My best of 2011 and best of 2012 books can be found here.
A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Tender is the Night by F.Scott Fitzgerald
I'm technically cheating by picking two books for one month, but there is no way I could separate these two. A Storm of Swords is my favourite volume from the Song of Ice and Fire series, which I devoured from late 2012 to early 2013. It's action packed, utterly gripping and got me into fantasy in a big way, which significantly altered my reading habits for the rest of 2013. On a more personal level, it was a great reading experience as my husband also loves the books, so it led to lots of great discussion.
I read Tender is the Night for the Classics Club readathon after being a bit underwhelmed by The Great Gatsby (sorry,Gatsby fans!). But this tale of a marriage in decline had all the emotional punch I felt Gatsby lacked, and I found it beautiful yet utterly heart-breaking. It's my favourite read from my classics club list so far, and now one of my all-time favourite books.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I have a feeling my list is going to be classics heavy this year! This classic was an unexpected delight as Dickens isn't exactly my best friend. But I found this story set in the French Revolution to be tightly plotted, fast paced and full of surprising little twists. Dickens writes about the revolution very well and makes you feel part of the anger of the citizens at one moment, and then disgusted with them the next. And Sydney's storyline was just captivating. I'm glad I picked this one up, it feels great to have found a Dickens book I truly love.
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
I read a lot of historical fiction in 2012, but hardly any in 2013. But the ones I did read were largely excellent; particularly this blend of historical fiction and fairytale. Forsyth places her Rapunzel in Venice, the daughter of a maker of carnival masks. The story is told by three women (including the witch herself) and the fairytale is broadened to a living, breathing story. This is a chunky book, but I just raced through it, and would recommend it to anyone who loves fairytale retellings or historical fiction. Forsyth's The Wild Girl is excellent too.
The People of Forever are not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu
April is the month when I read lots of books from the long-list of the Orange Prize/Women's Prize for Fiction. The People of Forever are Not Afraid is a debut novel about three young girls conscripted into the Israeli army, and at first I was a bit ambivalent about it. But it's one of those books that has stuck with me throughout the year, as the writing was just so distinctive and blunt. The book felt a bit disjointed in places but the writing is so brutal and honest, that it more than makes up for it. I'll definitely be reading anything else that Boianjiu writes.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Another book that took me by surprise. I didn't really like Wuthering Heights as a teenager, but I loved it this time around. I loved the examination of the darker, twisted side of love and the raw emotion that just comes spilling out of the pages. This book is no fairytale, and the unreliable narrators keep you guessing. I just love the Brontes.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I was pushed into reading this book by the Classics Club spin, and I'm so glad that I was! The unnamed narrator is the new wife of Max de Winter, but she feels haunted by the legacy of her predecessor, Rebecca. This book has a lot of twists and turns, and certainly kept me guessing, glued to every page. I liked how the low self-esteem of the narrator was used as a device to keep the reader guessing, and I loved how you're never really sure how to feel about Rebecca herself.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie is one of my favourite authors, and she never disappoints. Americanah is a love story about Ifemulu and Obinze, who meet at secondary school in Nigeria, but are then separated as Ifemulu manages to get a visa to study in America. But it's more than that - it's a beautifully observed story about race and subtle prejudice and the experience of being a new migrant. Ifemulu is a wonderful main character and I already can't wait for whatever Adichie publishes next.
Volume Two will contain my favourites from the months August-December.
Have you read any of these titles? I'd love to know what you thought of them.