I never do these lists until the end of the year, and this is very justified this year, with two December books making the cut.  I read 147 books in 2013 (with 3 Did Not Finishes), 89 fiction and 58 non-fiction. Here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 Fiction Reads of 2013 and my Top Five Non-Fiction Reads of 2013, and after those, some reading plans for the year …

Top 10 Fiction Reads

Patrick Hamilton – “The Slaves of Solitude” – I love his “Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky”; this is vintage Hamilton but through the lens of a Virago or Persephone book!

Chad Harbach – “The Art of Fielding” – an excellent first novel and you do NOT have to like baseball to enjoy it.

Thomas Hardy – “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” – still don’t understand how I’d never read this book before. Yes, bad things happen, but it’s amazing.

George Eliot – “Daniel Deronda” – the first book I finished in 2013 and I knew it would be in the top 10 even then!

Barbara Pym – “Excellent Women” – hard to choose just one but this is a classic and a favourite and introduces many recurring characters. I’ve loved reading all of Pym in 2013.

John Lanchester – “Capital” – so glad that Sian bought this for my birthday as I was holding off on it and it was brilliant.

Jo Walton – “Among Others” – a gift from Emma, the pink cover worried me but it was a brilliant story about reading and books and science fiction. [where is my review of this? Don’t know, will have to search further]

Anthony Powell – “Dance to the Music of Time” – yes, there are 12 of them, and I counted them as separate reads, but you can’t separate them out in terms of a work. A worthwhile re-read and fun readalong with Matthew and Linda.

Susan Glaspell – “Fidelity” – marvellous Persephone that captured small-town America so well with an excellent story with characters you could really care about.

Victoria Eveleigh – Joe series (“Joe and the Hidden Horseshoe” and “Joe and the Lightning Pony“) for helping to rescue the pony story and writing classics that will last (thanks to Jane Smiley for that, too, but she has a bit more publicity …)

Top 5 Non-Fiction Reads

Adam Nicolson – “Sea Room” – I re-read his “Perch Hill” and read “The Gentry” this year, too, but this is the one I really loved re-reading, about his experiences owning his own Scottish island.

Ann Chisholm – “Frances Partridge” – a wonderful biography – I said at the time that she’s as good as Michael Holroyd in my estimation – and that’s big praise from me!

Jane Badger – “Heroines on Horseback” – what the world needed in 2013: a clear, complete and fascinating history of the pony book. So absorbing and well done, I could have read it twice in a row straight off!

Jude Rogers & Matt Haynes – “From the Slopes of Olympus to the Banks of the Lea” – I loved this book about East London / London around the time of the Olympics.

Andrew Martin – “Underground Overground” – fascinating, enthusiastic and well researched history of the Tube.

Reading plans for 2014

Sadly, we’ll be coming to the end of Ali’s Hardy reading project this year. I’ve read all of the books, sometimes a bit behind, and we just have “Jude the Obscure” for Jan-Feb then I think a couple of volumes of short stories. I’ve really enjoyed doing this and read some books I wouldn’t have got round to for years. There’s a First World War readalong going on in the LibraryThing Virago Group and on Ali’s blog, but I am not hugely keen on war books, so I’m limiting my honouring of 100 years since the beginning of World War I by re-reading Vera Brittain’s “Testament of Youth” this month.

What I have fancied is doing one of those Twentieth Century challenges where you read a book from each year of the century. But I’m not going to push myself to do it in a year or two years, even; I’m going to see what I get and then fill in the gaps. I know plenty of people, like Stuck-in-a-Book and Fleur In Her World who have done it and can be mined for lists.  However, I do have some questions about the dating …

  • Is it the date on the book you have in your hand, or the original date of publication that matters?
  • What if there’s a new introduction in your copy, what happens then? That date or the original?
  • If it’s the original date, does it matter if it’s not on your book and you have to look it up, e.g. I have a reprint of Winifred Holtby’s “Virgina Woolf” that is clearly older than the edition I have, but the only date in the book is that of the reprint.
  • I’m presumably OK to have more than one book by one author as it’s my project and I can do what I like, right?!

I hope someone will come and answer those. I’ve put up a list of years on a new page, and I know I have 15 individual years in the current TBR (I have a LOT of books published in 2010 – am I just 4 years behind the times at all times, I wonder?)

I’ll be doing my usual Month of Re-Reading in January this month, and will be posting about that and the state of my TBR tomorrow. This was the wonderful state of my TBR after a good December’s reading and before adding my Christmas reads …

Jan 2014 aHope all my lovely readers have a good 2014 of reading themselves!