Best books of 2013

I know I’ve already asked for this via Facebook, but we have more space here and not everyone is on FB. Respond in a post rather than in a comment on my piece.

Mine are: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail–Cheryl Strayed; Snake Ropes–Jess Richards; Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier; The Imperfectionists–Tom Rachman; How Music Works–David Byrne; and Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?–Jeanette Winterston.

You’ve read my reviews of the first three. The Imperfectionists is a collections of interlinked stories about a group of people who work at or are connected with an interenational newspaper in Rome (which feels a lot like the International Herald Tribune). Rachman shows a deep understanding of human nature and how people muddle through their lives.

How Music Works was a delight–not perfect but full of interesting information. Since music is my drug of choice, it was right up my street. David Byrne (of Talking Heads) has a wide-ranging knowledge of music, both musically speaking and the business side. The book is beautifully produced and is worth owning (lovely fonts); the footnotes refer to photographs rather than notes, and there is an elegant use of colour in the chapter headings.

And leaving the best for the last: Jeanette Winterston’s Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? It’s been a long time since I’ve been this deeply touched by a book. It’s a companion to Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which she wrote much earlier. It goes over some of the same territory–growing up with her frustrated, crazy foster mother who made her childhood hell, especially when her mother found out Winterston was gay. But this book is written with a lot of understanding of what drives people, including her mother. It’s a short, intense book, which packs more into 240 pages than most books do in 400. Maybe I’ll do it justice and write a review here at some point. But if you haven’t read it, you should–it will touch you.

So, what are your best books?

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