Every Tuesday, The Broke and the Bookish blog posts a new Top Ten list and invites its users to participate. This week’s Top Ten is “Top Ten Favorite Books I’ve Read So Far in 2013.”
1. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
Einstein’s Dreams stands out as one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. Reminiscent in structure to Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, this book is comprised of short, two- to four-page vignettes in which Albert Einstein imagines a number of possible worlds where the fabric and nature of time are fundamentally different, and how these differences affect humanity. For instance, in a world where time is circular, people are helpless to change the future as they are destined to continually repeat the past.
2. This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life by David Foster Wallace
Of all the books on this list, this is perhaps the one that has stayed with me the longest, which is funny considering that it can be read in about ten minutes. This Is Water is a transcript of David Foster Wallace’s moving and inspiring commencement address at Kenyon College from 2005 where he spoke on the importance of being aware of how the things we choose to think about and pay attention to the most are oftentimes selfish and self-destructive – such as money, beauty, power, etc. – and the need to consciously decide to think and care about people other than ourselves.
3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I loved Sáenz’s harrowing Last Night I Sang to the Monster, so I couldn’t resist picking up his new YA novel. While I didn’t find it as amazing as Last Night, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a terrifically poignant story about friendship, coming-of-age, and the secrets we find too difficult to bear.
4. Every Day by David Levithan
Levithan’s Every Day is a unique blend of romance and sci-fi/fantasy wherein an uncommon love develops between a teenage girl named Rhiannon and A, a person/entity with no physical existence whose life consists of waking up each morning in the body of another (similar to that of Scott Bakula’s character in the ’90s TV show Quantum Leap).
5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
John Green and David Levithan, giants in the world of contemporary YA fiction, coauthored Will Grayson, Will Grayson, a novel about two teenage boys living in the Chicagoland area with the same exact name who end up meeting each other one fateful day and how this unlikely event changed their lives.
6. Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
I first discovered Valente through her children’s/YA novel, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, where I fell in love with her lyrical, hypnotic prose and her vivid imagination. These characteristics are still evident in Palimpsest, but instead of being a children’s book, it is a dark erotic fantasy for adults about a mysterious city that can only be visited in post-coital slumber.
7. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
Picking this book from the shelf on a whim, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving took me by surprise and has become one of the more memorable books I’ve read this year. After losing nearly everything , Ben Benjamin becomes a caregiver for Trevor, a sexually frustrated 19-year-old with muscular dystrophy who is eager to go on a cross-country tour of U.S. roadside attractions. A tragicomic novel about moving on, healing, and forgiveness that is both wryly humorous and surprisingly heartfelt.
8. Old and New Poems by Donald Hall
I enjoy poetry, honestly I do, but rarely have I picked up a book of poems and read it cover to cover as I did with Donald Hall’s Old and New Poems, which mainly explore themes of death and aging. One of my many favorite lines is from a poem called “Tubes”: “We die of habits, / deplorable ones / like merely living: / finally fatal.”
9. Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcón
I first heard of Peruvian-born author Daniel Alarcón in a 2010 New Yorker article that included him in a list of 20 important contemporary American authors under the age of 40. His debut novel, Lost City Radio, tells a powerful story about a woman looking for her missing husband in a totalitarian South American country that has defeated a rebel uprising and erased the country’s indigenous language.
10. Domu: A Child’s Dream by Katsuhiro Otomo
Better known for creating the cyberpunk manga Akira, Otomo’s Domu is an equally well-crafted gem about a Tokyo apartment complex that has been the site of thirty-two mysterious deaths. It quickly becomes apparent that a senile old man living in the complex may be somehow responsible.