The Perpetual Page-Turner has made a tradition of asking bookish bloggers to review their year in books, and because we’re just that original and iconoclastic and so totally nonconformistic, we’re going to jump on the bandwagon and conform.
1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)
Andrew: Gehhhhh. I guess if I have to pick just one, I’d say The Lord of the Rings. Close second would be The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.
Caleb: I’ll just break this into two genres; fiction and non-fiction. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald for fiction; The Conquest of Fear by Basil King for non-fiction (but I have to mention Walking by Henry David Thoreau as runner-up).
Nate: It came out in 2001, but Haruki Murakami’s “Sputnik Sweetheart”, as translated by Philip Gabriel. It’s succinct yet rambling, surreal and somehow stunningly beautiful and human, like all of Murakami’s works. It’s certainly my favorite work of his I’ve read so far.
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Andrew: S., by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst. S. as a whole was absolutely fantastic, though I was a little disappointed with the novel itself, Ship of Theseus.
Caleb: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
Nate: I’d heard good things about Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One”, and while I enjoyed it, on reflection it rings a bit hollow. Cline packed the book full of references to 80s and 90s ‘geek culture’ – in fact, said references form a key part of the plot – but while it’s fun to recognize these things, they’re limited in how much they can actually add to the characters and world. And maybe it’s suiting that in a book all about videogames, we see the protagonist get better and better and overcome challenge after challenge without much trouble, but it doesn’t make for a very real protagonist. A fun, but ultimately kind of forgettable read.
3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?
Andrew: Hmm. Probably Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson.
Caleb: The Big Four by Agatha Christie.
4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?
Andrew: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.
Caleb: Probably The Conquest of Fear again.
Nate: This one’s a very strange case. It’s a self-published book with a hell of a title, “Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist.” It’s the attempt of one man to unpack his experiences as a black man teaching in Japan and his own complicated relationship with racism. It’s not a perfect book, by any means; there’s moments of sentimentality that don’t quite ring true (despite being a memoir), and I’m sure some will frown at the author’s discussion of his time in the pick-up game. But it’s a fascinating look into the dynamics of race and culture from one man’s perspective, and a stark reminder that racism is not some boogeyman reserved for bigots, but a very real social evil we struggle with on a daily basis, even if we don’t care to admit it.
5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
Andrew: The Lord of the Rings, though technically one book.
Caleb: Probably The Lord of the Rings (I said with a shamed face), although I’ve only read The Hobbit so far (said I with an even more shamed face).
Nate: This one’s a bit “win-by-default” – I tend not to get into series all that often – but Ben H. Winters’ “The Last Policeman”, which kicks off a trilogy following a detective living a few months before an asteroid is set to wipe out humanity, does a fantastic job of mixing noir and the human side of apocalyptic fiction. I’ve yet to read the second book (“Countdown City”, published this past summer), but I’m looking forward to it.
6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?
Andrew: Erin Morgenstern or Neil Gaiman.
Caleb: Mary Shelley.
Nate: Right, I’m going to cheat on this one – I didn’t start reading the book until a few days ago, but technically I ‘discovered’ Helene Wecker last year when I was looking into the (many) books I’d missed that year. I’m only partway into her debut novel, “The Golem and the Jinni”, but it’s a truly wonderful story, blending historical fiction with cultural tradition and fantasy.
7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
Andrew: The Walking Dead, Vol. 1&2. I had never read a graphic novel before, and this didn’t disappoint.
Caleb: Behind My Mask by Kirn Hans.
Nate: I’ll give this one to “Loco” again, not only because of its direct addressing of modern racism but also because it’s fairly rare for me to read a memoir.
8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
Andrew: Not sure I’d use the word “thrilling”, but I could not put down The Night Circus.
Caleb: One of the mysteries of my reading life has always been that I have rarely found a book “unputdownable,” though I loved one ever so much; The Tale of Despereaux was 2013’s top exception.
Nate: It’s a (relatively) old one, but Stephen King and Peter Straub’s “Black House” was a great blend of murder mystery and horror. These guys seem to be good at that sort of thing.
9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Andrew: The Night Circus, once again. And maybe LotR.
Caleb: I know of a certainty that I will read both Frankenstein and The Conquest of Fear next (this!) year.
Nate: Out of sheer necessity, George R. R. Martin’s “A Dance With Dragons” is probably going to get revisited whenever he puts out the next tome. What can I say? The man writes dense.
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?
Andrew: For the whole book itself, I’d have to say S. by J.J. Abrams, but for just the cover, I’d say The Aylesford Skull, by James P. Blaylock, or any of the Dresden Files (some of which I re-read this year).
Caleb: I don’t judge books by their covers. ButI was fond of this cover for Perelandra.
Nate: “The Last Policeman”‘s current edition, with its squared, stark photography works surprisingly well for me, proving once again I have absolutely no sense of design.
11. Most memorable character in 2013?
Andrew: I’d actually have to say Le Cirque des Rêves (the Circus of Dreams)—not exactly a character, but it becomes basically a character itself in The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.
Caleb: Easily Amory Blaine, This Side of Paradise, apparently a previous incarnation of my soul.
