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My favourite books for 2013

December 27, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Hello everyone,

Lyon_FourviereThat’s it, 2013 has flown by and we’re almost at the end of December. It’s time for me to look back on my reading year and share with you what I thought were the best books I’ve read. This year I’ve read more crime fiction than the previous ones so I’ve picked 10 titles of literary fiction and 5 titles of crime fiction. I’ve read approximately 50 books, which isn’t a lot for a book blogger. My reading time is limited and sometimes, when I read in English, I’m very slow. It’s been a good year with few abandoned books and few disappointments. So what’s the verdict and which are the best of 2013?


Extreme mid-life crisis and artistic calling.

The Moon and Six Pence by William Somerset Maugham is an amazing tale about an artist that leaves everything behind to follow his passion. Strickland is based upon Paul Gauguin. I love Maugham for his style and his way to entwine deep reflections with the narrative, all this wrapped in a wry sense of humour.

Love x-rayed

In Notre Cœur, Guy Maupassant makes the autopsy of a love story. It’s beautiful, sad and lucid at the same time. Madame de Burne shies away from commitment. She loves her independence. André Mariolle was a happy bachelor before he is caught in her net. Soon he wants more. Can she even give him more?

I is somebody else.

In A Virtual Love, Andrew Blackman explores the issues of our internet world. When IT guy Jeff Brennan impersonates the famous blogger Jeff Brennan to seduce a girl, his life takes another dimension. He weaves a web of lies around him and fragments his personality. Who is he? How do social networks and internet life impact our flesh-and-blood life?  

Down and out in Kristiana, Norway.

Hunger by Knut Hamsun overwhelmed me. This novel is based upon Hamsun’s experience as a starving writer. The book shows in a crude way what poverty and starvation can do to one’s humanity.

Long is the road.

18% Gray by Zachary Karabashliev is the crazy road trip from Mexico to New York of a grieving and failed photographer. A poignant tale about broken dreams and relationships. A funny look on grassroots America.

Love and marriage don’t go together like horse and carriage

With The Odd Women, George Gissing manages to write both a militant book for the rights of women and a sensitive novel about relationships. I thought it was very modern for its time.

Contempt by Alberto Moravia

Upcoming billet. Superb. 

Zola’s take on stock exchanges.

In L’Argent, Emile Zola depicts the stock-exchange crisis at the end of the Second Empire. It follows La Curée as we find Saccard again. It just shows that we haven’t invented anything in this century when it comes to manipulating the stock market.

Netta was a fish but she had George in her net and wouldn’t let him off the hook.

Set in London in 1939 and more precisely in Earl’s Court, Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton describes the obsessive, consuming and destructive passion that George Harvey Bone has for the attractive Netta Longdon

You need to read this: Death in Beirut by Tawfiq Yusuf Awwad

Death in Beirut is about the student movements in Lebanon in 1968. Written in 1972, it captures beautifully the struggle of a generation for the liberalisation of mores and changes in their country. It shows how their efforts were doomed to failure in a country set in the middle of the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Swimming without getting wet

I hope that Matar y guardar la ropa by Carlos Salem makes it into English. This crazy book is set in a nudist camp where a hit-man in a middle of his mid-life crisis is sent on a mission that mixes his real life with his illegal occupations. Hilarious and gripping.

“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window” – Raymond Chandler.

The Blonde by Duane Swierczynski could be the twin book of the above mentioned Matar y guardar la ropa by Carlos Salem. I can’t imagine what kind of wacked tale these two could write if they joined their efforts. Swierczynski is definitely a find and I have his Fun and Game for 2014.

“Why in hell did the past have to catch up with him now?”

Build my Gallows High by Geoffrey Homes is a classic Noir tale. Red lives an orderly life when his muddy past catches up with him. I’d like to watch the film version, now.

Manchette pushes all the right buttons.

Le petit bleu de la côte ouest by Jean-Patrick Manchette. You want to discover French crime fiction ? Try this one, you won’t be disappointed.

Incidences by Philippe Djian

Djian is not a crime fiction writer but I think that Incidences is more crime than literary fiction.

That’s all folks. I enjoyed sharing these books with you.

Have you read any of those? I hope some of them appealed to you and if by any chance I helped you discover new writers this year, then I’m happy for it. For me fellow bloggers are an important source of inspiration to find new books. Almost all the books on this list came to me through other bloggers. So thanks Guy, Max, Nino and Vishy.

