Bookish Awards--the Best Books of 2013: Steamiest Read, Best Twist and More
It's no secret: We get super excited about books here at Bookish--and the end of the year gives us the opportunity to hail some of our favorite novels, young adult books, memoirs, short stories, sports books, history and politics books, sci-fi, cookbooks and books on religion and business. It also sparks heated debate: Which book had the best love story? Who was our favorite character? Which book made us laugh the hardest? What book had the best jacket? Read on for our nominees and winners in these categories and more.
Most Inspiring Book
In a year filled with moving memoirs, a few rose above the rest. In "The Reason I Jump"--which shot up bestseller lists after "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart's raves--nonverbal, autistic teenager Naoki Higashida opens up about what it's really like to navigate life without speech. The most wow-inspiring book of the year award, though, goes to Pakistani teen crusader Malala Yousafzai. Malala fought her way back from an assassination attempt to continue her quest to ensure that every child has the right to an education. In "I Am Malala," written with British journalist Christina Lamb and released on the one-year anniversary of the attack, she boldly reaffirms her commitment to that goal.
While the other nominees all delivered similarly devastating twists, "Allegiant" got the most readers talking. Fans' enormous shock and fury at the major game changer in the final installment of Veronica Roth's dystopian trilogy inspired think pieces about the risks of angering superfans and prompted Roth to defend herself at length. (Don't click either link if you don't want to be spoiled!)
Best Book Jacket
"Just Babies'" stark jacket illustration made us laugh and "Nine Inches'" art is cheeky, but "Tampa's" fuzzy jacket takes the prize for the most original cover of the year. While running your hand over the "Manresa" cookbook’s bumpy cover is fun, passing your palm over the synthetic velvet jacket of "Tampa”-- Alissa Nutting’s book about a depraved pedophiliac eighth-grade teacher named Celeste---just feels wrong. Which is appropriate, given Celeste’s shocking behavior.
I often find that the authors whose books trigger my tears the most care the least about causing them. Sonali Deraniyagala's memoir about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami--which claimed the lives of her parents, husband and two sons--is unembellished, unsentimental and impossible to forget.
Most Revealing Book
Lawrence Wright goes terrifyingly deep into Scientology and reveals facts about the religion and its leader, L. Ron Hubbard, that will leave you disturbed and amazed. Plus, Tom Cruise is described to be even crazier than you thought.
Best Love Story
It doesn't matter if you were a teenager in the '80s or if you're part of today's Millennial Tumblr generation: Rowell's ugly-cry-inducing YA novel enthralled readers of all ages. Grounded in the '80s and yet utterly timeless, it's a perfect tale of first love that everyone should read.
Author Adelle Waldman writes about Nate and his various cohorts, rivals and lovers--all ensconced in the Brooklyn literary scene--with such confidence, it makes you wonder how she did her research. Though most of the novel's women don't rate very highly in caddish Nate's mind, we know from page one that he's an unreliable narrator. You can't take him seriously--which makes it fun to watch him fumble.
Funny books in 2013 spanned the spectrum: Stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan delivers hilarious anecdotes about fatherhood in "Dad is Fat" and Anna Holmes, the creator of Jezebel.com, brings us her literally encyclopedic volume of sex, fashion and feminism--infotainment at its best--in "The Book of Jezebel." While we were tempted to give the nod to George R.R. Martin's collection of Tyrion Lannister quotes, the writer who perhaps most elevates humor to the level of art is David Sedaris, who spins the absurdities of modern life into comic gold in "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls." With his sharp eye and unbreakable funny bone, Sedaris is like a Mark Twain for our era.
Sent to a tony boarding school in the mountains of North Carolina's Blue Ridge, Thea, 15, chafes at the institution's rules and the remoteness of her new surrounds. "I felt like a caged animal," she says. Anton DiSclafani creates a heroine with typical adolescent qualities: she's willful, self-conscious and seething with newfound sexual energy. As Thea acts on her desires, things heat up. It's titillating stuff.
Most Memorable Character
"The Flamethrowers" was one of the most hotly discussed books of the year, and most discussions revolved around its one-of-a-kind protagonist, Reno. An aspiring artist who rides motorcycles across desert flats, Reno navigates the avant-garde world of Soho and the political revolution in Italy with an intriguing blend of temerity, confusion and elan. Though the book takes place in the 1970s, Reno feels like a thoroughly 21st-century heroine.
Most Underrated Book of 2013
Even within the comics world, many longtime comic book readers initially wrote off Fraction and Aja's reinterpretation of one of the Marvel Universe's most laconic superheroes. But, there's an understated brilliance to Clint Barton's episodic adventures: He grapples with the Russian mafia in tracksuits, fights for his fellow Bed-Stuy tenants' rights and mentors young Hawkeye Kate Bishop. In short, it's about what a superhero does in his spare time--and it's hilarious.
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