Nate: Again, cheating a bit here, but George R. R. Martin proved once again he is absolutely brilliant at reframing and rebuilding characters the reader is prepared to hate with “Reek” in “A Dance With Dragons”. I’ll avoid using the character’s full name so as not to spoil anyone who hasn’t caught up, but seeing this pitiful little man’s struggles and guilt made the reader feel almost compliant with how they came in hating him, and made his eventual, small triumphs that much sweeter.
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
Andrew: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern; LotR, by J.R.R. Tolkien; and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman.
Caleb: You’re killing me. I’ll pick The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Nate: I said it above, but “Sputnik Sweetheart”. Murakami writes beauty in a very different way from most.
13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?
Andrew: Probably The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Or The Night Circus.
Caleb: In different ways, This Side of Paradise, The Conquest of Fear, and Frankenstein had the most dramatic impacts on me.
14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?
Andrew: The Lord of the Rings, definitely. Also: Holes, by Louis Sachar; The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster; and The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
Caleb: The Hobbit.
Nate: “Persepolis”, by Marjane Satrapi. It’s a wonderful graphic memoir that’s been recommended to me time and again over the years (and sitting on a shelf in the house to boot.)
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?
Andrew: “And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns, in dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.”
—The Return of the King, by J.R.R.
Tolkien. And actually, my answer to this question is the last few pages of the chapter “The Siege of Gondor”—this is the end of that, as I couldn’t copy/paste all of it.
Caleb: Have mercy on me! This would take days to decide. I’ll go with two lines out of a poem in The Hobbit:
“Follow, follow, stars that leap
Up the Heavens cold and steep”
16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?
Andrew: Shortest: Human Chain, by Seamus Heaney (poetry)
Longest: A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin.
Caleb: Without going into the technicalities of a novel versus a novella, Heart of Darkness (approx. 70 – 100 pp.) would be the shortest book of fiction I’ve read; The Good Earth (357 pp.) would be the longest.
Nate: If we’re counting short story collections, Murakami’s “after the quake” takes it, at a lean 147 pages. And of course on the other end of the spectrum we’ve got Martin’s “A Dance With Dragons”, at a lovely little 958 pages.
17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?
Andrew: Ooh, definitely A Storm of Swords. Red Wedding. ;-;
Caleb: Just like it’s rare that a book is “unputdownable” to me, it’s rare that I read a book I’m not dying to talk to somebody about. Prime example of the year? The Secret Garden, I guess (yes, again!).
Nate: The thing about Murakami books is you read them, and there’ll be a passage or a scene where you think, “that’s exactly right! I’d love to talk about that with someone.” And then of course you never do, because where would you even begin?
18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Caleb: Aguirre and Luna of Luna Benamor broke my heart; Mike and Ellie of Endless Night twisted it and rent it and kind of tore it up into shreds.
Nate: It’s not a romantic relationship, but the protagonist and his friend Sumire’s relationship forms the backbone of “Sputnik Sweetheart”. Like so many of Murakami’s works, they’re two people who at times understand each other completely, yet there’s always that undercurrent of separation (quite literally in this case).
19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Andrew: LotR, by Tolkien; and A Storm of Swords (I had read the first book and part of the second the year before).
Caleb: Perelandra, the best Lewis I’ve read to date (I really need to get around to That Hideous Strength!)
Nate: I’m sorry I keep putting “Sputnik Sweetheart” on here. I really liked it!
20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
Andrew: Human Chain, by Seamus Heaney. Fantastic.
Caleb: The Secret Garden . . . again. Recommended by a good friend (my respect for her opinions has gone up even more, if possible).
Nate: I tend to find books either through anonymous recommendations or just by scouting around on my own (though I’m sure I’ve just forgotten plenty of people recommending me works), but as mentioned above, I’d heard wonderful things about “Persepolis”, all of which turned out to be true.
21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?
Caleb: Easily mystery, mostly (if not solely) books from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?
Caleb: I’m the only one brave enough to answer. Sallie McBridge of Dear Enemy by Jean Webster stole my heart.
23. Best 2013 debut you read?
Caleb: Behind My Mask by Kirn Hans (notwithstanding that it was the only debut I read).
Nate: Again, cheating, since I’m reading it now, but Helene Wecker’s “The Golem and the Jinni” has been marvelous so far.
24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
Andrew: The Night Circus.
Caleb: Perelandra again. The Hobbit, close second.
Nate: “Black House”, in a squirming, unpleasant way. Like most of King’s novels, there’s more than a small link to the world of the Dark Tower, and as always King brings his A-game in giving the reader a taste of the horrors within.
25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?
Andrew: The Night Circus again. And S. by J.J. Abrams. Quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had reading a novel, actually, though it obviously isn’t just a novel.
Caleb: The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices was pure, hilarious fun.
Nate: “Ready Player One”, for all its faults, was still very _fun_ to read as an established geek, and while its hero was a little too perfect, there’s still some thrill in seeing him go from nobody to top of the world.
26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?
Andrew: The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Kite Runner.
Caleb: I don’t cry over books very often; but I’ll be honest, I had an emotional breakdown after finishing Endless Night.
Nate: Tears? None. Melancholy? Pick a Murakami and just run with it.
27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
Andrew: The Floating Admiral, by Agatha Christie and other members of the Detection Club. Not sure how it did when it came out, but I know that now, at least, it’s definitely overlooked.
Caleb: Walking by Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau had a beautiful way of looking at the world, but his thoughts and writings were sadly unappreciated during his lifetime.