Best of 2013: Our favourite books of the year

Winter is an excellent season for curling up with a good book, a blanket, and a hot cup of tea, so give one of our favourite reads of 2013 a try!

We’re a big group of book lovers here at Cityline, which you might have guessed if you’ve been following along with the Cityline Book Club this year! We read a ton of great books both for the book club (and you’ll see some of those novels in our list below!) and for our own personal reading pleasure in 2013, so it was difficult to narrow it down to just five each! Winter is an excellent season for curling up with a good book, a blanket, and a hot cup of tea, so give one of our fave reads a try!

Suzanne’s picks:

Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries: When this book won the esteemed Booker Prize in 2013, I was impressed to find out that it’s not only the longest Booker winner in history, but also that the Canadian-born Catton is, at 23, the youngest-ever recipient. I started on it straight away, and found myself engrossed in a fascinating tale about mysterious events taking place in a New Zealand gold rush town in 1866. There are more than a dozen characters with intertwining storylines, and 200 pages in you sense just how much more of the story has yet to be revealed, but trust me and stick with it. An epic literary achievement from an incredibly talented writer.

Saleema Nawaz, Bone and Bread: Considering its heavy subject matter — a young woman struggling with anorexia — Bone and Bread could have been an outright depressing read. Thankfully, Nawaz imbues the story of sisters Beena and Sadhana with such heart and warmth, you find yourself caring deeply for them and wanting to see what happens next in their lives. We were fortunate enough to be able to learn about Nawaz’s writing process for this novel, via our Cityline Book Club‘s interview with her, and given that neither she nor anyone in her circle of family and friends suffers from anorexia, her treatment of the subject is exceptional. She doesn’t gloss it over in the least, nor does she overdramatize it. I can’t recommend this title enough.

Lisa Moore, Caught: From the opening pages of Lisa Moore’s Caught, we’re along for the ride as David Slaney manages to escape from prison. As he hitchhikes his way across Canada to reconnect with his partner-in-crime, we readers have the book’s title in the back of our heads. Will he be caught? And if so, how? A clever and well-constructed story from one of our most talented scribes.

A.S.A. Harrison, The Silent Wife: When this book was released, it was dubbed ‘this year’s Gone Girl.’ While it has some similarities to the Gillian Flynn bestseller — the story of a disintegrating relationship, the his-and-hers narratives — I found The Silent Wife to be the smarter, better read. It centers on the story of Jodi and Todd, a Chicago couple who have been together for decades but never bothered to marry. When one of Todd’s dalliances threatens to shake the foundations of their relationship, Jodi finds herself doing things she never imagined possible in order to hold on to her way of life.

Matt Zoller Seitz, The Wes Anderson Collection: My one non-fiction title on the list is this fabulous literary ode to one of film’s most creative minds.  Any fan of writer-director Wes Anderson’s films knows how meticulously crafted they are, and this book is the same, from the cover art that references all seven of his films, to the in-depth investigations of each film. There are transcribed conversations between critic-author Matt Zoller Seitz and Anderson, behind-the-scenes photos, sketches, and many more curiosities about Anderson’s filmmaking process. A must-have for any fan of his work.


Suzie’s picks:

Saleema Nawaz, Bone and Bread: Orphaned as teenagers, sisters Beena and Sadhana grow up under the care of their Sikh uncle, who runs a Jewish bagel shop in Montreal. As they near adulthood, the once close sisters begin to drift apart: at 16, Beena finds herself pregnant from one of the “bagel boys”, while Sadhana becomes obsessed with perfectionism and drives herself to anorexia. For a 450-page book, I can’t believe how sad I was to be leaving these characters once I reached the end. Nawaz is a beautiful writer who crafted an incredibly rich and vivid story in these two sisters and their twisting, complex lives as youth and adults.

Janet E. Cameron, Cinnamon Toast and the End of the WorldDon’t be fooled by its frothy title – this stunning debut novel packs a punch. Skillfully covering a range of difficult topics from homophobia to bullying to parental abuse, Cameron’s story follows Stephen’s coming-of-age in small town, Nova Scotia. With a distant, pot-smoking father and an overly dependent mother, Stephen’s life already has its fair share of complications — and it only goes downhill from there when he realizes he’s fallen in love with his extremely homophobic best friend.

Stacey May Fowles, InfidelityIt takes two to tango, and in this beautifully written novel, Fowles shows the reader just how messy an affair can be. What makes this story so captivating is the rich and complex characters Fowles creates – none of these characters are wholly good or wholly bad, and it’s impossible to blame only one party for their dalliances. Fowles also tackles more than just the anatomy of an affair in this work, as she deftly deals with issues of infertility and cancer. This is the type of read that sticks with you well beyond the last page.

Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & ParkAimed at teens but a hit with adult readers as well, this story of two misfit teenagers who fall in love against the odds is sure to tug on your heartstrings, even if you’re not much of a romantic. Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor and Park’s unlikely relationship will bring you back to your own first love, and how desperately you believed it would also be your last. The most powerful elements of this story were the parts left unsaid, the back story left somewhat to the readers’ own imagination. We get to know Eleanor and Park as they get to know each other, which adds so much to the beauty and all-consuming nature of this novel and the couple’s relationship.

Jane Christmas, And Then There Were NunsMy sole non-fiction title on my “best of” list is one of the books that most surprised me this year. Christmas’ memoir about her journey to find out if she’s “nun material” wonderfully balances an investigation into anti-feminism in institutionalized religion with intriguing insights into modern monastic life. The sisters Christmas meets along the way are an amazingly diverse cast of secondary characters and add great vibrancy to this engaging story.

What was your favourite book of 2013? Share your picks in the comments below!