book shops!) and I was even lucky enough to meet Lucy Knisley at the Melbourne Writers Festival (and have her draw a picture of my favourite food in my copy of ‘Relish’ – though in hindsight I should have chosen something more complex than Turkish delight). And, as usual, the majority of my favourites are young adult books (because … THERE ARE NO WORDS!)
I just find it really hard to summarise why each book imprinted on me and lingered long enough to warrant a place on this list. So, instead of trying to explain the instinct, I’m going to include my favourite scenes or quotes. I think this will give a pretty good explanation of why I fell in love, and why I can’t recommend the following titles highly enough …
Now, in no particular order: My Favourite Books of 2013.
Reality Boy by A.S. King
“I’m not famous. I’m infamous,” I say. “There’s a big difference.”
Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews
“So this is what it's about? This is your mature response to go off into the mountains rather than talking about it and have s'mores with a gnome and a mountain man."
"What's your plan for tomorrow? Brunch with a unicorn?”
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Mal crossed his arms and considered the privateer. “I can’t decide if you’re crazy or stupid.”
“I have so many good qualities,” Sturmhond said. “It can be hard to choose.”
Saga Volume 2. Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Every Breath by Ellie Marney
Mai grins at Mycroft. ‘You know that’s slightly ridiculous, don’t you?’
He smiled. ‘Why?’
‘Because. . . because you’re teenagers.’ Mai’s expression says it should be obvious. ‘Mycroft, this isn’t like figuring out who spray-painted some guy’s car. This is murder.’
‘The principles are the same’ he insists.
‘But you’re both minors. And you have no access to police information, no experience, no forensics lab, no authority. . . ’
‘Mai, are you trying to bring me down or something?’
Gus, who usually only gets emotive about things like soccer, suddenly leans forward. ‘I think you should do it.’ He glances at me and Mycroft in turn. ‘This homeless guy, it’s not like his death is going to be a major priority, is it? The police won’t bend over backwards to bring his killer to justice or anything. He was a derelict with no family. So you two are the only ones who even care.’
Vango: Between Sky And Earth Vango #1 by Timothée de Fombelle
"I like the idea of a priest who climbs cathedrals to escape the police."
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
“I had it all wrong," he says. "Before I found you, I thought the only way to hold on was to find something to live for. It isn't. To hold on, you have to find something you're willing to die for.”
Girl Defective by Simmone Howell
‘Put something on. Whatever you like.’
To some eyes this could look like a test. The first track a newbie played might set the tone for his employment. Luke was right to look uncertain. He wandered around the aisles for ages, coming back with Simon & Garfunkel. I snorted. Even Gully shook his head.
‘What?’ Luke asked.
‘That record doesn’t tell me anything about your inner emotional landscape,’ I told him.
Luke stayed poker-faced. ‘Don’t have one of those.’
‘Sky – don’t psychoanalyse the new guy.’ Dad turned to Luke. ‘Gully reads faces, Sky reads records. We, the Martins, have superpowers.’
The Sultan’s Eyes by Kelly Gardiner
‘You know nothing about faith,’ I said. ‘You think it is about restricting people’s minds, people’s words.’
‘Faith without rules is merely superstition.’
‘Is that what you believe? You couldn’t be more wrong. Faith without wisdom is merely superstition. Rules are made by men, and rules can change.’
Written in Red by Anne Bishop
People who entered the Courtyard without an invitation were just plain crazy! Wolves were big and scary and so fluffy, how could anyone resist hugging one just to feel all that fur?
“Ignore the fluffy,” she muttered. “Remember the part about big and scary.”
Wildlife by Fiona Wood
Grief settles comfortably into any host; it is an ever-mutating, vigorous organism with an ever-renewing customer base. It generates a never-ending hunger, a never-ending ache, an unassuageable pain to new hearts, brains, guts every minute, every day, every year.It is the razor edge of a loose tooth shrieking to be pressed again and again into the soft pink sore gum.
It’s a one-way tunnel with no proof of another exit.
The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
“I didn’t say it was dumb,” Tessa said. “It’s what you feel, and guess what? Feelings are like three-year-olds. They’re not rational. They’re just there.”
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
I pick up the owl. Some of the patches are worn so thin you can almost see through them to the stuffing inside.
“You used to carry him everywhere,” he says. “You called him– ”
“Toot.” It’s just a tiny flash of a memory, but I remember making sure he was with me every night before I went to sleep. “I thought that’s what owls said.”
I can see the bitter blurred in the sweet of Greg’s smile. All these years I've had very few memories, while he– he’s had nothing but.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
Cecilia thought she’d experienced anger before, plenty of times, but now she knew that she’d had no idea how real anger felt. The white-hot burning purity of it. It was a frantic, crazy, wonderful feeling. She felt like she could fly. She could fly across the room, like a demon, and claw bloody scratch marks down John-Paul’s face.
Just Between Us by Maya Linden, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott, Natalie Kon-Yu and Miriam Sved
—‘In Broad Daylight’ by Julienne van Loon
Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
‘Werewolf games,' Mercy said solemnly, 'play for keeps, or go home.' She was so cute sometimes it made Adam's heart hurt.
Penelope by Rebecca Harrington
“Did you hear about Nikil?” asked Catherine, encasing Penelope’s arm in a viselike grip.
“Um, no?” said Penelope.
“He didn’t get on the Crimson Business Board. He got cut.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” said Penelope.
“He’s really upset,” said Catherine with relish. “I feel awful for him.”
“It’s too bad that even things that seem so un-fun are also so competitive,” said Penelope, “This was why I have always been against the Olympics, as a rule.”
