Books You Need To Read

The B&N Book Blog’s Top Books of 2013



Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
Because it’s the only book I’ve ever bought in bulk to give as gifts. Because of this line: “And then she realized that Park didn’t know about the Beatles.” Because Eleanor and Park’s first phone call is sexier than any love scene I’ve ever read. I think I’ve blogged about it too many times to write yet another summary of its plot, so I’ll just say this: these high school misfits will break your heart.
Runners-up: The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner, and Tenth of December, by George Saunders
-Melissa Albert

Cartwheel, by Jennifer duBois
I was obsessed with the Amanda Knox trial, and this book allowed me to get even more obsessed with it. I love the idea of fictionalizing a true crime story. I wish authors would do it more often.
Runner up: Fresh Off The Boat
-Lauren Passell

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
You don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool Gaiman fan—though why aren’t you?—to love this sentimental (in a good way) story of one man’s journey back to the place he grew up and a specific series of incidents that changed everything. In a refreshing 192 pages, fantasy’s dark prince explores a world of memories, growing up, and letting go, and of course, it’s all a little bit magic. Long live Lettie Hempstock.
Runner-up: Vampires in the Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell
-Nicole Hill

The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
I don’t consider myself too slow on the uptake as a human being. That said, Catton’s book about turn of the century prospectors in New Zealand banding together  (with an unsubtle nudge courtesy of the divine properties of the astral bodies) in order to solve a mystery had me flummoxed, intrigued, and at times enraged. It’s rare I’ve been so challenged by a novel. So I’m saying it’s the best. Even though I don’t know that I particularly…loved it? I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS OKAY?
Runner-up: Vampires in The Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell
-Rebecca Jane Stokes

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, by Cassandra Rose Clarke
It sounds like either a terrible sci-fi novel or a cheesy romance (or both)—girl falls in love with an android, complications ensue. But instead, Clarke’s debut is an achingly melancholic story of desire, loss, the inherent sadness of growing up and leaving childhood behind, the pain of living with having made all the wrong choices, and the beauty in realizing that you can atone for past mistakes. Yes, yes, there are a few awkward conversations about whether the robot is “fully functional,” but don’t let that scare you away from the year’s most unusual, memorable love story.
Runner-up: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
-Joel Cunningham

The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity, by Steven Strogatz
As an amateur math, science, and tech enthusiast, and a longtime Radiolab junkie (Strogatz is the podcast’s go-to math guy), I hungrily anticipated The Joyof x. (I probably would’ve gone to crazy-fan midnight release party had there been one.) The book is playful, practical, and light on intimidating math-y stuff. If you’re only gonna pick up one popular math book in your life, reach for The Joy of x!
Runner-up: MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood
-Alexandra Silverman

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
I’m not usually drawn to historical fiction, but I was sucked right into this one, which takes place over the the years spanning the two world wars. It begins in 1910 with the birth of a baby girl, ends—repeatedly—with her death at various ages, and restarts at birth, as her life plays out again and again with different results. Atkinson keeps so many threads in motion as she layers multiple versions of the same story, without making the whole thing confusing. I enjoyed this book just as much as I felt in awe of it.
Runner-up: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
-ML Philpott

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg
I don’t tend to go in much for business books (I once tried to listen to a business audiobook in my car, and almost fell asleep while sitting at a red light), but Lean In was one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read. As a woman in the workforce, it opened my eyes to the subtle ways I’ve let my own ideas of gender roles and expectations hold me back in my career.
Runner-up: Wool, by Hugh Howie
-Molly Schoemann-McCann

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
As someone who grew up in summer camp and spent her formative schooling years in Manhattan, this book spoke to me on uncomfortably intimate levels in the best way. I love explorations of who people are versus who they thought they’d be as teens, and all the things that transform us through both conscious effort and circumstances beyond our control. For me, Wolitzer completely nailed that here.
Runner-up: How to Love, by Katie Contugno
-Dahlia Adler

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
This was my first Gaiman novel, and as someone who is generally allergic to the the fantasy genre, I didn’t expect to like it. And I didn’t. I loved it. It is an engaging and beautiful read (and a quick one, too). It turned me on to Gaiman, an author I highly recommend to other fantasy-averse readers.
Runner-up: The Burgess Boys, by Elizabeth Strout
-Jill Boyd

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owlsby David Sedaris 
Oh, man, this was a tough decision! Ultimately, Sedaris’s latest took the prize. First, he’s a national treasure, so most of what he produces is enjoyable/worth your time. Second, I loved this collection of narrative essays because they are hilarious, of course, but also intelligent and at times suspenseful. Perfect to read on the train or before going to bed, this is the type of book made to carry with you throughout your day. Finally, Sedaris is getting older, and turning into another version of himself. It feels like we get a privileged view of this metamorphosis as he details the trash trouble in his new neighborhood and his dental woes. All in all, two thumbs up!
Runner-up: The Signature of All Thingsby Elizabeth Gilbert.
-Ashley Brooke Roberts

Don’t Kiss Me: Stories, by Lindsay Hunter
Hunter’s stories are the manifestation of the imaginary friends I wish I had. If there’s one character I’m never going to forget in 2013, it’s Peggy Paula, in all her eroding, devastated beauty. Hunter brings her to life in startling detail.
Runner-up: Everything Sings: Maps For A Narrative Atlas (2nd Edition with an introduction by Ira Glass), by Denis Wood
-Amy Butcher