OK, we’ve all heard it. To write well, you have to read well. I’m always up for improvement for both.
Since 1995, I have kept a book journal, noting every book (or audiobook) I’ve read, along with the author’s name. The list comes in handy when I want to recommend an author or a title to someone and can’t remember either. It also lets me chronicle how many books I’ve read in a year.
2013 wasn’t a banner year for me, but I did all right. I logged 56 books, a little over one a week. Considering that most Americans read less than a half dozen a year, I’m above average.
So what ones stood out for me this past year? I’m an eclectic reader in that I like both fiction and nonfiction. Here are seven picks from the list, in no particular order:
The Cousins’ Wars by Kevin Phillips. I thought I understood American history until I read this one. Here’s something you haven’t heard in history class: a thorough treatment of why we fought the American Revolution and the Civil War. Hint: Border wars in Great Britain and Ireland.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Somehow this classic escaped my reading list until 2013. A pity.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. As with The Bell Jar, I finally got around to reading this fine novel and wondered what took me so long. Loved the voice, the dark humor.
Affliction by Russell Banks. A well-crafted study of a family fallen apart. Banks at his best.
Shakespeare’s Restless World by Neil MacGregor. The director of the British Museum shares 20 objects that speak to the Elizabethan era. Almost as good as a trip to the museum itself.
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin. Delve into the world of Charles and Anne Lindbergh. If you love historical novels, put this on your list.
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron. In the same vein as I Feel Bad About My Neck, the late great Ephron dishes up a feast of self-deprecating humor.