  1. December 27, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Wonderful list, Emma! I loved Andrew’s ‘A Virtual Love’. Nice to see it on your list. I also loved Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Moon and Six Pence’. Maugham is so wonderful, isn’t he? There is not a single book of his that I haven’t liked. I want to read that Philippe Djian book and the Zachary Karabashliev book. I was surprised that Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Vile Bodies’ didn’t make your list, but I think that Alberto Moravia book and that Tawfiq Yusuf Awwad book might have nudged it out 🙂 I am also looking forward to billet on Jennifer Kaufman’s and Karen Mack’s ‘Book Lover’. I liked it very much, especially for its literary references.

    We, your readers, also discovered some wonderful new books through your billets and recommendations. I am especially happy to have discovered Romain Gary and his ‘Promise at Dawn’. I haven’t read it yet, but I know that I am going to love it.

    Glad to know that you had a wonderful reading year. Happy New Year! And hope you discover some wonderful new books and writers in 2014. I will look forward to reading your billets in the new year. Happy reading!


    • December 27, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks Vishy for the kind words, for always reading my billets and for leaving thoughtful comments. I enjoy reading your blog too, even if I don’t always leave comments.

      I really want to read On Human Bondage but it’s so big I think I’d better wait to be on holiday. I love Maugham.

      You guessed right! Vile Bodies was on the list and then I finished reading Contempt. I HAD to put it on the list, it’s excellent on several levels

      I had trouble with Book Lover, it started better than it ended.

      I’m looking forward to sharing a new reading year with all of you.


  2. December 27, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I haven’t read Zola since reading L’Assomoir. What he does to his characters is brutal and that time I was finishing with Germinie Lacerteux as well, and I almost wanted to take an aoth never to read either, had it been not been for either’s wonderful prose. I’m checking out your review of L’Argent and the opening quote gets me all emotional about how much I love Zola’s writing.
    I also loved The Moon and Sixpence (read it years ago) and I remember comparing Maugham’s witty prose to that of Oscar Wilde, do you think there are similarities between them? When I finished The Moon and Sixpence I immediately grabbed Of Human Bondage: it’s a coming of age novel, so if you don’t mind that, it’s a book to recommend, definitely.
    It’s funny, I was reading Max’s review of Hunger and thinking this could be one hell of a book, and he mentions that you tipped him to it. It’s amazing this interconnected world of book reviews! Somehow, though they are not to be compared, some of what he reviews in Hunger reminded me of Eric Rohmer’s Le Signe du Lion.
    Thank you for compiling that list for us, Emma!


    • December 27, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      I haven’t read L’Assomoir; Zola’s writing is really evocative. Guy published a post comparing different translations of a passage of L’Assomoir. It’s a bleak passage and very graphic about vomit. It made me queasy.
      I had not read Zola since high school; I resumed reading him recently when Guy wrote all his posts about Les Rougon Macquart. My blog in English brought me into the Anglophone bloggosphere and it gives me another perspective on French literature. I highly recommend La Curée and L’Argent. Both are fascinating.

      Hunger is a memorable book. Max had it on his TBR and my billet brought it to the top of the pile, I think. That’s the beauty of our microcosm. We find like-minded readers and tempt each other with books. I’ve discovered or re-discovered a lot of writers since I started Book Around The Corner.


  3. December 27, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Wow, thanks for including my book in such exalted company, Emma! I could write for decades, though, and still not write a better line than that Raymond Chandler one. Made me smile, and want to read one of his books again 🙂 And as usual, you’ve given me some great ideas for books to read in 2014… Bonne année!


    • December 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      Your book stayed with me, so it deserved to be on the list. (and I’m not the only one to think it’s good, if you read Vishy’s and Brian’s comments)
      I expected your reaction, though. 🙂

      Chandler’s style is incredible. I’ll read more of him too. The Blonde is worth reading if you want good and entertaining literature.

      I’ll say Bonne Année when it’s time. In France, you don’t say it before the date. (some bad luck thing)


      • December 31, 2013 at 4:36 pm

        Oops, sorry. Interestingly, I’ve had 3 pieces of mail go missing recently. I was blaming the Greek post office, but maybe it’s the Bonne Année curse in action. Hope none of it rubs off on you 🙂


        • January 1, 2014 at 10:20 am

          Who knows? But hey, that’s part of the old fashioned mails: they get lost sometimes.


