What Had Happened Was… My Best List (2013)… Part One (Books, Books, Books)

I hope this will be the first installment in a series of posts to finish the year. In them I hope to point to some of the things that made 2013 2013 (for me anyway).

Let me begin with my first love: books. I am especially proud of this list; because out of the 70 plus books and graphic novels I digested this year, these are the ones I still remember and these are the ones which if you get me drunk (or sober) and ask me about, I will talk your ear off.

I am also thrilled to highlight 4 amazing female authors on this list as well. If you need reasons to understand how precious our sisters are, see this list. I would add as well that each of the fictional works (and to an extent all the non-fiction) contain stories of amazing women as well. And yes, every book on this list would pass the Bechdel Test.

Best Books I Read this Year:

ImageJesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, Sarah Bessey. What an invitation this was. The book equal parts memoir, Bible study, and rumination on life dominatedthe discussion of women in the Evangelical world in a way that none of her counterparts had been able to do. By inviting us into discussion of her life and the lives of Western women, Bessey brings the reader into a conversation which is greatly needed. Bessey’s revealed her as the real momma bear seeking to protect her cubs. For my money just hearing Bessey’s story made the book worth the expense.

The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder. Embarrassingly this was my first taste of Yoder. I choose to read this and participate in an online book club as a Lenten work of grace. Yoder’s fresh take on Christ and the political world which he inhabited was paradigm shifting. Reading this led to my favorite blog post of the year: On Choosing Not to be Spartacus.

Image7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess, Jen Hatmaker. I discovered this title while browsing the local BN bookstore. I felt doubly lucky for the purchase. First, the book is an amazing call to the simplified life; but it was a great introduction to an amazing writer and speaker whose blog has rapidly become one of my favorites. Of all the books I read this year, this book was impacted me the most and has stayed with me the longest. Hatmaker’s call still rings loud in my ears and I am sure will for the rest of my life.

Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman. This is also a two-timer. Like many in my social circle, I watched the amazing Netflix series first then immediately added this memoir to my want list at the local library. Three months later (that’s how many were in the que) this book showed up and I devoured it. Kerman has an amazing ability to allow you into the inner life of not only herself (hard enough as it is); but those around her. This gripping memoir of the year she spent in prison (from a decade old drug offense) is both a reminder of the brokenness of the American judicial system but a call to see those fairly or (at times seemingly) unfairly locked away as real human beings in need of redemption and not retribution.

ImageWarm Bodies, Isaac Marion. This post-apocalyptic zombie tale was perhaps the most Christian book I read all year. The mantra “all truth is God’s truth” applies no more to anything I read this year, than this romantic fairy tale about a zombie and the living girl for whom he develops a crush as he eats the brains of her boyfriend. This book can be read as just a fun tale or as a parable about the power of love and shared memories.

Police, Jo Nesbo. For such a simple title, this sure was a complex work. When I saw this title on the new arrivals table at the local BAM! Bookstore, I realized an audible squeal of glee. First, I had not expected a new Harry Hole novel after the closing scene of the previous novel (which I will not reveal, spoilers!). So just to live in Harry’s world again was a treat; but this book has more going for it than just that thrill. Over the past decade Nesbo has reinvented the police detective in print every bit as much as Benedict Cumberbitch and Robert Downey revolutionized the world of Sherlock Holmes.  The bleak but promising Oslo landscape is a perfect foil to the disparate but yearning mysteries he is telling.

Image1222, Anne Holt. This book was like reading Christie’s 12 Little Indians or watching the Dirty Dozen crossed with Hitchock’s Rear Window ( if it was set in a Scandinavian ski lodge). With this work Holt reimaged the locked door mystery in a new and fresh way. Part of the Scandinavian Invasion currently going on in the Mystery genre, Holt’s paralyzed former investigator Hanne Wilhelmsen is one of the years best finds for me.

Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chobotsky. This work will grace two spots in my list (books and movies). After hearing rave reviews for the movie I finally watched it this Spring and knew I needed to read the novel from which it was based. This fauxmoir set in the 90s had joined a list of media that I will forever use to explain my existence. Much more than being high school students at the same time, the lead characters and I share a lineage and brain. This book is written for and a must read for anyone who felt high school was fog of misplaced emotions and heard luck.

Reamde, Neal Stephenson. No one creates vibrant lived worlds better than Stephenson. He is the master at creating open worlds in which a reader can sink or swim. His books always exist on multiple levels, so who better to craft a deft thriller about a MMORG creator trapped and threatened by a series of bad events surrounding his world-leading MMORG game. Russian mafia, Chinese hoods, and blue collar criminals all threaten the game and family much loved by a former drug mule turned computer programmer. Even though its as large and heavy as several bricks you will not want to put this book down.

ImageThe Couriers, Brian Wood. I found a hardcover complete collection of these three graphic novels written by Wood as a young man trying to break into the world of comics. As a completist and lover of Wood’s work (if not his behavior at Cons and in board rooms), I felt a need to read this uber-violent comic about two bike couriers whose work for shady New York mobsters and such land them in bad places. The 2nd issue in which the two couriers find themselves having a Deliverance moment in up-state New York was my favorite. Watching the two street-wise city folk dispatch their redneck wannabe tormentors in increasingly bizarre ways was like watching Tarantino or Rodriguez do the remake of said movie.


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