I’ve been reading through all the lists of best books of 2013 and they are all very same-y. The Christmas book catalogues are also astonishingly alike. I’m sure the books featured are all terrific but you could be forgiven for thinking there are no other books in the world. So, my challenge in compiling my list has been to avoid the books that are already on everyone’s lists. If you’re still looking for Christmas gifts for friends and family, and would like some book suggestions that extend beyond Tim Winton and Christos Tsolkias, here are my choices. They are all books I’ve read in 2013, not necessarily books published in 2013.
Best Book For Keeping You Up Past Midnight
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – (I feel like I can include this because it was all the lists of best books last year, rather than this year! Cheeky, I know.) What can I say other than, the holidays are the perfect time to read this book as you won’t be able to put it down. And then you will look at your husband or wife and think, hmmm, how well do I really know you?!
Honourable Mention: Fractured by Dawn Barker
Best Historical Fiction
A well-fought tie between Elemental by Amanda Curtin and In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl. Anyone who loves an intricate story set in a beautifully evoked past will devour either of these.
Honourable Mention: Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears
Best Book For A Laugh
Anna Goldsworthy’s Welcome To Your New Life is laugh out loud hilarious, but best appreciated by those who have had a child, and are far enough removed from the event of its birth and first year to be able to appreciate the humour of the way they probably behaved as a mother.
Best Genre Fiction
God, I love Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries. The ABC series adaptation on TV isn’t so bad either. I rarely read crime but Phryne brings a much-needed does of wit and style to the genre. All the books are rompingly good fun and easy to read.
Goodbye to All That, edited by Sari Botton is a book I picked up as research for my next book, as possibly giving me alternate perspectives on New York City. I became so absorbed in it that I forgot to take any notes! It’s a series of intelligent, humorous and intimate essays by 28 superb female writers about loving and leaving New York City.
Best Book For Girls Aged 7-9
My daughter has devoured the Katy series by Susan Coolidge. I read all of them as a girl–What Katy Did, What Katy Did at School and What Katy Did Next –but I think I was probably at the older end of this scale as I read them all myself. My daughter has had me read them aloud to her which has been gorgeous; a lovely way to relive books I adored and to see my daughter’s appreciation of these timeless stories.
Honourable Mention: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
Best Beginning Reader Book for Kids Aged 4-6.
Beginning reader books are generally dull. The kind of books I’m talking about here are at the level before the child gets to early chapter books. But we found one that is funny, great for introducing just the right amount of new words mixed with just the right amount of retained words. It’s The Cat, the Rat and the Baseball Bat by Andy Griffiths.
Best Picture Book For Kids
The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson was the stand-out picture book for us this year. The kids so loved the book that they each made their own string of paper dolls, and many lines from the book are still being recited months after we borrowed it from the library.
Honourable Mention: Probably much better suited to girls than boys, any of the Eloise books by Kay Thompson. They feature such a nutty and utterly out-of-the-ordinary heroine that your child will want to read them over and over again.
Best Picture Book For Boys
If I have to sing Wombat Stew, Wombat Stew, crunchy munchy for my lunchy, one more time I may well ask to be chopped up for said stew. What child can resist a story about a wombat being saved from his fate as chief ingredient in a naughty dingo’s stew because the other animals combine to flavour the stew with mud and bugs and creepy-crawlies? Wombat Stew is by Marcia K Vaughn.
Honourable Mention: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. The greatest book for audience participation, and we all know kids love a bit of that.