Best Read in 2013: A Top 20 Year-End List

Best Read In 2013

As we round the corner of Typographical Era’s first anniversary, we’ve decided to continue our Best Read in the year tradition, and what a year it has been!  Between translations, short stories, novels, memoirs, and essays, readers of all genres will surely find Typographical Era’s Best Read in 2013 list to be a great place to start for reading endeavors in 2014.  At least we hope so.  Here’s to a great year in reading and to another great year for Typographical Era.  Cheers!


20: The Widow Tree by Nicole Lundrigan

Nicole Lundrigan: The Widow Tree

Harrowing, yet also life affirming, The Widow Tree reminds us that no one can ever truly be good or evil, that we’re all the end result of a complicated, never ending series of choices so many of which are sadly out of our control and that maybe, just maybe, the people we think we despise the most might be the very ones we should be embracing instead. – Aaron

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19: The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

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The Death of Bees is a fast-paced coming of age drama, but it’s also a very tender and often humorous story of friendship, trust, responsibility, and what it means to be a family. – Karli

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18: The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell

Jonathan Littell: The Fata Morgana Books

Elegantly translated by Charlotte Mandell, what makes The Fata Morgana Books work is Littell’s unrelenting insistence to go “there” even if as a reader you’re never quite able to ascertain where there is exactly. Operating in a hypnotic, dreamlike world of infinite possibilities, Littell is free to explore not only the limitless nature of our sexual appetites, but also the very real, very raw thoughts and emotions that compel us to act upon them. The result of his efforts is a living, breathing, sublime collection of novellas that ignite the reader’s imagination and entices their most base of desires to grab control. – Aaron

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17: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Lets_Pretend_This_Never_Happened

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is wry, honest, and conversational. These aren’t formal, literary essays by any means, but her sense of humor translates perfectly in this unconventional collection. Somehow, Jenny Lawson has simultaneously managed to have the most entertaining and traumatizing life in history. And thank goodness she wrote a book about it! -Karli

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16: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri: The Lowland

Subtly intoxicating, Lahiri’s novel is overflowing with complex, conflicted characters that glisten with the slight, undefinable nuances of life. Subhash, Udayan, Guari, and their supporting cast are all fully realized, richly developed human beings. Defined by their desires, crippled by their pasts, and driven by their guilt, each attempts to make amends in their own way, yet by setting out to doing so, each unwittingly crushes a small piece of the other in the process. – Aaron

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15: The Trajectory of Dreams by Nicole Wolverton

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The Trajectory of Dreams is a subtle, but haunting (and often darkly humorous) psychological thriller that slowly, unnervingly forces you to reconsider your own relationships. And as cliche as it sounds, it will make you wonder if you can ever really trust or know anyone. After all, social behavioral patterns are learned, not inherent, and even the homicidal, mentally ill members of society can emulate these patterns flawlessly. – Karli

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14: The Creator by Gudrun Eva Minervudottir

Gudrun Eva Minervudottir: The Creator

Like a much needed wake-up call, Mínervudóttir’s The Creator arrives as an unforgettable gift reminding us to embrace the messy, finite nature our humanity. It serves as an unshakable and uplifting reminder that life can be, and should be, so much more than just the sum of our perfectly lifeless yet oh-so-sexy possessions. – Aaron

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13: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

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Tampa is likely to be the most controversial book of the decade for the literary community – not just for its graphic depictions of sexual acts and fantasies, but for its ability to make readers question the inherent nature of human sexuality and the legal system that frames it. – Karli

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12: The Facades by Eric Lundgren

The_Facades

Inspired by the artistry of Italo Calvino, Paul Auster, Gert Jonke and David Lynch, Lundgren’s wonderfully layered, descriptive prose invents a city that is a major character in and of itself, one whose exploration clearly takes precedence over delving into the complicated motivations and actions of those who live within its boundaries. This flipping of the expected script finds Trude forever driving the action forward, with her peculiar denizens relegated to the backseat, unable to wrest control from her formidable grasp. – Aaron

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11: Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Revenge

Revenge is categorized as a collection of short stories, but they’re all so intricately and expertly connected that it feels more like reading a novel. Characters appear, disappear, and reappear like phantoms, which, by the end of the book, will give you an unavoidable sensation of being haunted. And long after you finish the collection, you will likely notice these characters invading the sacred spaces of your subconscious. – Karli

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10: The Kills by Richard House

Richard House: The Kills

Oh, there’s a world inside the fucking world alright, and Richard House is more than adequately equipped to show it to you. In fact, the further I progressed in my reading of his Booker nominated epic The Kills, the more I became convinced that it’s the best novel Don DeLillo never got around to writing. – Aaron

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09: Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman

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Sabina Berman has created such a funny, original, and complex character and voiced her in a way makes readers envy Karen for the elegance of her mind. It is not overcrowded with anxieties, fantasies, and fear, and despite her test scores, she does not lack intelligence or compassion. Karen Nieto is one of the most pure literary characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter, and Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World should be celebrated for its brilliance and charm. – Karli

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08: Tenth of December by George Saunders

George Saunders: Tenth of December

Saunders builds characters like a mad scientist, gleefully sawing open skulls and exposing the raw stream of consciousness contained within for all to see. He gives the reader a backstage pass to the hottest show in town. Prepare to be amazed as the brain’s complex self-justification system kicks into high gear! Watch as each character convinces themselves of their supreme rightness in every conceivable situation! Gasp at the shocking results! – Aaron

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07: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver

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…This is not just a novel about the death penalty and the mystery of a murder. Elizabeth L. Silver does not actively oppose or support capital punishment, but rather encourages readers to untangle the complicated web of emotions, trauma, grief, regret, and facts that can lead to such a sentencing. Whether we as jurors, readers, lawyers, perpetrators or victims realize it or not, action and consequence are not as simple as facts and events. A single, life-changing occurrence cannot be judged impartially or cleanly, because there is nothing clean or simple about motive. – Karli

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06: The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph

Manu Jospeh: The Ilicit Happiness Of Other People

Joseph’s language is just as beautiful as his subjects, and in a world that has become increasingly obsessed with focusing on studying those we’ve labelled “damaged” or “dysfunctional,” Illicit Happiness becomes a welcome reminder that the opposite side of the spectrum can be just as interesting, and perhaps surprisingly to some, far more appealing ground to explore. – Aaron

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05: Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting

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It’s hard to look away from Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, but you should at least glance up every now and then to remind yourself that this literary fever dream has not completely devoured your mind, body, and spirit even though each page pulses and throbs with the promise, tease, capture, and release of the taboo, the unknown, and the wickedly delectable. – Karli

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04: Tirza by Arnon Grunberg

Arnon Grunberg: Tirza

Tirza offers up a difficult, disturbing journey, but it’s also a fascinating exploration of both the power of family and the lengths that we’re willing go to as parents for our special children that we love oh so dearly. – Aaron

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03: Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine

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…Vibrant, dynamic portrait of perseverance, resilience, loyalty, and compromise in a unique and unforgettable family duo. One of the most entertaining and sparkling novels I’ve read all year, Fin and Lady is a superbly cast whirlwind of a story, and I was truly sad to turn the last page. – Karli

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02: The Elixir of Immortality by Gabi Gleichmann

Gabi Gleichmann: The Elixir Of Immortality

Gleichmann’s ambitious efforts are rewarded by his insistence to tackle stereotypes and oppression head on rather than shy away from them. From the Spanish Inquisition to the Holocaust, he leaves no stone in history’s dark past unturned as he reminds us that no matter how horrific the obstacle, life always manages to find a way to persevere. – Aaron

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01: The Dinner by Herman Koch

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The Dinner is a book that should be savored slowly so you can appreciate every last garnish of tension and mounting unease, but if you’re like me, then you will devour this book in one sitting, feverishly turning pages and hoping that the check never comes. – Karli

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What do you think of our list? What were some of the best books that YOU read in 2013? Let us know!

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.

  • Jackie Hirst

    A great year end wrap up!! I have now moved a couple up on the TBR list!