Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Monday, November 25, 2013

The LRG Best Books of 2013

Yes, I know the year is not yet over for pop culture delights but this is the time when we start to look back on what has come forth from the  four corners of the entertainment spectrum(movies,music,TV and books) to divide it up into Best and Worst.

Since I prefer to be positive, the literary round-up here at LRG focuses on what I consider to be the best that I've read within 2013.

Most of this list is devoted to novels but there is at least one nonfiction titles in the pack and with the holiday shopping season practically dragging us to the stores any moment now, this set of great books might be useful for your gift giving needs(or to suggest to someone looking to buy you a suitable stocking stuffer):


 One of the best book surprises I received this year was picking up Helene Wecker's debut novel,The Golem and the Jinni,which is currently a top contender at Good Reads for Best of the Year.

The title characters of the book meet by chance in New York of 1899, where Chava, a female golem created to be a wife but is widowed before she arrives in America and Ahmad, a jinn trapped in a copper flask who is released into a strange new world, become unlikely friends.

Their mutual outsider status brings them together in good ways and bad, as a man from the Old World enters their lives in order to exploit their powers and threatens to destroy what joy they have managed to find in life. A brilliant mix of cross cultural fantasy and historical fiction, this charming story is a rare gem to be treasured for years to come:

Much of my reading has been supplemented by Library Thing's Early Reviewers program, which introduced me to Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister. The leading lady of this novel is Violet, a movie critic who seems to have a sharp tongue when it comes to her work but not in her actual life.

A visit to the Algonquin Hotel,in order to be inspired by the great writers who used to gather there, brings Violet in contact with the spirit of Dorothy Parker whose razor wit and keen insights have not been dulled by death. Mrs. Parker decides to take Violet under her ghostly wing and nudge her reluctant protege into taking more chances in life and love.

This book has both humor and pathos, with a tribute to the legacy of Dorothy Parker that embraces her bittersweet sense of dark comedy to a T:


With the many biographies that have already been written about iconic authors such as Jane Austen, it can be difficult to find new ways to present the life and times of the artist that many feel they know all too well.

Paula Byrne,however, has been more than able to capture this particular brand of literary lightning in her biographical jar entitled The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things.

 Byrne tells the life story of Austen in a non linear fashion, using objects such as a card of lace, an amber cross and a shawl to display the many influences and situations that inspired Austen's writing as well as what sort of woman she really was as opposed to the way others wished to see her. Whether you're new to Jane Austen or an experienced Janeite, this book offers plenty to talk about,with a nice play on show and tell:


For a searingly smart look at modern times, two authors come to mind for me and one of them is Elizabeth Strout. Her new novel this year was The Burgess Boys, where two brothers have no choice but to return to their hometown of Shirley Falls to offer their legal assistance to their nephew who inadvertently committed a hate crime.

Both men are haunted by the accidental death of their father during their childhood,which one of them still blames himself for. During the chaos caused by the upcoming trial, more than one family secret spills out into the open and works to set a new course of action for each sibling to take. A sad yet strong story that examines how deeply we really perceive our place in life.

 The other author is Wally Lamb, well known thanks to Oprah but also his own powerful brand of writing. This past weekend, I finished his latest novel We are Water, which follows a family that is both falling apart and trying to get back together.

As artist Annie Oh is planning her wedding to her art dealer Viveca, her three children-the troubled Andrew and his twin sister Ariane, with giddy baby sister Marissa-and former husband Orion have to tackle with the issue of whether or not to attend.

In addition to this new marriage, Annie is also struggling with the many secrets of her past that have impacted upon her family in numerous ways, not to mention that the former Oh residence may be haunted by the ghost of a possibly murdered artist. Wally Lamb is an author whose work I have never been able to find fault with and this hard to put down portrait of the power of secrets is among his best work in my humble opinion:


As they say, it is the quiet ones you have to watch and the heroine of Tracy Chevalier's The Last Runaway is a stellar example of that.

Quaker girl Honor Bright only emigrated to America in 1850 to see her sister Grace wed but due to an unexpected illness, Honor wound arriving alone to the farm in Ohio to inform her intended in-laws that Grace had died en route.

With no means of returning to England(and not much inclination to do so), Honor finds herself marrying into a local family and becoming a member of the Underground Railroad,something that brings her new friends as well as enemies. Honor's difficulty in deception winds up working both for and against her but soon enough she has to see the truth of her situation and make others do so in kind.

This soft spoken yet strong willed leading lady fits into Chevalier's cannon of women who contribute a small yet vital part in changing the world around them and it was good to see her set foot upon American story shores this time around.

A true life figure from the background of Sigmund Freud's life comes into the forefront in Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman's recent novel,aptly titled Freud's Mistress.

After Minna Berays loses her position as lady's companion, her best option is to stay with her married sister Martha in Vienna during 1895. She is mainly welcomed as a helpmeet for the many children in the Freud household but the real attraction for her to remain is the attention that her brother-in-law gives to her intellectual nature.

There is more than a meeting of the minds going on between Minna and Sigmund, with their seemingly mutual passion bringing their messy emotions far too close to home. This engaging look at a woman who took part in some of the major developments in psychological theory but didn't benefit greatly from them makes for an intriguing look into the mind of a famous man by how he treated those supposed to be closest to him:

There are so many more wonderful books that I got to read but these are definitely the cream of the crop on my shelves here. With a brand new year of books coming soon, not to mention a few literary presents that I hopefully will be getting by the end of this season, my reading bag should be quite overflowing with a bounty of reading that will requite some careful planning in order to keep them all together as snugly as possible. Wish me literary luck, folks!:



Sherry said...

I've linked to your list and taken the liberty of recommending a couple of books that you might want to consider for future reading, at my blog Semicolon:  http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=21827
Merry Christmas, and Happy Reading!

lady t said...

Thanks for the linkage and the suggestions,Sherry!