I will admit that I came nowhere close to my reading goals for the year. If you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll notice that my progress has been slow. I’m chalking this up to a few things, namely the fact that when I was traveling, I was often driving. My grand total was 17, down a fair bit from past years. To see what I read in 2011 and 2012, see those years’ posts. Since there are so few, I’ll review them in order of when I read them, rather than genre.
The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down, Andrew McCarthy
I was behind the trend on this book, as there was lots of buzz from this 80s heartthrob-turned-travel writer when it came out. It’s part travelogue and part memoir, so readers will be surprised by the struggles McCarthy went through before he decided to become a writer. The subtitle of the book is “one man’s quest for the courage to settle down,” which is a sentiment I’m all too familiar with. It was the first book I read in 2013 and I highly recommend it.
Ablutions: Notes for a Novel, Patrick DeWitt
My sister bought me this book for Christmas because it is about a man who works in a Los Angeles dive bar and writes about all the crazy patrons, which is another sentiment I’m familiar with. It’s a first novel, which can go either way, and it switches from first to second person narration and gets very bizarre in a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas sort of way. I liked it at first, but I think the second half took a turn that became more difficult to follow. The narrator indulges in all sorts of drugs and drink, loses his girlfriend (shocker!) and his job before trying to get them all back.
Stern Men, Elizabeth Gilbert
I really wanted to like this book, as at her core, Gilbert is a novelist rather than a memoir author, despite what Eat Pray Love may have you believe. This novel was well researched and set in lobster country. On an island where everyone knows each other, Ruth Thomas is a tomboy with a gruff lobster fisherman for a father. Her next door neighbors become her surrogate family and gets herself into trouble. The beginning of the book was fantastic, weaving in different story lines of other island residents, but the plot reaches a boiling point and from there, I felt that the rest was rushed. Everything was tied up and finished when I wanted there to be more resolution.
How did it take me so long to read this book? It should be required reading for all Georgians. Berendt arrives in Savannah as an outsider, but soon becomes acquainted with the famous and infamous residents of the genteel city. After a young man is shot in a historic mansion, the public weighs in on what they think really happened that night. Be aware that the book differs greatly from the movie, but I still enjoyed it. Whatever your opinion of the book, it certainly has left a lasting impression on the city.
Love with a Chance of Drowning, Torre DeRoche
I was very excited to read this book, as I’ve been reading Torre’s clever blog for ages. And I can say that her book doesn’t disappoint. Torre spends time working in San Francisco as a graphic designer. A few weeks before she is set to fly home to Australia, she meets a handsome stranger in a bar. While she tries to tell herself it was only a one-time thing, they soon fall in love and that’s when he drops the bomb: he’s planning to sail around the world, but would she like to come with him? They’ve only known each other a short time and she’s afraid of water, but she decides to go. The trip tests their relationship in every way possible, but DeRoche narrates with great humor. I read this book in a matter of two days during my arduous bus trip up to Canada and couldn’t put it down.
I was given this book for Christmas years ago, but never finished reading it until now. It’s written by an outdoor and adventure PR specialist who basically accepts pitches and helps people put into motion their crazy ideas like climbing Mount Everest or crossing the Atlantic via manmade boat through corporate sponsorship. It’s a fascinating read, especially put in my own perspective of a blogger who often accepts sponsorship or partnerships.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories, Truman Capote
I’m a fan of the movie, which is decidedly different from the book. Holly Golightly is the same aimless woman who is a “hustler” in every sense of the word, but is much more young and naïve than her Audrey Hepburn counterpart. She’s also much more scandalous, more of a Miley Cyrus type than anything else and also “can’t be tamed.” But I felt like I could relate much more to this character, the lost and the unsure, than I expected to. This copy also had some of Capote’s short stories, A Christmas Memory, House of Flowers, and A Diamond Guitar, which were good to compare styles with.
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
Yes, I read this again before the movie came out. Yes, I was just as emotionally invested this time around. Yes, I will probably read it again before the next movie comes out.
The Best American Travel Writing 2002, Ed. Frances Mayes
I have dozens of these collections of travel writing and it’s taking me a while to get through them. As with all, I find myself enjoying some essays more than others.
Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, Lauren Weisberger
I was very excited to read this book because with the exception of one, I’ve enjoyed all of Lauren Weisberger’s books. They’re clever and have relatable characters that won’t just let life happen to them, but rather take the reigns. I wanted to know what happened after The Devil Wears Prada. But, oh was I disappointed. Many years into the future, Andy has a husband, a high end wedding magazine and a best friend in former frenemy Emily. But once she learns that Miranda Priestly has more involvement in her life than she realizes, it all starts to unravel. It’s not even the plot line that was so bad, it just felt as though Weisberger squeezed out as much effort as she needed to to get that check. The ending was terribly anticlimactic and made me wish I hadn’t wasted the money.
Beautiful Ruins: A Novel, Jess Walter
I packed this paperback for my Turkey trip, expecting it to be just another chick lit throwaway. But it weaves multiple stories into one great book. It starts in Italy with a young innkeeper and includes an aging actress, a troubled musician and a woman trying to break into the movie industry. It’s definitely worth a read if you’ve got a long flight or an afternoon by the pool, as it goes by quickly. I could see it becoming a movie script easily.
I’d read Heather’s column on Gadling when I first started blogging. This book is like Kitchen Confidential, but told from the viewpoint of a flight attendant. Nothing is off limits, from dating pilots to serving celebrities to irate passengers. It was a quick read while in Turkey and I’m excited to see what comes next from Poole.
The Corrections: A Novel Jonathan Franzen
After reading everything on my Kindle and what I brought with me, I was all out of reading material. I picked up this thick paperback at my hostel in Fethiye for lack of many other English options. The book tells of a family trying to make their way back together for the holidays. The father has Parkinson’s, the mother is in denial, and the adult children have their own sets of issues. I liked some parts of the book, but I think it was so realistic in terms of family life that it became a bit depressing. I know it’s one of the “best modern novels,” but I thought it was only okay.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
If I had to pick the best book I read this year, it would have to be this book. I had no idea what it was about when I purchased it on Kindle and ended up reading it within 48 hours. It was everything I wanted from a book, heart-warming, honest and poetic. It’s about teenage cancer patients who fall in love. Be prepared to cry like a baby on this one, but in the best way. It’s also set to become a movie.
A Year Without Make-Up: Tales of a 20-Something Traveler, Stephanie Yoder
Written by my travel blogging colleague at Twenty Something Travel, Stephanie talks about the lessons she’s learned from her life-changing round-the-world trip. Among them are that there are lots of things you won’t actually miss while away from home and that China happens when you’re busy making other plans. Give it a read if you’re planning your own adventure around the world.
Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America, Les Standiford
This is one of the few non-fiction books I read this year, which was on sale for Kindle. It goes back to the horrific murder of Adam Walsh, son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh. It was one of the first high profile child abductions and murders in America and was, for over 20 years, unsolved. Private investigators and police officers weighed in differing opinions on the suspect and mishandled evidence before leading to the author’s conclusion of what really happened that day at the mall.
Ender’s Game (The Ender Quintet), Orson Scott Card
For some reason, I never read this book when I was in school. But it predates most of the dystopian young adult literature I’m obsessed with and that has become so popular (ie. Divergent and Hunger Games). Ender is the youngest of three and has been tortured by his brother before being chosen for an elite group of soldiers. He is smarter than the other children, despite his young age, and rises to power without really wanting it. There are so many things about this book that could be examined, in particular the role of the internet in our society as well as the politics of war. I recommend it for children and adults.