December is the time of year when everyone is making his/her list and checking it twice for the best or worst things about the year. Time announces its person of the year and we see lists of the best and worst movies or TV shows or video games. The New York Times lists its notable books of the year.
As a constant reader, I have my own list of "notable" books, the best books I have read this year. It was a difficult list to narrow down because I have read some very good books in 2013. I tried to select my favorite book in each month and found that in some months I just couldn't do it.
Here, then, is my own highly personal list of my favorite books that I have read this year with links to my review of each book.
January: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver's novel of the effects of global warming on the life cycle and migration of the beautiful Monarch butterfly was one of the first books that I read this year and it is still one of the most affecting.
February: This was the first month in which I couldn't choose just one "favorite."
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Diaz's first novel about an amazingly sweet-tempered, grossly obese teenage geek who lives in a fantasy world of gaming, anime, comics, and The Lord of the Rings is at its heart a sympathetic portrayal of the struggle of Dominican-American immigrants and the trials of being the eternal outsider.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The "Goon Squad" is quite simply time and we all receive visits from it every day. This book is all about the passage of time and how our lives never seem to turn out exactly as we had planned.
March: Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
I was actually a bit disappointed in this book at the time and yet, in the end, it turned out to be one of my favorite books of the year - a tale set in Oakland, California, with its roots in the Oakland of the 1970s and the heyday of the Black Panthers movement.
April: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
This was the year that I discovered Kate Atkinson, a wonderful writer, and this was the first of her books that I read. It was the one that introduced Jackson Brodie, certainly one of the most unusual of fictional detectives, and it was a winner.
May: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
I love Penny's series about the humane Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, another very unusual detective, and this book involving a mystery in a remote monastery in Quebec is one of the best in the series.
June: The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Almost any book of Louise Erdrich's that I read is destined to wind up on my list of favorites because she is such a talented writer. This particular book which details the problems of violence against Native American women by white men and the jurisdictional difficulties that arise from that seems torn straight from today's headlines.
July: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
People had been telling me for years that I should read this book, but this was the year that I finally got around to it, and I found out that those people had been 100% right! This Atwood classic has lost none of its power in the years since its publication.
August: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
This book, which caused some conservatives' heads to explode because a Muslim (Horrors!) was daring to write about the man whose life and death were the basis for the founding of Christianity, was really a very interesting take on the life of Jesus, the man not the Christ, and the revolutionary times in which he lived.
September: This was another month in which I had a twofer.
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
This is another classic which my husband had been urging me to read for years. I have to admit once again that hubby knows best, because I loved this book about the kindly Mr. Harding. Trollope's writing is lush and descriptive and slyly humorous. His style reminded me very much of the novels of manners by Jane Austen.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Much as I loved Trollope's classic, I could not list my favorite books of the year without including this tour de force by Atkinson. Her tale of alternative lives and deaths for her character Ursula Todd is, in my opinion, the very best book I have read all year.
October: Die Trying by Lee Child
It was hard to select my favorite book of October, because it probably had the weakest candidates of any month, but in the end, I had to go with this Lee Child book, the second in the Jack Reacher series. It is highly entertaining, a nonstop roller coaster ride of action.
November: The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith
McCall Smith's gentle mysteries featuring Precious Ramotswe and her beloved Botswana are long-time favorites and this was a strong entry in that series.
December: Again, I have two "favorites" and the month isn't even over yet!
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert's iconoclastic 19th century botanist, Alma Whittaker, is one of the favorite characters that I have met this year. Her story, told in Dickensian detail by the author, is a fascinating tour of a century of important scientific discoveries.
Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith
This latest in the saga of Moscow detective Arkady Renko continues to give us an insight into Russian society and also an understanding for the strength of the human desire to see justice done.
That's it - my list of favorites for this year. I'd love to hear about your favorites and especially of any that I might have missed and should add to my to be read list for 2014.