Favorite Reads of 2013

John Wiswell, one of my VP classmates, has brought my attention to a “Best Reads of the Year” blog hop, and I thought it might be fun to take part. So without further ado, here, in no particular order, are the books that I read (not that were necessarily published) and loved in 2013:

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

This book surprised me. Really, it did. I expected to like it, maybe even to love it. But to like it better than the first book? Never! But so it is. This book made the first, to me, seem only so-so, by virtue of its being so exceptional.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Again, I was surprised. I knew everyone was talking about this book, but really, the idea of it just didn’t appeal to me. However, after a somewhat shaky start (I was still expecting it to be something else), this book was just the thing I needed to read, and at just the right time. Wonderful, different, surprising and just plain good reading.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

I love language, and how it influences culture (and vice versa). I adore magic (duh!) and how it could exist in our world, just unseen to most. I also love technology and the convenience it makes in our daily lives. Throw all these into one book, along with a cast of characters you can’t help but identify with, and a magic, mysterious tome that everyone wants, and a hard-eyed yet sympathetic look at a culture other than Western–and wow. From my Goodreads rating: My mind was completely blown two times in separate areas of this book. Realize that I generally don’t give five stars. Just read it, okay?

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

I don’t think I’ll be giving much away if I say the main character in this book is not your average “likable guy.” In fact, the book comes down to the fact that he’s unlikeable, and he knows it, making him the perfect hero for the story. I listened to this as an audio book, and Wil Wheaton’s narration was added gilding on an already splendid lily.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin

NK Jemisin did something here that I’ve often intuitively felt, but that I had been so often been bashed and battered by others in writing groups for: she made magic magical. And she did it without resorting to silliness, making it unrealistic, or skewing the story into Mary Sue or Marty Stu-ism. Her world building was stunning, her characters so realistic I thought I might run into them, and her storytelling so lyrical I was thoroughly absorbed and entranced enough to read this book nearly straight through!

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About M.E. Garber

I'm an Ohio-born speculative fiction writer in New Jersey.
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13 Responses to Favorite Reads of 2013

  1. Philip De Parto says:

    Hi, Mary.

    It’s probably farther than you want to travel, but the Month End Book Group of the Science Fiction Association of Bergen County has a discussion of the best books we have read the past year. (By the way, we had N K Jemisin as a speaker a couple of years back before you were a member.) Her second book in the series is just as strong (we did both at the MEBG). Haven’t read the third yet. If you feel like hiking up to Paramus, the group will be at the Food Court of the Paramus Park Mall Food Court on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 7:30 PM (or earlier if you want to eat there). We move it up one day to avoid New Year’s Eve.

    Happy Holidays to you and hubby.

    Phil

    • M.E. Garber says:

      Thanks, Phil. Unfortunately, holiday travel has us gone from the 22nd-30th of this month, so I’ll be missing a lot of fun things around NJ (including the WOTW again!). I agree that her second book in that series was also really good, and would have loved to hear her speak. Happy holidays, and I’ll see you in the new year!

      >

  2. John Wiswell says:

    I also enjoyed The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but found its magic distinctly unrealistic and often unrationalized. Unless you believe such entities exist and can be abused as she depicts, wouldn’t the magic be inherently unrealistic? Or do you mean you found it feeling authentic and believable within her world? Because in that way, I had no problem digging in.

    And your Alif write-up made me smile. I’m going to have to try it…

    Added your blog to the top of the list here: http://johnwiswell.blogspot.com/2013/12/best-reads-2013-is-live.html

  3. A big thank you to John, and to you for introducing me to books I want/need to read.

  4. I see “American Gods” and I can’t help but smile! Was in my list last year.

    Some unknown authors/novels to me- will check each, particularly Fuzzy Nation. Thank you!

  5. Sonia Lal says:

    The Wise Man’s Fear and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms were both pretty good. Especially The Wise Man’s Fear. I don’t remember American Gods very well right now, which is sad. :(

  6. American Gods is one of my favorite books of all time and is the main reason so long ago that I became such a raging Gaiman fangirl.

    I love Fuzzy Nation and yes, Scalzi does amazing things with the protagonist in that.

    Good list. :)

  7. That John Scalzi, with Wheaton’s narration, definitely sounds like it’s worth checking out!

    Interesting take on American Gods. I found the ending more shaky, but definitely well worth the read. I’ve been meaning to read it again, actually.

  8. Beverly Fox says:

    A lot of these sound like they’d be right up my alley. And I’m ashamed that I still haven’t read Neil Gaimen yet, given hoe many people have raved about his body of work. Definitely on my reading list.

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