Dark Horse by Honey Brown
Rain had slowed. The wind had died down. With the light gone from his forehead and shining from a different angle, the shadows on his face changed and his age was more apparent. He was in his late twenties. He had a youthful gleam in his eyes, liveliness even though he was cold and battered. From all accounts, you’d think he was revelling in the intensity, exactly like a young man would, everything an adventure. The smile he gave her emerged white from within the mud mask. ‘I promise I’m not Ted Bundy.’
‘The murderer who pretended to have a broken leg to lure women.’
‘Bad joke,’ he said.
Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman
We’re just one person. Did you get that already? You guess it from the blurb, right? I put in some clues.
Alex and I are the one person, but I feel like two people, and this is the problem. It’s always been like that, but since I stopped taking my medication five days ago it’s so totally clear that I can’t be the other Alex anymore.
And what’s why my dad left us.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
‘I've sequenced the questions for maximum speed of elimination,’ I explained. ‘I believe I can eliminate most women in less than forty seconds. Then you can choose the topic of discussion for the remaining time.’
‘But then it won’t matter,’ said Frances. ‘I’ll have been eliminated.’
‘Only as a potential partner. We may still be able to have an interesting discussion.’
‘But I’ll have been eliminated.’
I nodded. ‘Do you smoke?’
‘Occasionally,’ she said.
I put the questionnaire away. ‘Excellent.’ I was pleased that my question sequencing was working so well. We could have wasted time talking about ice-cream flavours and make-up only to find that she smoked. Needless to say, smoking was not negotiable. ‘No more questions. What would you like to discuss?’
Haze by Paula Weston
‘Sparring with you. I don’t think he was ready for it.’
I try to laugh but it comes out as a rasp.
'I mean it. You haven’t trained together for a very long time. For the last decade, any time you two threw punches at each other, you were deadly serious.’ She tucks her feet underneath her. ‘The problem today was that you were too good.’
‘How is that a problem?’ I finally look up. She gives me a sad smile.
‘There were moments when you fought like the old Gabe. I think at the end there, he forgot which version of you he was fighting.’
Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Circulation edited by Shaun Usher
“Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.”—From ‘To My Old Master’ a letter from Jourdon Anderson to Patrick Henry Anderson, dated August 7th 1865.
Binny for Short by Hilary McKay
Binny swiftly abandoned all her earlier peaceful plans.Battle, then. They would be enemies. They were enemies. No use to consider anything else. She had no problem with that. After all, she had not had a good, tough enemy for months. Not since the last one died.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
She lifted her chin up and forced her forehead to relax. “I’m the Cool One,” she told herself. “Somebody give me some tequila because I’ll totally drink it. And there’s no way you’re going to find me later having a panic attack in your parent’s bathroom. Who wants to French-kiss?”
New Guinea Moon by Kate Constable
‘They’ll kick us all out. This time next year, there won’t be any Europeans left, apart from the God-botherers.’
‘It’s the end of an era . . . it’ll never be the same.’
It’s odd, Julie thinks. There is anger in the way they speak, bitter resentment at their dismissal from the scene. But there is a wistfulness too, nostalgia for the lives they are still leading, as if they see themselves as ghosts already; they miss living here and they haven’t even left yet. Did the Romans sit around talking like this, before their empire fell?
The Disappearance of Ember Crow The Tribe #2 by Ambelin Kwaymullina
Some truths cannot be told. They can only be discovered.
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn't know were there, even the ones they wouldn't have thought to call beautiful themselves.
Steal My Sunshine by Emily Gale
Sister pushes the grey dress and blue apron into my arms again, and even while I’m putting them on I’m telling her, ‘You can’t touch me. I’m not from here. You can’t keep me. I’m not a prisoner.’ Not a single muscle in her face moves as I carry on. ‘Someone is coming for me,’ I cry.
She’s like a statue, staring me down until I feel as powerful as the puddle of clothes at my feet. ‘You’ve fallen,’ she says. ‘And we are the only ones who will pick you up.’
She’s right, I’ve fallen into the bottom of the world. ‘Someone has to come for me,’ I whisper.
She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
I remember being tiny, about Benjamin’s age, standing in the sweet shop, and the woman behind the counter asking Mum, ‘What does she want? Does she like chocolates? Or something else? How do you manage with her? It must be very hard…’
She kept on and on, as if I wasn’t there.
As if I were invisible. But I’m not. The woman kept on and on, and Mum didn’t know what to say, and I just stood there, feeling more and more upset, and as she went on, I suddenly thought it was as if she was the one who was blind, and couldn’t see me, not the other way around.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.
Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting
Then Frank smiled his crinkly smile at me. 'When you're ready,' he'd said, 'you can call me Frank.'
Whenever I came upon him in that house - and that was how it always felt with Frank, that you didn't so much see him as come upon him unexpectedly - he would always say something that made me feel really good inside; he would call me Tallulah de Lightful or Tallulah de Lovely, and Annabelle would say, 'More like Tallulah de Mented' and the three of us would laugh like hyenas.
The Assembler of Parts: a novel by Raoul Wientzen
The tally grew: two thumbs, twelve bones, one kidney, and two holes in the lace of the heart.
The news she gave my mother, though, was excellent. The heart would likely heal itself, knit up those tiny leaks and silence those puny squeaks, and if not, at age seven the nimble surgeon would sew me up. Until then I would carry a noise like a shout in my heart, one I could not myself hear but which, in quiet moments as I fell to sleep, I could often feel athump and aswish.