“You cannot open a book without learning something.”
This is the fourth year I’ve written a “best of books” post, and each time, I somehow manage to look forward to compiling it even more. It’s always such fun to think back on the stories I’ve read over the past twelve months, the characters I’ve met and the worlds I’ve been introduced to along the way. Each one is like its own present, just waiting for its treasures to be unwrapped. And how great is it that we can learn something new, something wonderful, something magical from the pages we dive into so eagerly? Pretty darn great. Pretty darn amazing.
Okay, so here we go. My favorite reads of 2013 are:
The Theory of Opposites – Allison Winn Scotch: I’ve written about this book before, so you already know how much I adore it. The story is inspiring, the cast is captivating, and the journey you go on with the characters is one that’ll have you reflecting on your own. Her whole life, main character Willa has felt trapped within the shadow of her father’s umbrella and frozen into inertia by his insistence that free will always falls victim to fate. Until she loses her job, her husband proposes they take a two-month break, her twelve-year-old nephew moves in, and her best friend dares her to swim upstream for perhaps the first time in her life by taking every single one of her instincts and doing the opposite. Willa’s quest to challenge her beliefs and change her life will leave you wanting to fly free right along with her. What’s next? Anything. Everything.
The Best of Us – Sarah Pekkanen: Sarah’s books are always a treat, and this one is no exception. With a memorable group of characters – a group of college friends who reunite to celebrate a thirty-fifth birthday at a private villa in Jamaica – and the ominous foreshadowing of a hurricane that’s set its eye on the island, it’s a story that not only intrigues, but also keeps you on the edge of your seat. Tina, Allie, Savannah, and Dwight … they are all different as night and day, as the shells you’d find among the sand, and yet there’s a common thread woven among them. There’s a friendship that’s evolved since their collegiate days and takes on a whole new meaning as they ride out the hurricane. But even more important than braving the storm? Braving each other.
Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell: For months now, I’ve been hearing people rave about Rainbow’s books, and I certainly understand why. There’s a gentleness to her writing style, even when the storyline itself is painful. For high school students Eleanor and Park, life is about music. About exploration. About good triumphing over evil. About each other. Theirs is a tale about first love and its magic. Eleanor’s home life is difficult, to say the least, and as Park becomes her salvation, you can’t help but fall for their love story. Characters like these make you believe again. I was rooting for them a hundred percent, and though some of the supporting cast had me wanting to slap some sense into them, that was, of course, the point – and just makes Eleanor and Park’s dedication to one another all the sweeter.
Why Can’t I Be You – Allie Larkin: Have you ever wished you could be someone else, even for a day? What about forever? Lonely and a little lost, when main character Jenny hears somebody calling for her across a hotel lobby, she answers – even though the name bursting through the air is actually Jessie. Despite her best intentions to tell the truth, Jenny lets herself fall into Jessie’s life. She fits in with her friends. She fits in with her hometown. She fits in with this new world. Even as she weaves a web of deceit, you can’t help hoping for Jenny to find her happily-ever-after … to create that happily-ever-after. Because, even though being Jessie teaches her a lot, Jenny’s journey is really about recognizing her truest self.
Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins: This one is actually a re-read, since I wanted to refresh my memory before seeing the movie version earlier this month. What can I say about this book? It’s my favorite from the trilogy, striking a perfect balance between action and emotion, and although I already knew what happened, I still found myself unable to stop reading. Katniss is the kind of heroine you can’t help admiring: fearless, dedicated, brave, and strong. She has heart. Peeta has heart. Even some of their fellow victors have heart. They create a team in the unlikeliest of circumstances and remind us that sometimes it’s better to stand together than fall apart. If we can remember that … well, then the odds will be in our favor.
The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service – Beth Kendrick: Lara is a matchmaker extraordinaire — except, instead of setting up her clients on a date, she finds them the perfect furry soulmate. Add that to her day job as a dog trainer, and her love for the canine species is pretty clear. But her boyfriend’s? Not so much. When their fight over one of Lara’s dogs escalates and she finds herself without a boyfriend – and without a home – she must work to pull her world back together. As she moves into her mother’s gated community and becomes a Dog Whisperer of sorts to the other residents, you can’t help smiling at the antics of the hilarious supporting cast. And when Lara finally realizes what a short leash she’s been clipping herself to? You’ll be cheering for her all the way.
Tell me: what are your favorite books of 2013?