Top 10 books read in 2013

10.            The Wall Street Journal Complete Real Estate Investing Handbook, David Crook

WSJI thought this book was going to bore me to tears, but surprisingly enough, I devoured this one, reading it in one day. I’m planning to re-read it again soon—really. While not a particularly exciting read, this book is fundamental for anybody thinking of real estate investing. Straightforward and clearly written, this book is not intimidating to beginners and even has a few great tips for those who have been in the business for a long time. This is not a get-rich-quick kind of book. Instead, Crook teaches the reader how to build a solid real estate business that can grow in the direction the investor chooses.

9.            Choke, Chick Palahniuk

chokeBeing a huge fan of Palahniuk’s work, I loved this novel—even though I felt like I had to take a shower after I put it down. Yes, it was that gross. But that’s what I love about Palahniuk, who else thinks of these things?

What I love most about Palahniuk’s work, however, is that beyond the gore and desire to shock the reader there is superb writing. Palahniuk’s novels are all masterfully structured, where nothing is superfluous and everything kind of fits in at the end to reveal a complete picture. The other great thing about this book is that it is written in the second person- something extremely difficult to do and rare in novels.

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8.             The Immortal Life of Henritetta Lacks, Rebecca Scloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had been meaning to read this book since it came out in 2010. I read about Henrietta Lacks in law school and was interested in her story. This book was extremely entertaining, reading almost like a novel. Detailing the life of Henrietta and the now famous He-La cells, this book also delves into the lives of her husband and children, who did not know for decades that their mother’s cells were being used in this—or any—way.

Scloot’s quest to uncover Henrietta’s story and to help Henrietta’s family end up making the author part of the story, as Scloot forges deep bonds with the Lacks family and makes it a personal mission to get to the truth.

The scope of the book is astounding, discussing not only the amazing history of the He-La cells, but race, law, friendship, family, and much more.

7.            Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

coverI absolutely loved this book about an intersex teen growing up in 1960s Detroit. Humorous and candid at the same time, Eugenides offers a counterpoint to the sensationalized stories of intersex individuals that are common in the media. Calliope is an average teen that the reader can empathize with and understand.

This book made me want to find out more about intersex individuals and their representation in mainstream culture. I went on to read Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience by Katrina Karkazis, after I wrote an article about an intersex child in South Carolina and was contacted by a member of the intersex community. This book made me realize how ignorant most of us are about a group of conditions (DSD) that occurs more often than Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis.

I have continued to be interested in the subject and recently wrote another article about a German law recognizing intersex children, adopted in November.

See my full review

6.            The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know why I resisted reading Barbara Kingsolver for so long. She is amazing and this book is amazing. The only description on Goodreads is “Kingsolver’s masterpiece”—I don’t think I can do better. It is the kind of book that completely draws you in and gives you a book hangover. All I can say is if you haven’t read it, do so.

5.            The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan

The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the risk of sounding cliché, this book actually changed my life and the way I view food. I don’t know if I’m happy with that because ignorance is indeed bliss. Since reading this book I have read several others about food, food history, how food is produced, what we eat, etc. This book really opened my eyes and influenced a lot of what I write in my column at Communities.

4.            The Cold Dish, Craig Johnson

Cover of "The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire My...

Cover of The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire Mysteries)

Surprisingly (or not), this is the only book from the Mysterious USA Reading Challenge that I began in the middle of the year that made it to my top 10. It is also true that I haven’t read that many books for the challenge yet. Being a huge fan of the TV show, I was surprised at how much more I loved the novel. This is a great mystery with unforgettable characters and gripping suspense. I will definitely read the rest of the series.

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3.            Tomorrow There Will be Apricots, Jessica Soffer

Soffer3Soffer’s novel about food, family, friends, love, and self-acceptance has definitely earned its place as one of my favorite novels of all time. I absolutely adored this book, its delicious descriptions of food itself as well as its descriptions of everything else in life through the lens of a food lover. Structured beautifully, like Choke, this book was perfect, tight little package where nothing was superfluous and everything fits in perfectly at the end.

See my full review.

2.            Who by Fire, Mary L. Tabor

picI was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review…And I loved it! Told from the perspective of a recently widowed middle-aged man, the story of his deceased wife’s infidelity is achingly beautiful, touching, and told from an unusual perspective. Meticulously crafted and encompassing art, culture, science, religion, and psychology, this book is cerebral and spiritual at the same time.

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1.            On Writing, Stephen King

picThis book changed my opinion of Stephen King. From my original review: “This book surprised me, amazed me, and kicked my snobby butt for thinking that Stephen King had nothing valuable to say about the art of writing.  Mea culpa, Mr. King, you rock.” If you write or want to write for a living, put down whatever you are reading and start this book- you won’t be able to stop.

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