Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Belles-Lettres: Brilliant, Blue-Ribbon Books 2013

Biggest Surprise of the Year -  I Loved This Book! 
So Big by Edna Ferber; published in 1924

Top Three Non-Fiction Books That Were Entire Educations in Themselves: 
At Home by Bill Bryson; How to Live, Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell; The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey

Top Three Fiction Books (not mysteries): 
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster; Equilateral by Ken Kalfus; Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.

Author Most Read: 
Donald Westlake - Six of his Dortmunder capers

Most Delightful Reread: 
Counting My Chickens... by The Duchess of Devonshire

Brothers I Would Most Like to Meet: 
Reggie and Nigel Heath of The Baker Street Letters, The Brothers of Baker Street, and The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson

Best Foreign Location: 
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen and West With the Night by Beryl Markham

Most Laugh-Out-Loud Dysfunctional Family: 
The Spellman Files and The Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

Dreamiest Tale: 
The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys

Best Road Trip: 
The Lost Continent - Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson

Mystery Writer I Am So Glad I Found: 
Peter Lovesey - The Last Detective, Diamond Solitaire, The Summons, and Bloodhounds. 

As If I Needed More Reasons Not To Go On A Cruise: 
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace.

Proof That The South Shall Rise Again: 
Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White.

Authors I Have Met and Their Books I Read This Year: 
Duffy Brown (Killer in Crinolines), William Zinsser (The Writer Who Stayed), and George S. McGovern (Abraham Lincoln)


  1. Great choices for your list. (And great title!) I've read some of the ones you chose...like Dandelion Wine, West With the Night and Out of Africa; but I'm excited to give a few of your other choices a try. Especially the Edna Ferber and the Helen Humphries. Can't wait to see what you read in 2014. Happy New Year!!

    1. Thanks, Lark, for the title suggestion! Please do read "So Big". It is a wonderful book. I love having the blank slate of 2014 ahead of me. Who knows what terrific things - books, people, adventures - will come my way!

  2. Delightful synopsis of 2013 with quite a few books I also enjoy.
    It is such a pleasure to visit you, Belle. Thank you for being such an enlightening blogger. Happy New Year.

    1. Thank you, Penny. I look forward to becoming better acquainted with you in 2014! Happy New Year.

  3. West With the Night and Out of Africa are two of the reasons I have no interest in going to Africa - I want to go to Africa THEN, not now. I've read several other of the books you've read this year, some suggested by your blog posts, and enjoyed most of them.

    Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year full of reading!

    1. Ah, yes, Joan...Africa then versus Africa now! Good point. I do enjoy the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books as Mma Ramatswe seems to have one foot in the traditions of her country and one foot in present day Botswana.

      What were your favorite books in 2013? I would love to know!

    2. Well, I read 104 books in 2013, about my average.

      It's so hard to just pick a few books, although typing up my list, there were many books I barely remembered. I discovered a new mystery writer, Paul Doiron, who writes about Maine, I continued to enjoy Louise Penny's fabulous mysteries, as well as those of Fred Vargas. I enjoyed travel books, several recommended by you: Ladies of the Field, The Grand Tour, How the Heather Looks, and Heidi's Alp. There were a few classics: Barnaby Rudge, Crossing to Safety, The American Senator, and So Big. So that leaves a book about books (One for the Books), a beautifully illustrated nature / gardening book (Four Hedges), and an oddball with the longest title I've ever seen: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.

      I have a stack of partially read books that I'd hope to finish before the end of last year. Because it's taking me so long to finish them, I doubt any will show up on my favorites list for 2014.

    3. Hi, Joan. Well, I do think 104 is quite a respectable number! In reviewing my entries from 2013 I discovered two books that I hadn't counted. So now my total is 103. We were neck and neck!

      I will look into the mysteries of Mr. Doiron. I have read a few of Ms. Penny's and have heard of Mr. Vargas but haven't made his acquaintance as yet.

      I hope you enjoyed 'So Big' as much as I did!

      I will add Mr. Queenan's 'One for the Books' to my list. I have a copy of 'Four Hedges' but, alas, it languishes on my TBR shelf.

      I love the premise of 'The 100-Year-Old Man'. It too goes on my list.

      Thanks for taking time to recount your year! Happy Reading in 2014.

  4. I love your categories: they add interest to an already interesting list of books read. I haven't read many of the books you mentioned (I'm getting behind on reading Bill Bryson's books, in particular!), but I did love The Phantom Tollbooth and Mama Makes Up Her Mind. And I agree about cruises--I have had some bad experiences. I read David Foster Wallace's piece on cruising after you mentioned it. I think he was brilliant, but I find him a struggle to read.

    I'm looking forward to new books and new bookish discussions in 2014!

    1. Hi, Kathy. I loved DF Wallace's two essays - the one on the cruise and the one on the Illinois State Fair - but I didn't have much luck trying to get through his other writings. I don't think I am interested in attempting his fictional works. Oh well. At least we tried.

      Won't it be fun to see what books we find in 2014!