Good Reading 2013
2013 was another interesting year of reading. (As always, this list is based on books read, not strictly published, in 2013.) Taking the top spot was J.F. Powers' Morte D'Urban, a marvelously dry satire of 1950s Midwestern priesthood that reminded me of my hero Sinclair Lewis, though warmer and less caustic. Summer of Classics was much improved, as I went ancient with the Scandinavian epics Egil's Saga and The Poetic Edda, plus The Odyssey and Dante's Inferno. I still read barely any fiction by women writers (continuing shame on me for that), though Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake is pretty damned wonderful and will definitely result in my reading the last two books of the MaddAddam trilogy. Also of note: two solid debuts, from Patrick Michael Finn and Edward J. Rathke; my prolific buddy Ben Tanzer's highest ranking yet; and the surprising appearance of five non-Americans (Atwood, Seamus Heaney, Hans Keilson and Knut Hamsun, plus the anonymous bard behind Egil's Saga) in the top ten. Plus there's this Anderson guy, with his first novel and two anthology appearances, whose writing some people seem to moderately enjoy.
1. J.F. Powers: Morte D'Urban (Review)
2. Kent Haruf: The Tie That Binds (Review)
3. Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake
4. Egil's Saga (Review)
5. Ben Tanzer: Orphans (Review)
6. Seamus Heaney: North (Review)
7. Hans Keilson: Comedy in a Minor Key (Review)
8. Knut Hamsun: Tales of Love & Loss (Review)
9. Patrick Michael Finn: From the Darkness Right Under Our Feet (Review)
10. Edward J. Rathke: Ash Cinema (Review)
Honorable Mention: Jeff Sypeck: Looking Up: Poems from the National Cathedral Gargoyles; William Trevor: Cheating at Canasta; The Poetic Edda; Kurt Vonnegut: Armageddon in Retrospect; James Claffey: Blood a Cold Blue; Kingsley Amis: Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis
Special Mention, But Much Too Biased and Humble to Objectively Assess: Peter Anderson, Wheatyard; Various Writers: Daddy Cool; Various Writers: On the Clock: Contemporary Short Stories of Work
Re-Readings: Studs Terkel: Chicago; Peter Schickele: The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach; Jack London: The Call of the Wild; Mike Royko: Like I Was Sayin'...; Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of Mystery and Imagination
I wish I had your discipline.
Posted by: Paul Lamb at Dec 24, 2013 8:56:14 AM
Glad you enjoyed the Atwood. She's in my top ten list of favorite writers. I think Handmaid's Tale is her best, so maybe you can give that a try soon.
Interestingly, 30 of the 65 books I read this past year were written by women -- 31 if you count the one I'm reading now and will most likely finish before year's end. I find this surprising since I do read quite a bit of sci-fi, a genre which seems to be dominated by male writers.
Posted by: Julie at Dec 24, 2013 12:17:59 PM
Making the honorable-mention list of such an avid reader is humbling. Thanks! Here's to a superb 2014.
Posted by: Jeff at Dec 27, 2013 12:27:00 AM
My pleasure, Jeff. I gave Looking Up to my niece yesterday as a Christmas gift (she's the one who give me The Stuffed Owl last year) and she seemed genuinely intrigued.
Posted by: Pete at Dec 29, 2013 12:17:38 PM