Welcome to the Year of 100 Books ... and the Best Reads of 2013

Well, I’m finally doing it: I’ve decided to set my 2014 reading goal at 100 books.

A few years ago, before I discovered the wonders of audiobooks, I would have thought such a goal impossible; I was averaging about 40 books a year back then. But last year I surpassed my goal of 75 books by about ten, so this year, I’ve decided to go all the way.

I’m always looking for ways to cram more books in my life, and I’ve decided that there is no shame in reading picture books from time to time, something I started to do in 2013 that I hadn’t done since about 2002. Mostly, though, I feel that 2014 might be the last full year I have without children, and God knows what a time suck those are (although I joked with Ivan today that maybe I COULD make a 100-book year after having a baby if I counted every board book I read aloud). But this year is a year of reading just for ME, and I look forward to seeing what it will bring.

Before moving into the future, though, it seems the thing to do to make a list of the best books of 2013. So, below is my list of the select few books I read that earned an elusive five-star review in 2013.

1. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – I wouldn’t have read this one as soon as I did without my Young at Heart Book Club, but I’m glad it got bumped to the top of my list. Read in the last days of 2013, it was also one of the best books I read in 2013. Full review to come.

2. The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey – Reminds me of Life as We Knew It … except with aliens. Also read for my book club — and interestingly enough, my mom and I were reading it at exactly the same time, without deciding to do so beforehand.

3. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – Until I read this, I didn’t think writing about nature could be vivid enough to make me feel that I had actually seen these places. Really, I was just walking around my neighborhood when I listened to this book on audio, but in my memory of it, I was hiking the PCT.

4. If I Am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus – I was surprised when I looked over the year’s books and saw that I gave this one five stars. I may have been overly generous, but it was riveting.

5. Doll Bones by Holly Black – This is one of the only books I’ve bought new in years, promptly after I returned the library’s copy. It resonated with me for very personal reasons, but I guess I wasn’t the only one, since there are whispers about it being nominated for this year’s Newbery.

6. Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds by Lyndall Gordon – This book captured my imagination far more than I expected it would, and it has me setting my sights on Amherst as my next vacation destination. I’m keeping an eye out for Lyndall Gordon’s biography of Virginia Woolf, too.

7. Frozen Assets: Cook For a Day, Eat for a Month by Deborah Taylor-Hough – This book totally converted me to once-a-month-cooking. In fact, I just finished my 10th session of OAMC today. There’s no going back. (And btw, it’s a great “starter book” if you’re interested in the freezer cooking lifestyle, but it doesn’t have the yummiest recipes of all the freezer recipes I’ve tried. It’s rated highly for accessibility and enthusiasm, not yumminess.)

8. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong – What a better world this would be if we all followed these steps — including me. A little heavy and dry, but worthwhile.

Honorable mentions that left more of an impression than most of the books I rated 4 stars in 2013: Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones, The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, and The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud.