I think that percentage-wise, I gave 4 starts to a record number of books this year: 40 out of 54! This should be great news and make 2013 a success, but I only gave 5 stars to 4 books (one of them a re-read) and realized it’s actually the 5-stars that make or break my reading year.

So I’m declaring 2013 A Good, But Not Great reading year.

5

To Lie with Lions (House of Niccoló, #6) by Dorothy Dunnett

Surprise, surprise! Dunnett has been on my best-of-year list ever since I discovered her back in 2009. After To Lie with Lions, I’m only left with the last two of the Niccoló Series and her stand-along, King Hereafter. Then no more of Dunnett’s historical fiction to read for the first time. What will I do with my life?! I might have to immediately start re-reading.

A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

My bookclub always chooses a chunker for summer and this year, for obvious reasons, we went with this one. I always measure how much I enjoy a non-fiction book by the amount to hours I spend on Wikipedia because of it. This might have been a record.

It also gave me a great insight into all the discussions when Mandela passed (RIP Madiba!).

Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2) by Hilary Mantel

From page 1 – oh that description of the falcons flying! – you know Mantel is in a league apart.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (re-reading)

My 5th time around, still genius.

 

Out of my 4 stars, there are eight that deserve a mention. Let’s call them the 4.5s:

4

The First Global Village: How Portugal Changed The World by Martin Page

Reading almost exclusively in English means I know more about American and British history than that of my motherland. This book was a great way to remedy that. I thought it would only focus on the Discovery period but instead I got an overview of Portuguese history from pre-historic settlements to the Carnation Revolution of 1974. And because Page is not Portuguese, he refreshingly goes about myth-busting old dogmas and tackling parts of history often neglected by the school system, like the Muslim occupation between the 8th and 13th century.

A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen’s Thief, #4) by Megan Whalen Turner

I’m hard pressed to remember why I didn’t give it a full 5, but I’m trusting my past-self and keep the 4. It was probably because I read it close to the previous one in the series, which was so amazing that anything would lose by comparison.

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting by Mei-Ling Hopgood

I’m very curious about parenting difference across cultures and this book was exactly what I was looking for. Hopgood insights include Argentinian sleeping habits, Chinese potty-training and Kenyan baby-transport. Fascinating stuff – really!

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

I know all these French-do-it-better books are now bordering on the annoying, but this one hit a cord because I recognized my own education in it. Some of the “technics” Druckerman speaks of are so natural that I was surprise they surprised her. It was like seeing my childhood through the eyes of a stranger. It also gave me a new found respect for my parents.

4s

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

It was a comment by Amy here on the blog that led me to buy Where the Sidewalk Ends and then straight away all of Silverstein’s other books. What a find!

Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone

This is the type of non-fiction that reads like fiction. There were several moments in the lives of these sisters that seemed straight out of the pinkest of romances or the most violent of HBO series. Highly recommended for all history-buffs.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Madeline Miller (audio)

My advice: go into this book without knowing anything about it. Enjoy the growing sense of unease.

O Retorno by Maria Dulce Cardoso

I’ve difficulty finding Portuguese books I really enjoy :( Probably a prejudice of mine, but I’ve the feeling my choices are always between light-weight historical fiction and the heavy-weight post-modern, stream of consciousness, experimental novel. O Retorno (The Return, about a Portuguese family that returns to Portugal from Angola after the end of the Colonial War) was a find and deserves all the praise it’s getting. The best Portuguese book I’ve read in a long time.

Happy 2014 readings!

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