My favourite books of 2013

Time Being The Orenda Cinnamon and Gunpowder

This has been an interesting year in books for a number of reasons, from the changing face of the landscape itself (self-publishing, big publishing house mergers) to major nominations and award wins for Canadian authors, to my own reading habits. I included more non-fiction in my reading list this year, and for the first time began listening to audiobooks. I read 64 books total (not including manuscripts for work, of course! That would push the number considerably higher).

This year I consumed 15 audiobooks (two of which, A Tale for the Time Being and Night Film, I enjoyed in combination with their book version, because they both included visual material that enriched their stories), three short story collections, three non-fiction titles, five mysteries, seventeen historical fiction books, two YA, and ten sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre. I’ve read books set in eighteen different countries, and because of discussions on diversity in publishing at BookCampTO 2013, I’ve become more conscious this year of how many books I read by people who don’t look like me. (For the record, this year I read exactly the same number of books by women as I did by men, without any forethought, and fourteen books featuring main characters and/or written by authors of colour. That second number could certainly be higher.)

As for my blog, the number of views in 2013 is more than double that of 2012, I included more author interviews, ran my first contest, and participated in a few blog tours. I also learned that I’m really bad at keeping up readalong posts, and the next one I attempt, if I do one, I’ll write in its entirety before starting to post! I want thank everyone who has stopped by to read, and who commented or tweeted or emailed. Thanks for the conversation! I look forward to a bigger and better 2014.

And now the fun part: my list of my favourite-favourite books of everything I read in 2013! (You can check out 2012’s list here.)

In chronological reading order, my favourites of 2013 are:

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Darkness fell: a review of Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

In 1939, a young woman walks into a German bar. She greets a group of people she knows sitting in the back. She steadies herself, draws her father’s revolver from her purse, and shoots Hitler. Darkness falls. On the next page, we are reintroduced to the young woman at the moment of her birth—and immediate death, because the doctor and midwife were both delayed and the cord is wrapped around her little neck.

Life after Life

“The woody fragrance of bonfire smoke drifted through the window and into the little attic room She could hear the clopping of hooves followed by the rattle of the coal as the coalman emptied his sacks into the coal shed. Life was going on. A thing of beauty.

One breath, that was all she needed, but it wouldn’t come.

Darkness fell swiftly, at first an enemy, but then a friend.”

– Life after Life, Kate Atkinson

In 1939, a young woman walks into a German bar. She greets a group of people she knows sitting in the back. She steadies herself, draws her father’s revolver from her purse, and shoots Hitler. Darkness falls. On the next page, we are reintroduced to the young woman at the moment of her birth—and immediate death, because the doctor and midwife were both delayed and the cord is wrapped around her little neck.

This dramatic juxtaposition, two very different endings to the same life, is how Kate Atkinson introduces us to her main character Ursula, and to the central conceit of her new novel, Life after Life. Jumping back and forth over a period of several decades from 1910 onward, we see Ursula die in countless ways. Drowning in the sea as a child, murdered by an abusive husband, bombed during the war. The variations are endless. And what could have been gimmicky or confusing in less talented hands becomes a tour de force for the formidable Atkinson.

Continue reading “Darkness fell: a review of Life after Life by Kate Atkinson”