Top 10 Books 2013

Here’s my Top 10 list for the year. It’s a mix of fiction & non fiction but it represents all the genres & subjects I’m interested in – history, 19th & 20th century fiction as well as a couple of brand new novels. The books are in no particular order, just as I thought of them or as they leapt out at me as I looked back through my reading list for the year.

I love writing this post every year. It takes me ages as I go back to my reviews & read all your lovely comments & remember the experience of reading the books again. It leaves me feeling happy & excited about the reading year to come. The links are to my original reviews.

The Secret History by Catherine Bailey. A book about family secrets & lies & an absorbing story of literary research & detection.

Fenny by Lettice Cooper. The story of a young woman whose life is changed forever by moving to Italy in the 1930s.

Plotting for Grown-ups by Sue Hepworth. I’m also including Plotting for Beginners (written with Jane Linfoot) here as well as I read both books in about a fortnight. Sally Howe is a writer living in the Peak District, coping with a disintegrating marriage & a new love, wayward children & the trials of self-publishing her new novel. I loved Sally’s voice which is funny, witty & so observant about the life of an older woman assailed by family & friends who just wants to be able to watch Neighbours in peace.

Henry Dunbar by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I didn’t read nearly enough sensation fiction this year but this was a book I chose for my 19th century bookgroup & I loved it. A story about betrayal, murder, money & relationships between fathers & daughters. My excellent Victorian Secrets edition included a comprehensive Introduction & some fascinating contemporary reviews.

The Deliverance by Ellen Glasgow. A Gothic family saga with overtones of Wuthering Heights, set in the American South after the Civil War. Another excellent choice from my 19th century bookgroup.

Wounded by Emily Mayhew. There will be many books published over the next few years about WWI as the anniversaries of that conflict begin. I don’t think there will be many that are as moving as this one. It’s the personal stories of the wounded & those who care for them, from the front line to the hospitals back home in Britain.

The Ashgrove by Diney Costeloe. A beautifully written novel about remembrance & a shocking story of injustice set in the present & during WWI. I still have the sequel, Death’s Dark Vale, to look forward to.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley. I love Kearsley’s novels but this one was completely involving. A sequel of sorts to my two favourite books of hers – The Shadowy Horses & The Winter Sea, the story moves from the present to the past, from Scotland to Russia & I was completely absorbed in the story & the characters.

Heat Lightning by Helen Hull is my Persephone of the year. The story of a woman who returns to her family home in Michigan during a hot summer to work out what she wants from her life & her marriage. A completely absorbing family saga, reminiscent of Dorothy Whipple.

Tudor by Leanda de Lisle. I’ve read many books about the Tudors but in this excellent account, Leanda de Lisle focuses on some of the forgotten people in the story, often women. Most interestingly, Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots & potential heiress to the throne at different times of the life. A perfect introduction to the Tudor story but also a book with lots to interest those who have read hundreds of books on the period.

I’d also like to mention two audiobooks that I loved this year. I don’t usually review audiobooks because I listen in the car & I can’t take notes or refer easily back to check names & details. However, there were two standouts for me this year. Clarissa Dickson Wright read her own book, A History of English Food. This was so involving & Clarissa was a perfect traveling companion as she guided me through English food over the centuries with a good bit of history thrown in. Witty & opinionated, I could hardly wait for the next instalment. Bertie by Jane Ridley is the biography of Edward VII. This is a sympathetic but honest book about a man who survived a dreadful childhood & an aimless life as an unemployed prince to become a respected monarch in the final years of his life. Lots of lovely gossip as well & a well-rounded portrait of an interesting man.

Well, there it is. I’ll be back tomorrow with a New Year’s resolution & I’ll look forward to touring the blogs & reading everyone else’s Top 10 lists. Happy New Year!

18 thoughts on “Top 10 Books 2013

  1. Fenny is on my list, too! I ordered The Secret Rooms when there was so much discussion about the book in the Dove's yahoo group–maybe I'll finally get to it next year. I do want to read more Virago and Persephones next year, and maybe I should start with the Hull? I have it as well and am going now to dig it out. I rarely write about audio books either for the same reason, but I am glad you mentioned A History of English Food–it sounds interesting so I will look for that as well. Happy New Year Lyn and hope 2014 is filled with more good reading!

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  2. Some great choices there! I've made a note of a few of them, like the look of The Secret Rooms as I've read another book by that author and The Ashgrove looks interesting. Have read Plotting for Beginners so must read the next one. Happy New Year, Lyn:)

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  3. I love other people's lists – and you're right, they do take ages! The only one I've read is Heat Lightning and now I'm thinking that I should have included it on my own list.

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  4. Happy New Year Dani. I see your list is up, I'll look forward to reading it & probably adding a few books to my wishlist. Heat Lightning is wonderful, I'm sure it would be your sort of book &, as you say, a good way to start a year of reading Persephones.

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  5. Yes, other people's lists are always interesting & I'll be having a look at a few more this afternoon. Not that I need any more ideas about what to read next…

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  6. Thank you for your reviews, I have added four more books to my amazon wish list, we do seem to enjoy similar books so I always look forward to your postings. happy reading, Elizabeth

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  7. I'm surprised Fenny is OP. I think it would be perfect for Persephone or Virago should give it a new lease of life. Aurora Floyd is wonderful, quite scandalous in its day. I hope you enjoy it.

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  8. Hi Vanesa. I buy or borrow most of my books. I get a few from NetGalley & I'm offered some review copies. A lot of the 19th century classics are available free for my ereader.

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