Favorite authors, debut novels provide great reading in 2013

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 1, 2014 

We hope you enjoy these "best of 2013" reading suggestions and agree that this has been a great reading year!

Longtime favorites, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, penned some heavily anticipated books in 2013 -- much to the delight of librarians everywhere. King wrote "Doctor Sleep," the unexpected sequel to "The Shining." "Doctor Sleep" follows a grown-up and troubled Danny Torrance as he attempts to protect a young girl with "the shining" from a band of wandering monsters looking to use her for their own ends. This book is a satisfying sequel that King fans are sure to love. Meanwhile, Gaiman, the celebrated writer of "American Gods," wrote "The Ocean at the End of the Lane," his first adult novel in eight years. This haunting fairy tale follows the story of a young boy who must harness powers beyond his understanding to drive out a dark and nasty force from his family's home. Beautiful, creepy and lingering, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is not to be missed.

"The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls," a debut novel by Anton DiSclafani, was a popular summer read and book group choice this year. Set during the Depression, it features a rebellious young heroine sent to a strict equestrian boarding school after a family tragedy that she had a role in. Readers who like character-driven, coming-of-age, or psychologically and emotionally rich stories should enjoy this. Out in paperback just in time for summer reading, it was hard to keep "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" by Maria Semple on the shelves this year. The story centers on brilliant architect, Bernadette, whose allergy for Seattle culture has developed into an agoraphobia that has her using a virtual assistant in India to accomplish most of her errands. This becomes a problem when the family plans a vacation to Antarctica to celebrate daughter Bee acing her private school report card. Bernadette mysteriously disappears, and Bee's dedication to finding her mother takes her to the ends of the earth and will have you turning the pages to discover "where did she go?"

Jumping from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., a 2013 favorite was "A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki, which takes the "best of" prize for the intricate complexity with which Ozeki weaves topics as diverse as school-age bullying, ocean currents, nuclear power and the Fukushima disaster, tsunamis and quantum physics. The story is told in alternating voices by Ruth, a writer and New York transplant living (somewhat resignedly) on a remote Pacific island, and Nao, a 16-year-old Japanese schoolgirl. When Ruth finds Nao's diary washed up on the beach in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, the lives of diary writer and reader entwine through the act of reading and Ruth discovers that she must find out if Nao survived the tsunami that apparently caused her diary to be swept across the ocean. This is not a quick read - it requires patience and attentiveness and - like a complex piece of music that can be listened to again and again -- readers may be inspired to reread to "get" all of it.

For those readers who like facts more than fiction, two great nonfiction titles that came out in 2013 are "The Boys in the Boat" by Daniel James Brown and "One Summer: America, 1927" by Bill Bryson. "The Boys in the Boat" tells the true story of the University of Washington rowing team that took gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This book has everything you could ever want: a fast-paced plot, local interest, and fascinating characters. "One Summer: America, 1927" describes a pivotal summer that would change the course of history forever. In 1927, the U.S. Federal Reserve made the fateful decision that would lead to the Great Depression while the explosion of tabloid journalism and radio programing marked the birth of modern popular culture. "This book is a fine way to painlessly swallow your history lesson," according to Beth Farley, a librarian at the Bellingham Public Library.

Young Adult, or YA, literature has become increasingly popular in the last several years and 2013 produced some really great fiction. One of the best is Ruta Septys' "Out of the Easy," a tale of a teen girl in post-World War II New Orleans. Septys' New Orleans is richly drawn and filled with multi-faceted characters. Jennifer Lovchik, the Bellingham Public Library's teen services librarian, says, "I found it to be a rich coming-of-age story with strong, believable characters." "Eleanor and Park" by Rainbow Rowell was the first title off the lips of both Aubri Keleman and Tamar Clarke, teen librarians at Whatcom County Library System. This tender story of love and friendship between two teens who feel like outsiders is a great read for teens who like romance, but is a gem of a read for adults who survived high school, too!

For the wee ones, Bethany Hoglund, children's librarian at the Bellingham Public Library, loved the picture book "That is Not a Good Idea!" by Mo Willems. In this book, a duck is approached by a sneaky looking, fast talking wolf who invites her back to his house for dinner... is that a good idea? Bethany says, "I love stories in which the author plays on the reader's preconceived notions of a story and then flips it upside down. Mo Willems does not disappoint."

Equally fun for parents and their primary and elementary school kids, Catherine Sarette, Whatcom County Library System children's librarian, suggests "How to Seize a Dragon's Jewel" by Cressida Cowell, with this review: "Astonishingly, this 10th book in the 'How to Train Your Dragon' series is just as beautifully written as the other nine. Few series make it this far without losing something of what made them great. This one delivers edge-of-your-seat excitement and laugh-out-loud-humor in gorgeous prose perfect for reading aloud."

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Lisa Gresham works for the Whatcom County Library System and Katie Bray works for the Bellingham Public Library.

To see more of their favorite books of 2013, visit Bellingham Public Library's blog, "Read More!" for the full list of 2013 staff picks and see Whatcom County Library System's "Book Buzz" blog for articles featuring what is new and notable.

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