The best of the best: 30 breathtaking books to read in 2013

“Trying to rate books out of 5 is like trying to carve a statue with a sledgehammer.  I am cavalier with my ratings and they should probably not be trusted.”

Photo by Katerha's Flickrstream.

Photo by Katerha. Featured image by Bravo_Zulu

All too true words from Simon Fairbairn from Neverending Voyage.

I wish I could say my ratings are any more nuanced, but I they’re not. I am deeply influenced by emotion and nostalgia. Eat Pray Love, for example, aggravated me on many levels, yet I rate it a 4 because I read it in Panama at a jungle lodge sitting in a hammock surrounded by cacao trees and monkeys. Of course I loved the book.

Please, I just want to know what to read next.

So I did what anyone does these days. Well, anyone if you’re one of us post-modern bare it all online because clearly we need the attention types. I posted on Facebook.

“What books would you give top marks,” I asked. “What gets 5 out of 5. Books that are just amazing?”

For me? Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I’ve read it countless times, and each time, I fall in love again from the very first line: “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

It hooks me in and keeps me there until I’m drawn to the final sentence, breathless with the knowledge that for some, life and love are not choice but fate.

I am also damn lucky in that my Facebook friends are a lovely bunch of writers, readers and artists. People who have no qualms having an opinion, are happy to share it with you and, quite frankly, have really good taste. Where applicable, I’ve included their blogs, writing and other resources for writers.


  1. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Hands down the most recommended and agreed on as a life changing, must read book.
  2. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. This one suggested by Kayt Sukel, who has a dead wicked sense of humor. She’s also author of Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex and Relationships. So you can see why I’d be curious about her book choices.
  3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. Suggested by Daniel Nahabedian, a kick ass photographer who has lived all over the world and speaks I-don’t-know-how-many languages. Don’t miss the monkey photo in his portfolio.
  4. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.
  5. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. Suggested by Pam Mandel who is a fantastic writer. You can read what she has to say at Nerd’s Eye View. One warning. If you don’t like ukeleles, don’t go to her page.
  6. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. Which seems a natural choice for the snarky, smart Jeannie Mark who blogs about solo travel, sex and doing things she shouldn’ Nomadic Chick.
  7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
  8. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Marie Szamborksi rates this book and the next two among her 5s. Marie just started a new blog called Feminina Intrepida, for the woman who “is not your average traveler.” Definitely worth a look.
  9. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  10. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.
  11. The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. JoAnna Haugen, who suggested the book, has a tendency to do a lot. She blogs, attempts NaNoWrimo while simultaneously working her way through her Life List. This year, she completed the 52 Letters Project for which she sent one letter a week. She was so kind as to send me one, but, alas, it never made its way to me in Argentina.
  12. A Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. Ayngelina Brogan goes a bit old school in recommending this and the next book in the list. I always appreciate her supportive comments on my blog. You can read her writing and see gorgeous photos of food at Bacon Is Magic.
  13. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.
  14. Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott. Jenny Williams, an accomplished writer in her own right, claims this to be a better read than Shadow of the Wind. Huge congratulations to Jenny, also, for recently winning an Elizabeth George Foundation grant. A worthwhile grant to check for all emerging writers.
  15. How to Lie With Maps by Mark Monmonier
  16. Independent People by Halldor Laxness
  17. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  18. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
  19. The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald
  20. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  21. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  22. Dune by Frank Herbert
  23. Plainsong by Kent Haruf
  24. Ship Fever, short stories by Andrea Barrett
  25. Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
  26. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
  27. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  28. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  29. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  30. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

So what do you think? Which books would you add to this list?