Best reads of 2013

The best books I read in 2013 (that may or may not have been published during the calendar) follow an eclectic path―from fiction to poetry, non-fiction to graphic novels. Instead of providing a review of each book or why I consider it a “best read,” I will provide a quote from each book if possible.

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine Lengle

“A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. – Mrs. Whatsit”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

2. American Primitive by Mary Oliver

3. Blankets by Craig Thompson

“I wanted a heaven. And I grew up striving for that world– an eternal world- that would wash away my temporary misery.”
― Craig Thompson, Blankets

“How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface. To make a map of my movement – no matter how temporary.”
― Craig Thompson, Blankets

4. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

“The worlds of folklore and religion were so mingled in early twentieth venture German culture that even families who didn’t go to church were often deeply Christian.”
― Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

“Bonhoeffer thought of death as the last station on the road to freedom.”
― Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

5. Channel Zero by Brian Wood

“…and all of a sudden, world cultures become the Monoculture, the same conversation, the same clothes, the same show.”
― Brian Wood, Channel Zero

“And, all over the world, one by one, we quit fighting it.”
― Brian Wood, Channel Zero

“It’s about learning how to give a shit again, about finding ways to make things better. It’s about anger as a positive force of creation. It’s about your right to not have to live in the world they’ve built for you.”
― Brian Wood, Channel Zero

6. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship

7. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

“For what are we born if not to aid one another?”
― Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

“The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”
― Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

8. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

“What can’t be helped must be endured.”
― Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

“This religion that scorned the beauty and goodness of this world was a puzzle to me.”
― Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

9. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated. ”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

“Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

10. The Prodigal God  by Timothy Keller

“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”
― Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God

11. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

“If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows about the details of her mother’s life – without flinching or whining – the stronger the daughter.”
― Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

“The painful things seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place.”
― Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

12. River Inside the River: Three Lyric Sequences by Gregory Orr

13. Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins

14. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

“What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
― Nicholas G. Carr, The Shallows

“Culture is sustained in our synapses…It’s more than what can be reduced to binary code and uploaded onto the Net. To remain vital, culture must be renewed in the minds of the members of every generation. Outsource memory, and culture withers.”
― Nicholas G. Carr, The Shallows

15. Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom by Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath

“[We owe the Greeks] our present Western notions of constitutional government, free speech, individual rights, civilian control over the military, separation between religious and political authority, middle-class egalitarianism, private property, and free scientific inquiry.”
― Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath, Who Killed Homer?

The best books I should have read before 2013

Hemingway - book

The 2013 lists are in. From The Seattle Times[1] to The Economist,[2] from NPR[3] to Publisher’s Weekly[4] to The Paris Review[5] and even Bianca Stone’s Poetry Picks[6], everyone seems to be sharing the best books to read of the year.

In some unknown manner, I feel obligated as a reader, and a dabbler in spilled ink and exploded pens, that I should offer a list of best reads of 2013. However, when I look back at the last twelve months of reading material only a few of them were published in the last calendar year.

It is true that as a practice my family congregates at the public library at least once a week, sometimes more. And, since I am an agnostic[7] as far booksellers go, at least a couple nights a week myself and some family members can be observed wandering through the aisles of a Barnes & Noble or a used bookstore. Often I am disappointed in bookstores and libraries because they tend to focus on the bestsellers and popular trends rather than the well-written and perennial books.

So, maybe I should title the list, “the best books I should have read before 2013”. Next week I will share some of the best books I read in 2013 (that may or may not have been published during the calendar).

UPDATE: Here is my list best reads of 2013.

[1] The Seattle Times, 31 of the best titles of 2013
[2] The Economist, A bountiful offering
[3] Our Guide To 2013’s Great Reads
[4] Publisher’s Weekly, Best 20 Books of 2013
[5] The Paris Review, Best of the “Best”
[6] My Poetry Picks for 2013
[7] By agnostic, I refer to the lesser used denotation of the word meaning unwilling to commit to an opinion. This is my quiet response to local matters. Bumper stickers and posters decorate the downtown area declaring “Local is the new black” or “Choose Independents, Buy Local”. This is all well and good, but I am not dogmatic on the point. To demonize corporate retail outlets is a moral pretense that I disagree with on the grounds that the people of Asheville need work. In these economic hard times, any work is good work. Why should I shame one hard worker who is employed at Barnes & Noble and not also shame one hard worker who is employed at a local independent bookseller? Seems like undeserved discrimination to me. My preference is to visit corporate and independent bookstores alike and maintain a bookseller agnosticism in the hopes that neither employees of Barnes and Noble or Malaprop’s loss their jobs as they try to support their families and communities. And no, I am not running for city council.

What did I write?

Block print Christmas card

What did I write that got some much traffic?

A few weeks ago I noticed that the traffic on my blog spiked due to a post I wrote a year ago: “Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)”.[1] At first, I thought it was a fluke, but for weeks now many of you have visited this blog. Many thanks! And I hope the Advent Poems are a blessing and encouragement to you this year.

Also, feel free to look around and enjoy other poetry related blog posts.

[1] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)