Year in review: Books

The beginning of 2013 when I was chipping away at the first novels/books on these lists feels like half a lifetime ago, both in real time and in how long ago those books seem to be. Here is all that kept me busy – and out of trouble ;) – in 2013.


lady-susan to-kill-a-mockingbird matched reconstructing-amelia above-all-things wool maddaddam mad-about-the-boy mum-on-the-run

  • * Lady Susan – a Jane Austen short story with one of the most deliciously despicable characters she’s ever created.
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird – finally read this classic
  • Ally Condie’s Matched (my review) – I need to stop myself before I say more bad things about this one
  • Kimberly Mccreight’s Reconstructing Amelia – a mother’s worst nightmare is if her child dies before she does; at first, Amelia’s death looks like a suicide but Kate receives a text message that reads “Amelia didn’t jump” and she investigates herself – the private school, the teenage circles, clues in personal messages and social media … I saw this on a reading list (Chatelaine?)
  • Tanis Rideout’s Above All Things – if it’s any indication, I was telling anyone who would listen about this book and I rated it 5/5 on Shelfari – it was so exciting and sad and haunting.
  • Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus – in a discussion somewhere on the Internet, someone referred to the great dystopic world that is Wool and someone else mentioned it got picked up for television/film so I was instantly intrigued; Wool is five parts and Shift Omnibus is the next three parts. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into and was a bit disappointed to have to read about an uprising and I breezed through those parts. But Juliette and Lukas’ thread really fascinated me and their fate kept me reading to the end.
  • Margaret Atwood’s Madaddam – released August 29, I got a library copy three weeks later and didn’t finish it within three weeks so I got the digital copy and finished it another three weeks later, with two weeks of travelling in the midst to occupy my time; I loved Oryx and Crake and didn’t understand The Year of the Flood. But this last installation in the trilogy tied it altogether and it really resonated and was full of hope.
  • Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones: Mad about The Boy –  I didn’t hear about this third installment to the Bridget Jones story ahead of publication but only a few days after and I was then visiting London – what a perfect novel to pick up! But I didn’t end up finding it at a WHSmith on my last day in London and got it when I came back. Didn’t read the other two books and don’t really enjoy the style. It’s the first “mummy book’ I’ve allowed myself to read and the usual chick-lit “disasters” and awkward situations involve the small children. It was a cute way for the whole story to wrap up with a healthy dose of the new (social) media that has arisen since the last installment published in 2001!
  • Fiona Gibson’s Mum on the Run – (saw it in a UK bookstore for about 3-4£ but didn’t buy it)

Non-Asian American non-fiction

buddhist-boot-camp relish lean-in

  • Timber Hawkeye’s Buddhist Boot Camp (my review)
  • Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen – I heard about this book through someone I follow on Twitter and waited patiently to get it from the library; it’s really cute.
  • Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead – I have to admit that I didn’t honestly think of reading this until Ms. Write asked on Twitter if anyone had read it and I couldn’t say I had… and why not? In part because it doesn’t feel the most relevant to someone in my position and also I’m in denial about my own self-sabotage and being part of the target group of women readers. It’s hard to believe it was only a 2013 publication because there was buzz already Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg but the “lean in” buzzword really took off after this was published.

Asian American (or like) fiction & non-fiction

1q84 sushi-for-one only-uni rules-for-virgins crazy-rich-asians tiger-babies-strike-back all-woman-and-springtime the-red-chamber Print dreaming-in-chinese is-everyone-hanging-out-without-me recipes-from-my-home-kitchen disciple-of-las-vegas valley-of-amazement

  • 1Q84 – Longest novel I’ve read to date and what a trip!
  • Sushi for One? Only Uni – A romance novel/series? I had to try one because I had knocked it a couple of years ago. I still did not enjoy the first one I read because the protagonist seemed a bit ludicrous to me. But I learned the subsequent novel’s protagonist was one I could identify with better and did find that one a bit more enjoyable.
  • * Rules for Virgins – There has been such a drought on Amy Tan novels that I did read her (very) short story published in 2011. It turns out Rules for Virgins was a bit like an extended Prologue to her 2013 novel, The Valley of Amazement
  • Crazy Rich Asians – Actually, I listened to this as a download from Audible because I primarily learned and was excited about this novel through promotion by the narrator and actress, Lynn Chen.
  • Tiger Babies Strike Back – one more kick at the Tiger Mom parenting can; I had to read this as I have read all of KWK’s work and it did have some good take-aways
  • All Woman and Springtime – saw this book at Costco and was intrigued, naturally – the extent of propaganda in North Korea is infinitely fascinating as is also, um, the sex trade
  • The Red Chamber – like the unabridged Les Miserables, I don’t think I could make it through the original The Dream of the Red Chamber; not an abridged version but rather a retelling, Pauline A. Chen’s debut novel, especially as an audiobook, is a compelling and satisfying saga.
  • Bitter Melon – I got a little side-tracked from the “reading plan” (what plan?!) when I heard about this novel … would it speak to me? On some level, it did.
  • Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love and Language – was drawn to this non-fiction work based on the title and subtitle but it didn’t really change my world.
  • Is Everything Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) – Since I watch The Mindy Project, I’m not entirely shocked by what she writes about and I think I would be totally impressed had I read this book before the show premiered. That means it’s a refreshing short book where Mindy airs her pet peeves, loves and big personality. It was a fun and quick read.
  • Recipes from My Home Kitchen – Does this count as a book? Does it?? I read all the blurbs before and after the recipes and do feel like I know the author/chef now!
  • The Disciple of Las Vegas – Where in the world will Ava Lee go next? Her latest mission to recover over $50 million is fraught with challenges and takes her to no less than three continents in the span of … a week? And while it was great fun to read about Guyana and BVI the last time, it was also neat to read about places I know well. Starts at home in Toronto then touches down in Manila (okay, I haven’t been to), Vancouver, Victoria, Las Vegas and London. I now have a restaurant recommendation for when I’m next in Las Vegas!
  • The Valley of Amazement – It’s been four years since Amy Tan’s last novel but even more since the last one I read and I’ve read a lot of novels in between. None can do the mother-daughter conflict and saga quite the same way.

* short story