The Top Ten List of the Best Fiction I’ve Read in 2013

TopTen

Here are the books that made 2013 a great reading year for me.

BILLY_LYNN_BOOK_245593131. “Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk” by Ben Fountain (2012) – This over-the-top black comedy about ‘honoring our soldiers’ at a Dallas Cowboys football game is the ideal plot to capture the absurdities that exist between the comfortable upper-class supporters of the Iraq War and the dirt-poor multi-race soldiers who had little choice but to go to Iraq.

157908422. “Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson (2013) – An affectionate portrait of an English family with a twist.  If something goes wrong for this family, they get to do it over with hopefully better results the next time.


city-of-bohane3. “City of Bohane” by Kevin Barry (2012) – This is probably the novel with the most original plot and the most dazzling language.  The story is not limited by the constraints of realism.

storyofanewname4. “The Story of a New Name” by Elena Ferrante (2013) – Part 2 of the Naples trilogy.  The two girls who were the smartest students and best friends in grade school, Lila and Elena, are sixteen now and take two very different paths in growing up.

201304-omag-flamethrowers-284xfall5.“The Flamethrowers” by Rachel Kushner (2013) – Here is an edgy novel about the 1970s art world that begins with our young female protagonist trying to set the world land speed record for a motorcycle on the salt flats in Reno.

the-dinner6. “The Dinner” by Herman Koch (2012) – Here is a vivid story about a dinner in a restaurant with two brothers and their wives.  I gaurantee you it will provoke a strong reaction.

article-2442020-1878A30700000578-565_224x4237. “The Circle” by Dave Eggers (2013) – A dark story about an Internet company which believes that all that happens must be known.

1saunders01068. “Tenth of December” by George Saunders (2012) – Absurd humorous stories with an emotional payoff.


778109. “The Days of Abandonment” by Elena Ferrante (2002) – An unflinching blunt depiction of a woman dealing with abandonment.

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10. “The Other Typist” by Suzanne Rindell (2013) – An enchanting 1920s story about a typist in a police precinct station.

Here are some excellent novels I read in 2013 that are older.

9781101195888_p0_v1_s260x420“Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert (1866) – A wonderful version of this adultery classic translated by Lydia Davis.

729-1“The Fancy Dress Party” by Alberto Moravia (1941) – A merry romp of a novel which makes fun of the fascists.

9780143106494“The Cocktail Party” by James M Cain (1977, 2013) – A sleazy nightclub murder mystery novel by the writer of ‘Double Indemnity’.

piatto_lucinella_72-199x300 “Lucinella”by Lore Segal (1977) – Her one night stand with the Greek God Zeus at a writing conference.

9780720612943_p0_v1_s260x420“In Love” by Alfred Hayes (1953) – The intense record of a break-up between a man and a woman told by the man.

9 responses to this post.

  1. I have two of these on my TBR: The Story of a New Name and The Dinner, but I’m interested to see that you’ve also read another by Ferrante, I must have missed your review at the time. Is it the third in the trilogy?

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    • Hi Lisa,
      No, ‘The Days of Abandonment’ is not part of the trilogy. It is probably her most famous novel before the trilogy. The first two novels of the trilogy are ‘My Brilliant Friend’ and ‘The Story of a New Name, and the third is still unwritten.
      I will be waiting for your ‘Best of Year’ list.

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  2. You’re early with your list. 🙂
    I’m glad I discovered some titles I’ve already have (City of Bohane and Life After Life) and some new names, which I’ll check out soon. I’ve read another Ferrante which hasn’t been translated into English yet and loved it.

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  3. Hi Caroline,
    I was reading an article about various authors picking their best reads for 2013, and Kate Atkinson had ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk’ as her first pick. That was particularly reassuring to me.
    I know, I know, bloggers should behave better than newspapers and magazines, and not release their ‘best’ lists before year-end. However there is the Christmas buying, and maybe people look to these lists for book purchases. And after the year is over, who really cares what one read last year?

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  4. Tony, as always, I’m amazed by how much you read, and since you’re a fussy reader, I respect your choices. I want to read the new Ferrante and must try the Atkinson, even though it doesn’t appeal to me. I loved the Lydia Davis translation of Madame Bovary: finally that classic makes sense to me!

    I’ve got part of my “Best” list up on the sidebar on my blog, in case anybody wants to look at the “new” books on my list, but I am still resisting putting the whole thing up. Now or New Year’s, who cares?:) 2013 is almost over!

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    • Hi Kat,
      I see ‘The Interestings’ on your list, and it has appeared on many lists. I haven’t read it, because I gave up on Meg Wolitzer’s previous book.
      ‘Madame Bovary’ is why I don’t include classics on my ‘Best of’ list, because how could a book written in 2013 compete with ‘Madame Bovary’?
      I read about a book of fiction a week, but you are right, I’m very fussy. My rule is always to read the book that has the potential of being the best book that I haven’t read. Of course a lot of new books get hyped that way, but I try to take that into consideration.

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      • Yes, The Interestings made SO many lists: it is very good, a realistic novel about family and friends, very different from her last slightly surreal book. Perhaps she decided to write a Franzenish novel to prove a woman could do it? But it definitely doesn’t need a place on my list.

        You read so much contemporary fiction that you can tell what deserves a place: I only finished a handful of new books this year. I’m off in my own 19th- and 20th-century zone, and if a new book can’t compare with Madame Bovary or at least with Mrs. Oliphant, it’s given away to the Little Free Library on my street.

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        • Hi Kat,
          During the 80’s and 90’s I covered most of the classics in world literature, so there’s not too much old literature that I’m interested in, except when I find out about an old author being revived.
          I do want to highlight more under-rated writers in the future.

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