From human rights to drunken botany, from side-splitting humour to enwisened coming of age, these books published in 2013 are certainly worth a reader’s time.
Adults’ and Young Adults’
Do No Harm by Fiorella de Maria: a contemporary legal thriller that raises poignant questions about autonomy and human rights. The excitement of the action mirrors the growing urgency of the issues in what is perhaps the most worthwhile read of the year.
The Returned by Jason Mott: a story beautiful like a winter storm, exploring what might happen if our loved ones began to return to us. It combines a reflection on grief, renewed happiness and spiritual confusion with a tale of fear, oppression, and suspended civil liberties.
The Shadow Lamp #4 by Stephen Lawhead: the fourth installment of Lawhead’s time-traveling, cosmogonic thriller series Bright Empires. Incorporates a particularly interesting study on the relationship between religious belief and scientific inquiry.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: an enchanting and uncommonly moving fantasy, the tale of a seven-year-old boy and his brief, magical friendship with a mysterious family of women in rural England. Readers will be left stinging with the nostalgia of childhood imagination.
A Delicate Truth by John Le Carré: a human-centred story of domestic intrigue involving the British Foreign Office; a smart, compassionate pageturner which demonstrates the capacity of its genre for subtlety, patience, and moral conviction.
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer: spirited, edgy, and above all sympathetic, provides a brilliant and memorable look into the sociocultural polarities of the United States. Recommended to anyone interested in nonfiction.
Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families by Patti Armstrong & Teresa Thomas: a collection of short, true stories that are told simply and from the heart, showing ordinary people whose lives have expanded with love.
Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Our Age by Robert P George: grapples with today’s most controversial issues, revealing the emptiness of the smugly held orthodoxies of the secular elite while presenting powerfully reasoned arguments for classical virtues.
Self-Esteem Without Selfishness by Michael Esperaza: referencing the human and spiritual wisdom of countless novelists, theologians, philosophers and psychologists, this offers a synthesis of excellent advice for building humble self-confidence and growing in the capacity to love others.
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart: an enthusiastic and encyclopedic overview of fermentation, distillation, and infusion that will prove fascinating for anyone—even teetotalers—with an appreciation for the art, history, and science of alcohol-making.
The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman: a marvellous picture book about history and sacrifice, family and education, and the importance of stories to communicate, from one generation to another, the meaning and value of life.
If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano: a memorable picture book about the enjoyment of waiting, watching and noticing in order to discover many a wonderful thing.
Alvin Ho 5: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night by Lenore Look: with too many comedic gems to count, this fifth book in the Alvin Ho series is remarkably character building, too.
The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy: an excellent sequel which reveals that the comedy of The Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom was centred around some very worthy characters, and it is they, not just the laughter, that readers should come back for.
Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli: a brilliant book for young readers who are willing to be taken out of the real world and immersed in an allegory that explores the change from childhood to adolescence.
A Summer of Sundays by Lindsay Eland: develops a satisfying mystery along with its exploration of sibling relations, new friendships, and the danger of exposing someone to the public eye.
Twerp by Mark Goldblatt: funny, endearing and character building, this middle grade novel has sixth grader Julian Twerski unburdening his conscience of the highs, lows and hilarities of his year.
The Royal Ranger #12 by John Flanagan: a highly recommended instalment from an excellent series; a coming of age story about a new apprentice for renowned ranger Will Treaty, ideal for young adventurers who might be encouraged to aim high.
Nine Days by Fred Hiatt: a thrilling Bourne style adventure about two American adolescents who travel to China in search of a missing parent, based on the true story of a missing Chinese activist.
The War to End All Wars: World War I by Russell Freedman: a comprehensive, factual account of World War I for young readers, interlaced with archive photographs and quotations from soldiers on both sides.
Reviews of books listed by The New York Times, Amazon and Publishers Weekly
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Longbourn by Jo Baker
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker
Exclamation Mark! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The Colossus Rises #1 by Peter Lerangis
Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein
The Apprentices #2 by Maile Meloy
Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier