Sunday, December 29, 2013

My favorite books of 2013

In previous years I have done top ten lists of my favorite books, but this year I had too many favorites so I'm just going to break them down by category. If there's a link it takes you to the review I wrote of the book here on the blog.

Picture Books:

Journey by Aaron Becker
In the year of the wordless picture book, this one stands out above the rest. If I were a betting woman, this is where my money would go for the Caldecott award. 

Tea Rex by Molly Idle
I love fish out of water stories. And you can't get more fish out of water than a tyrannosaurus rex at a tea party.

The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Dusan Petricic
Based on the true story of when world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell played 45 minutes in a DC metro station and virtually no one stopped to listen. Since music has such an emotional impact on me, this is one that made me cry.

Wilfred by Ryan Higgins
This one touched me more than I expected it to. In fact, it made me tear up at the end. A wonderful, heartfelt story about a boy who finds a friend in a big, hairy monster.

Red Hat by Lita Judge
When a few woodland creatures spot a red hat hanging up to dry, they can't resist taking it down and playing with it... only their good-natured mischief gets them into a pickle. I ADORED this nearly wordless picture book.

Bogart and Vinnie by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Henry Cole
I am utterly and completely biased since Audrey is my friend, but her books are just so darn clever. In fact, we became friends because I told her how over the moon I was over her books. I like to surround myself with brilliant people, what can I say?

Ball by Mary Sullivan
You will only find one word in this entire picture book but that one word communicates so much coming from a dog. Sullivan communicates everything I love about dogs in her word and pictures, like enthusiasm, hopefulness, and loyalty.

Battle Bunny by Mac Barnett and Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Matthew Myers
I'm a fan of subversion --in books and in the classroom-- and it doesn't get more subversive than Battle Bunny.

Middle Grade:
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett
I loved the characters and I loved how Balliett weaves the work of Langston Hughes into the story. If I were still in the classroom this year Hold Fast would have no doubt been a class read aloud. 

Every Day After by Laura Golden
A quiet little gem of a novel. But don't mistake quiet for weakness. Lizzie Hawkins is one fierce leading lady.

The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb
A gripping nonfiction that doesn't read like a book, but rather makes you feel like you're watching a spy movie. 

Young Adult:

Level2/The Memory of After by Lenore Appelhans
In September the name of this novel changed from Level 2 to The Memory of After due to potential readers' confusion that the 2 in the title meant it was a sequel. Lenore is another author I consider a friend and so perhaps that makes me biased, but it also made me nervous to read this too. What if I didn't like it? Well I'm here to tell you I LOVED it. It's such a unique concept and I loved that she pulled in elements from both theology and mythology to support her world building of the hive-like place known as Level 2. 

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Hatchet meets The Road. A completely gripping tale of post-apocalyptic survival with a fierce main character.

Smoke by Ellen Hopkins
A beautiful conclusion to Burned. I am both haunted and satisfied with how Pattyn's story ended.

Graphic Novels:

Bluffton by Matt Phelan
Beautiful graphic novel about Buster Keaton's summers in Bluffton, Michigan near Lake Michigan, told through the eyes of a fictional narrator, Henry. Definitely my favorite graphic novel of 2013, maybe of all time. I love how Phelan uses few words, choosing instead to let the pictures do most of the storytelling.

Relish by Lucy Knisley
A YA graphic memoir that celebrates food and travel? What's not to love? You have seen the title of my blog, right? ;)

Adult fiction:

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
I can't remember the last time I read an adult novel where I was so utterly spellbound. So many gorgeously written passages that I had to mark them as mentor texts.

Professional Books:

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller
A brilliant follow-up to The Book Whisperer. An absolute must-read for anyone who is invested in good reading instruction. 

Fearless Writing: Multigenre to Motivate and Inspire by Tom Romano
A writing book that will compel you to change and action in your own teaching. Another must-read if you teach English.

Honorable mention:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
This book was published in 2012 but I read it in 2013 and I couldn't let a favorites list go by without mentioning it. When I met Saenz at ALA in June I couldn't even tell him how much I loved the book because I got so choked up. 

What were your favorite books of 2013?


  1. This is a great list of books, Beth! So many of these slipped my radar, but now I have more reading to look forward to in 2014. :)

  2. Love this list Beth! Isn't Aristotle and Dante a gorgeous book! It deserves an honourable mention for sure! Love sharing the #booklove with you about The Man with the Violin. Stunning title. I gave my daughter Every Day After and look forward to reading it after her! I'm also thrilled to see Wilfred here. I bought this book because I loved it so much!

    1. Carrie, I asked for (and received) Wilfred for Christmas. :)

  3. Congratulations on reading 500 books! That's a whole lot of reading! I'm loving reading everyone's list of favorites. I feel like I could assemble my TBR list for 2014 simply by reading everyone's 2013 lists. Thanks much for all of these great titles!