Favorite Reads of 2013

I know, I know, posting favorite reads of 2013 is so last year (!) but, as usual, I am about two steps behind in blogging as in real life. So, despite it being 2014 already, I offer my reading retrospective of the past year, however tardy I may be in doing so.

I feel like 2013 was slightly disappointing for me in terms of reading really great books. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I read books that I really, really liked and will recommend to you below. However, there is not that one or two books, particularly in the fiction category, that I absolutely loved and would heartily and unreservedly (and obnoxiously) urge you to read. Sigh. More high hopes for 2014!

And, just FYI, I have a reading tab above where you can see *some* of the titles I’ve read over the years. I say *some* because I’ve gotten a little lazy in keeping up with my reading list. The best way to see what I’m reading and have read is via goodreads. See my profile here.

Anyway, here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite reads from the past year alongside some random categorization…

Non fiction and memoir

In the Can you believe this really happened category…Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. Hands down one of the best books I read this year. This account of President’s Garfield’s rise to the presidency and his assassination was completely fascinating.

Because Presidential politics intrigues meThe Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. A look at the unique relationships, friendships, and rivalries between Presidents.

An amazing testimony to the radical saving grace of a sovereign God…The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield. I mentioned this title on the blog back when I read it in January. I read it twice last year and found it utterly compelling both times I read it. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, yes and amen.

So beautifully written I found myself holding my breath as I read…Holy Is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present by Caroline Weber. I loved Caroline’s Surprised by Oxford and it made my favorite list a year or so ago. This is the backstory to the writing of that memoir.

Concerning childhood favorites and classic literature and a life of books and faith…Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior. Karen writes with obvious passion and enthusiasm and this, her memoir of books, rekindled my own love for the classics and childhood favorites.

Also in the Can you believe this happened categoryCall the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth. Actually I read all three of her memoirs and enjoyed them all. I love the television series and these memoirs offer a compelling look at poverty in London in the 50’s. Amazing and shocking.

Totally gets in your business and exposes your people pleasing tendencies…When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man by Ed Welch. You may think you don’t struggle with peer pressure but I’m here to tell you that you do and this book will expose your people pleasing idolatry. No, it’s not fun but it’s worth it.

A daily devotional that is both encouraging and theologically rich…Comforts from Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time by Elyse Fitzpatrick.

The book I haven’t quite finished it but have already reserved it a place among my favorites…Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in Our Weakness by Barbara Duguid. Barbara asks, What if growing in grace is more about humility, dependence, and exalting Christ than it is about defeating sin?

For all women who fight discouragement in the ordinary tasks of home and regular life…Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home by Gloria Furman. I mentioned this title here on the blog back in May I think. I told you then that at one point while reading it I had to email Gloria and ask, “How did you know??!!?” Gloria writes with honesty and a unwavering focus on the gospel in everyday life.


For misfits and the socially awkward…The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. This is a touching coming of age YA novel set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. Much more than your typical great-teacher-influences-a-student-for-good story.

A sweet story that hearkens to A Wrinkle in TimeWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Mystery and misunderstanding and navigating the confusing world of teenaged friendship result in another YA novel I loved.

What if you woke up and the person you once were you are no longer…What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Alice comes to on the floor of a gym only to discover she’s lost ten years of her life. This engaging novel is not only entertaining but thought provoking as well.

The book I really, really loved but maybe shouldn’t haveEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I mean, the language is atrocious, the first chapter particularly and I probably would have normally put the book down for that very reason. But, I was out of town and correspondingly out of reading options so I plugged along and, go ahead and judge me, I loved it. Not the language, mind you, but the book, a memorable novel not only about young love but also about poverty and abuse and the assumptions we make about both.

So there you go! Some of my favorite reads of this past year. I’d love to know your thoughts on any of the above titles as well as any favorites you’ve read!


Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

13 thoughts on “Favorite Reads of 2013”

  1. Lisa, thanks for linking at the Saturday Review. Some of your nonfiction favorites, in particular, were also favorites of mine, which makes me think I should read the ones on your list that I haven’t read yet.

  2. We have some of the same favorites! I loved Eleanor & Park, too. The language was tough to read, but Eleanor and Park themselves didn’t use bad language. It was just part of their environment, which they were setting themselves apart from.

    Sounds like I need to add Holy Is the Day to my to-read list!

  3. Glimpses of Grace made it onto my favorite list too! And…I’m thinking I need to add When People Are Big and God is Small to my 2014 list to read!

    Thanks for sharing Lisa!

  4. Thanks for the list! I often get my next reads from you. I am excited about several on this list for 2014. A favorite I read in 2013 was Permission to Speak Freely, Essays and Art on Fear, Confession & Grace by Anne Jackson. It was very interesting read written by a Bible Belt PK. The book started from one question she asked on her blog. Thanks for writing, I love reading your blog all the way from Oklahoma.

  5. The Millard book sounds fascinating! I haven’t heard of that one till now.

    There are several books here that are high on my to-read list: Holy is the Day, Booked, Call the Midwife … I’m hoping to make it through them all in 2014.

    Love all your fiction picks!

    Thanks for sharing your favorites with us.

  6. I, too, get many of my reading suggestions from your lists. I remember a few years back reading On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet after seeing it on your list. Just read at my daughter’s recommendation, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots which I highly recommend, though it was tough at times on my heart. Others I read last year were The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult which I could not put down, as well as, The Plum Tree.

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