  4. December 27, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Great list and I also love your titles. I second your nomination concerning A Virtual Love.It really said a lot of important things in a very enjoyable and stimulating way.


    • December 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Thanks Brian. I enjoyed sharing my thoughts about books with you all along the year.
      Writing about the books I read makes me see them in another light, especially when I didn’t like them.


  5. December 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Read Maupassant based on your recommendation, and it was a wonderful book. Thanks!


    • December 29, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      That’s a nice comment to receive. Thanks. I’m really glad you enjoyed the Maupassant. It’s not his most famous one but it’s worth reading. I have to thank Guy for the tip.


  6. December 28, 2013 at 11:06 am

    As I read all of your posts there is no real surprise here, with the exception of Contempt since it’s upcoming. Ive read a few Moravia’s two I liked, one I threw away, something I’ve never done before or after. In any case it wasn’t Contempt. 🙂


    • December 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      Tnanks for reading all my posts.
      Contempt is marvellous. It’s my first Moravia but certainly not my last.


  7. December 29, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Hello Emma: I haven’t read A Virtual Love (have it though), the Carlos Salem or Death in Beirut (bought it after your post) but the others I have read and The Moon and Sixpence actually makes my list too this year as it was a re-read.
    Here’s to sharing some great tips in 2014.


    • December 29, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      I wish you could read Carlos Salem.
      I’ve seen your list and yes, The Moon and Sixpence is wonderful. I haven’t been disappointed by Maugham yet. In my mind, he’s joined the circle of my comfort writers, the ones you turn to when you need something good.
      I think you share more tips with me than the other way round. I’m looking forward to discovering what you’ll read in 2014.


  8. January 1, 2014 at 12:19 am

    This is a wonderful list. Moon and Six Pence is one of the few Maugham books I read. I liked it very much. I’ve been trying to chance upon Hamsun’s Hunger in used book shops from some time now. Hope I can find one soon. Awwad’s Death in Beirut looks fairly interesting too. A happy New Year to you and your readers! 🙂


    • January 1, 2014 at 10:25 am

      Thanks Karlo.
      Maugham is fantastic. Try his short stories, they’re really good.
      You can find a free electronic copy of Hunger here http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/8387
      I hope it helps.
      Death in Beirut was a great read. This one should be more difficult to find though.

      Happy New Year to you.


  9. January 5, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    I really do love the best-of lists and you have several of my favourite authors here including Somerset Maugham, Maupassant and Raymond Chandler. I loved Andrew’s novel too! I have been meaning for ages to read Moravia, and something tells me your review may well finally encourage me to do so!


    • January 5, 2014 at 10:24 pm

      The Moravia is really worth reading and I think you’d like it.


  10. leroyhunter
    January 6, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Great list Emma: I’ve read only a couple, but I’d be interested in everything you’ve mentioned. Thanks for another year of wonderful thoughts about books and reading.

    PS – I have decided that 2014 will be the year I read some Romain Gary…


    • January 7, 2014 at 7:15 pm

      Which ones have you read?
      Will 2014 be a Romain Gary reading year?
      I might be tempted to organise something, after all.


  11. April 16, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    I’d completely forgotten about Death in Beirut, so it’s good to get the reminder. The same goes for Consequences, which is now out in Engilsh albeit with a terrible, terrible cover.

    I’ve left a comment separately against the Build My Gallows High billet, which I’d somehow missed first time round. It’s been a busy year and I’ve missed a lot of posts generally sadly.

    Hunger I did have in my TBR, but you did bump it up the pile. I probably still wouldn’t have read it but for your review. I also missed some of the links to other books you picked up on it. It’s that back and forth which makes blogging rewarding for me, being introduced to things or shown depths one might otherwise have missed.


    • April 16, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      Consequences is about the only French novel I can think of that’s set among university teachers. The atmosphere seems as bad as in American or English books. I’d be curious to read your thoughts about that one.

      You’d like Death in Beirut, it stayed with me.
      Among the 15 books listed in my favourite books for 2013, I only picked two by myself. All the others were recommended by a libraire or came from reading other blogs. So hurray to our virtual literary salon, we are good for each other.


  1. January 4, 2014 at 7:20 pm

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