2013 Favorite Books and Other Bookish Gift Ideas

Favorite Books of 2013

I believe books have superpowers — the power to whisk us away into another world, give us new eyes to see, help us to walk a mile in another’s shoes, and feel emotions we might never experience. Without books, we would understand others less. Great books help make the world a better place.

Great New Books

A few years ago, I followed the lead of some writer friends and made a goal to read 50 books that year. It’s been a motivation for me to get out and find books I’d like to read. The more I read, the more I realize what it is I love and don’t love in a book. The hardest part of 50 books in a year is finding a good book to read. So about 18 months ago, some writing friends and I started GreatNewBooks.org. It’s been a huge success … we post every Wednesday with a book we’ve loved and recommend. If you haven’t jumped over to check it out, please do! This week, Wednesday, December 11, we’re featuring our first annual Best Books list.

And, because I love to read and share great books, I’m listing the books this year that made my favorites list, and why…

2013 Favorite Books:

Favorite Books of 2013
Favorite Books of 2013


About My 21 Favorites:

Elizabeth Gilbert’s THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS: an epic saga about a horticulturalist female in the nineteenth century and her father, as they impact the world. Very long, but excellent.

Hilary Mantel’s BRING UP THE BODIES: a dazzling historical of Henry VIII and the trial of Anne Boleyn, through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. Not easy reading, for history buffs.

Stephanie Cowell’s CLAUDE & CAMILLE: a beautifully told account of Claude Monet and his first wife Camille. For art lovers.

Marisha Pessl’s NIGHT FILM: a literary thriller, like reading through a season of the television show Alias. Dark, pulse-pounding, long and challenging, but good.

Simon van Booy’s EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER: an unconventional novel of unsurpassed beauty, of discovering ourselves and losing the ones we love. Excellent.

Jojo Moyes’s THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND: a novel I loved deeply, of WWI France, an artist and his beloved wife, and how art connects us through time. Highly recommend.

Neil Gaiman’s THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE: a Narnia-like fantasy about good and evil. Short and enthralling; highly recommend.

Jojo Moyes’s ME BEFORE YOU: a powerful book about life, love, and what really matters. THE favorite book of everyone at GreatNewBooks.org this year. A MUST-READ. Highly recommend.

J. Courtney Sullivan’s THE ENGAGEMENTS: a novel of many entwining stories centered around a single engagement ring and its history. Good women’s fiction.

Tiffany Hawk’s LOVE ME ANYWAY: an evocative novel about a woman finding herself as she travels the world. Beautiful writing and story. Highly recommend, literary fiction.

Lucinda Riley’s THE LAVENDER GARDEN: a page-turning story of WWII France and a present-day pursuit of the truth about the past. For Kate Morton fans.

Donald Maass’s WRITING 21st CENTURY FICTION: excellent, for writers.

Eowyn Ivey’s THE SNOW CHILD: a Pulitzer nominee, about homesteaders in Alaska and a mysterious child there. Beautiful, literary; perfect winter reading.

M.L. Stedman’s THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS: a stunning novel set on a lightkeeper’s island off Australia and of the consequences to the choices the couple make. A must-read.

Kate Atkinson’s LIFE AFTER LIFE: an inventive format; the story of a woman as she begins life again and again in WWI – II Europe. Literary, challenging, excellent.

Beth Hoffman’s LOOKING FOR ME: about a woman shadowed by her past, but moving forward toward a positive future. Uplifting, great women’s fiction.

Juliette Fay’s SHELTER ME: a light read about a tough subject, a young widow learning to live again. Well-written, good women’s fiction.

Lucretia Grindle’s VILLA TRISTE: my top pick of the year, set in WWII Florence, Italy, of a woman’s struggle to survive along with her family. A mystery, beautifully-written, a book to keep you up at night. Long, but excellent. Highly recommend.

B.A. Shapiro’s THE ART FORGER: about a reproduction artist and the mystery surrounding the real-life heist at the Gardner Museum in Boston. Artsy, a good page-turner.

Alyson Richman’s THE LOST WIFE: another top pick of the year, about a woman separated from her husband in Prague during WWII and their struggle to survive. A deeply emotional story that will change your worldview forever. Highly recommend.

Erika Robuck’s CALL ME ZELDA: full disclosure: Erika is my writing critique partner; I love her work. Watch for her new novel in March 2014, FALLEN BEAUTY, of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. This novel is about Zelda Fitzgerald told through the eyes of her nurse in her later years. About friendship and the need to be our true selves.


For lovers of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice: I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of THE PURSUIT OF MARY BENNET, a spin-off and creative telling of Mary Bennet, years after Pride and Prejudice. Light, entertaining, and enjoyable. A good gift for Jane Austen fans.


For You: Please share your favorite books here in the comments, and be sure to check out the GreatNewBooks Team’s favorites at GreatNewBooks.org. Thank you, and happy reading!



Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

11 thoughts on “2013 Favorite Books and Other Bookish Gift Ideas

  1. This is a fab list–thanks for sharing. There are a number of books that I’ll be adding to my 2014 list–ah but so many books so little time. I manage about two per month given my crazy schedule.

  2. I love seeing all the books and descriptions together. You do such a nice job with these summaries. Also, as a side note, I love the look of your blog and the font!

  3. What a great list. I love your descriptions. I am going to add many of these to my list. Especially Snow Child. I have been meaning to read this forever and keep forgetting!

    1. Yes, The Snow Child is unique and excellent — I hope you love it (great winter reading). I’d love to hear what you think about it after you finish. Thank you, Stacey!

  4. Oh, a feast for the literary heart and spirit! Thank you so much for creating this list. All new books for me! I am especially intrigued to discover Neil Gaimon on your list. I just discovered his work through that quote that I included in my most recent post. Response to that post has included many of his fans who have many reading suggestions. This is new and I’ll add to the list. Wonderful to discover a new author one loves. Thanks so much for this. Happy Reading in 2014! xo

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