Books have gone into and out of boxes this year, with the weight restrictions of international travel making it easier to borrow and pass on instead of adding to the permanent collection. I have also had to admit that, despite my early protestations to the contrary, the eReader is a very useful machine. That said, as last year’s list contained six ebooks while this year I downloaded five, perhaps I am not quite ready to give up on print yet.
After a cracking start to the year, where at times I was whipping through a book a day (oh, the beautiful reading weather that is England in January!), reality intruded and it became almost impossible to get through one a month (ah, motherhood). And yet I seem to have finished the year only one short of last year’s total and that is without counting the almost nightly re-reads of Beatrix Potter, The Hungry Caterpillar and other joyfully rediscovered childhood favourites.
Here then is my list of books read in 2013, in chronological order, with links to reviews I wrote along the way and some further thoughts following:
- Good Behaviour, Molly Keane
- Finding George Orwell in Burma, Emma Larkin
- A Life in Letters: P. G. Wodehouse (ed. Sophie Ratcliffe)
- Stuart: A Life Backwards, Alexander Masters
- Instead of A Letter, Diana Athill
- The White Cities, Joseph Roth
- Ellis Island, Kate Kerrigan
- The Assault, Harry Mulisch
- Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
- Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
- Homage to a Firing Squad, Tariq Goddard
- Racing Through the Dark, David Millar
- Ratcatcher, Tim Stevens
- Maus, Art Spiegelman
- The Diamond Smugglers, Ian Fleming
- That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick, Ellin Stein
- From Russia With Love, Ian Fleming
- All At Sea, Memories of Maritime Merseyside, Evelyn Draper and William David Roberts
- The Undercover Economist Strikes Back, Tim Harford
- Call For the Dead, John le Carré
- The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, John le Carré
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John le Carré
- Churchill’s Wizards: The British Genius for Deception 1914-1945, Nicholas Rankin
Highlights of the year were Finding George Orwell in Burma, The Assault and Homage to a Firing Squad which all told very personal stories in attempting to unravel great conflicts. In spite of all the plaudits, I found Bring up the Bodies a less enjoyable encounter with Mantel’s admittedly outstanding characters.
In non-fiction, P. G. Wodehouse’s letters were a hoot – as if you would expect anything less – and his thoughts on Mr Orwell raised a wry chuckle. David Millar’s ride on the dark side of Le Tour de France’s peloton and (full disclosure, good friend) Ellin Stein’s whip smart tale of the National Lampoon crew making it from Harvard chancers to Hollywood legends, shared a compelling sense of the shadows concealed within hubris and humour, for all their differing subject matter. Stuart: A Life Backwards will stay with me for many years to come and is a must-read, albeit a harrowing one at times.
I finished the year with a run of gripping, classy and classic spy novels, comparing and contrasting the old masters Fleming and le Carré for a soon-to-be-produced (honest!) ten minutes hate review.
Thanks to everyone who has read or offered their comments on the site over the last twelve months and a very merry New Year to you all. May it be full of great books and the long journeys, bad weather days and cosy tea rooms that allow you to fully appreciate them!