Cha Cha’s Favorite Books of 2013.

2013 was a good year for reading. Here are some of my favorites.

Best Novel That Should Have Been Depressing But Wasn’t
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver. This novel is based on Dorothea Lange’s famous “Migrant Mother” photo. If you’ve ever had a passing interest in the story behind a famous image, you’ll find this novel enthralling. It spins a tale about the photographer, the woman in the photo, and how they ended up at that moment forever frozen in time. Ultimately, it’s a tale about how we’re shaped by our choices, and how life shapes us.

Best Author Who Published 2 Amazing Novels in 1 year
Rainbow Rowell. Oh, honey. I lurve her. Both of her 2013 releases were officially young adult novels, but I loved both of them and feasted on them like a teenage boy at Old Country Buffet. Eleanor & Park is the story of a first love that takes place in the 80s. Fangirl follows the heroine through her first year in college – and her role in the fandom culture around a Harry Potter-esque book series. Both books made my heart both delight and hurt, remembering what it’s like to be 16 or 19 or just … new.

Best Book to Read While Trying to Figure Out if I’m a Housewife
Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar. Know what canning, homeschooling, and mommyblogging all have in common? They’re all being embraced as part of “the new domesticity” – that movement of educated women who are turning their energies to the homefront. This book examines everything from the vaccine wars to homemaking as a radical feminism. It made me feel less alone about feeling that Pinterest is the devil’s playground.

Best Book That’s All Pictures But Still Counts as a Novel
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston. I never, ever buy books, and I especially never buy hardbacks. However, this book is so gorgeous that I paid real cash money for the hardback. Preston amassed ephemera from the 20s to create the scrapbook of the novel’s heroine. She tells the story of young Frankie and provides a fascinating look at education and culture of the period. Plus, it’s a fun little tale.

Best Novel About Morality or Lack Thereof
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a fictionalized account of the woman who chaperoned the very real, soon-to-be-movie-star Louise Brooks to New York. This page-turner hums with energy and offers some sly lessons on what’s right, what’s wrong, and who should just keep their damned mouths shut.

Best Book That Justified My Existence as an Introvert
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Our society values the “extrovert ideal.” And guess what? Some of us are introverted. And introverts can be brilliant! And we shouldn’t have to pretend to be extroverted! If I were still working in Corporate America, I would have purchased several copies of this book and slipped it into the mailboxes of a few clueless managers.

Best Biography That Satiated My Love of Old Hollywood
Vamp: The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara by Eve Golden. Theodosia Goodman grew up in Cincinnati. However, the movie industry presented her as Theda Bara, an exotic who grew up in the shadow of the Sphinx. And people bought it! This book is a fascinating look at the dawn of movie publicity, as well as the difficulty of distancing yourself from your press … or believing it.

Best Book That I Guess Is Embarrassing But I Thought Was Fan-Freakin’-Tastic
How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. If you’ve ever wondered what Tina Fey would sound like if she were drunk, potty-mouthed, and British, Moran is the author for you. She’s honest, feminist, and completely engaging. I had some friends say they were shocked by her descriptions of stuff we all know about (Aunt Flo! Bras!). But I think she’s just being authentic and awesome. This book made me laugh out loud.


My towering pile of “to-read” books isn’t nearly tall enough to cause serious injury. What books do you suggest I add to it?

Psst … when you click through my links, Amazon throws some spare change my way. This enables me to pay my library fines, stay out of library jail, and keep entertaining you with my hard-hitting literary and cinematic criticism.

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  • Reply Heather Nelson January 4, 2014 at 1:49 am

    My to-go best friend book is Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett…have you read? It's absolutely hilarious and brilliant.

  • Reply smalltownme January 4, 2014 at 2:59 am

    Out of the huge stack of books I read this year, Mary Coin, Eleanor and Park, & The Chaperone were some of my favorites.

    I also recommend anything by Hugh Howey, Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane, Beautiful Ruins, Redshirts, Flight Behavior, Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore, The Girls of Atomic City, And the Mountains Echoed, The Sky Unwashed, On the Noodle Road, … and so on.

    I tried to click on lots of your links and got those 404 errors. If you can fix them, I will click.

  • Reply Cha Cha January 4, 2014 at 3:35 am

    What the what? Thanks for the heads up – links should be fixed. And thanks for the recommendations!

  • Reply Cha Cha January 4, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Ooh! I haven't read – thanks!

  • Reply Green Girl in Wisconsin January 4, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Thanks for reminding me about that homemaker book–I think my book club should read it.

  • Reply Patience_Crabstick January 6, 2014 at 2:33 am

    I like your categories, and I really want to read the homemaking book. Juggling a career and family responsibilities sucks.

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