Every late December or early January, I peruse my reading list from the year just ending or ended and pick my favorites. Here at the library, we even share our lists. It’s always one of the reading-related highlights of my year: both considering and choosing what stayed with me the most, and discovering what my colleagues considered and chose.
It’s not the end of the year yet (not even close), but if we can have Christmas in July, why not New Year’s in August?
With that in mind, here’s my list of favorite fiction reads for 2013 – so far:
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
This is a bit of a no-brainer, because Erdrich won the 2012 National Book Award in Fiction for this richly told yet suspenseful tale of a horrible crime on an Indian reservation – and the attempt of a family to get justice for that crime.
Love Is a Canoe by Ben Schrank
This little gem belongs in the “Bad cover, good novel” category – I almost didn’t read it because the cover image was just not appealing. Fortunately, enough glowing reviews convinced me to at least start it, and the first chapter compelled me to keep reading this intimate look at love and relationships. A good companion to The Position by Meg Wolitzer, which has a similar setting and themes.
The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore
If I could pick the next novel that deserves the same amount of fame, fortune, and fans as The Help, this would be it. This story, about four African-American girls in the 1960s and then as middle-aged women in the mid-2000s, touches the same feel-good yet bittersweet, funny yet serious tones as Kathryn Stockett’s breakout hit. I listened to this on CD in my car, and I’m too embarrassed to reveal how many times I found myself crying and laughing on the way to and back from work. (Okay, it was about 3,000 times.)
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Strout just gets better and better with each novel, and I found myself swimming through this one in sheer delight at her deft use of language and insight into how real people talk and act. A childhood tragedy and its long-term effects is at the center of the plot, and its exploration of family relationships reminded me of Carol Anshaw’s superb Carry the One as well as Richard Russo’s Empire Falls.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Rowell came to the Tulsa City-County Library last year as part of a “Summer of Love” literature program to talk about her delightful first novel, Attachments. This is her follow-up, a YA novel that manages to be deeper and more soulful than her adult one. If you’re a John Green reader, Rainbow Rowell should be your next reading choice. (This is according to none other than John Green himself, who named Eleanor & Park one of his favorite novels of the year, too.)