What were your favorite reads of 2013? I’ll list my Parents picks in the next few days, but today I’ve been having fun with are everyone else’s. Other editors and reviewers from Oprah and The New York Times don’t agree on many of the Best Books of 2013, as you’ll see below. Publisher’s Weekly culled through 9,000 reviews (15 I wrote myself) to come up with their choices–most I haven’t even heard of. So what should you read? I’m thinking about The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner which showed up twice–so did Good Lord Bird. The Interestings gets one nod, and that’s one I loved it this summer.
So stop what you’re doing–work and watching kids can wait. Take time to peruse these awesome reading choices below. I’m sending this list to my book club. (Hi girls!) We need a great new read to ring in 2014.
Oprah’s 10 Best Books of 2013
1.The Isle of Youth
By Laura van den Berg
The gist: A quirky story collection filled with unique and strong female protagonists.
2. Country Girl: A Memoir
By Edna O’Brien
The gist: A memoir by one of Ireland’s most famous fiction writers that has been compared to Angela’s Ashes.
3. The Signature of All Things
By Elizabeth Gilbert
The gist: This one about a strong 19th Century botanist proves that the Eat, Pray, Love writer is at the top of her game. Gilbert makes moss a fascinating subject, I hear.
4. Vampires in the Lemon Grove
By Karen Russell
The gist: This hugely creative collection of short stories–one about a vampire who’s afraid to fly and another about U.S. presidents reincarnated about horses–proves that the author of Swamplandia has staying power.
5. The Flamethrowers
By Rachel Kushner
The gist: The award-winning saga of an electric young woman’s full-throttle pursuit of love amid the class war and cultural upheaval of the late ’70s.
6. The Good Lord Bird
By James McBride
The gist: A slave boy and abolitionist John Brown change the course of American history in this novel that is inspired by real events.
7. The Interestings
By Meg Wolitzer
The gist: Through well-tuned drama and compassionate humor, Wolitzer chronicles the living organism that is friendship, and arcs it over the course of more than 30 years.
8. The Cuckoo’s Calling
By Robert Galbraith
The gist: A book for mystery lovers by J.K. Rowling.
9. Dog Songs
By Mary Oliver
The gist: This Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s combo of woman’s best friend and poetry is irresistible.
10. The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
By Bob Shacochis
The gist: What is the legacy of war—and how long does it last—are the questions behind this brilliant and gripping novel.
Publisher’s Weekly Best Books (gathered in no particular order)
1. See of Hooks
By Lindsay Hill
The gist: “Pure reading pleasure on every single page, not to mention a wallop of pathos.”
2. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief
By Lawrence Wright
The gist: Wright’s prodigiously researched investigation of Scientology does what good reporting ought to do: examine something in search of truth, lay out the findings, and let conclusions be drawn.
3. Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield
By Jeremy Scahill
The gist: The Nation’s national security correspondent surgically exposes how the War on Terror is actually conducted: secret prisons, torture, extralegal assassinations, drone surveillance and warfare, gamesmanship with corrupt regimes.
4. Men We Reaped
By Jesmyn Ward
The gist: Critically acclaimed novelist Ward (Salvage the Bones) bravely enters nonfiction terrain in this starkly honest and deeply tragic account of the deaths of five important men in her life.
5. People in the Trees
By Hanya Yanagihara
The gist: In this novel, a ccientist who, after graduating Harvard medical school in the 1940s, travels to a remote Pacific island chain where he may or may not have stumbled upon the key to immortality.
6. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery
By Robert Kolker
The gist: “Even hardened true crime readers will be haunted by New York magazine contributing editor Kolker’s provocative tale of five young escorts who became linked by the tragic circumstances of their disappearances, and the discovery of their remains on Long Island’s Oak Beach.”
7. Miss Anne in Harlem
By Carla Kaplan
The gist: In this beautifully written, empathetic, and valuable addition to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, scholar Kaplan (Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters) presents the untold story of six notable white women (including Fannie Hurst and Nancy Cunard, members of a larger group known collectively as “Miss Anne”) who embraced black culture—and life—in Harlem in the 1920s and ’30s.
8. Constellation of Vital Phenomena
By Anthony Marra
The gist: A Chechen village, a young girl watching her father taken by Russian soldiers and her house burned to the ground: so begins Marra’s startling debut, in which a tough doctor ponders the extent of her obligation to help Havaa, an eight-year-old girl who has been brought to the doctor’s wretched and abandoned hospital by Akhmed, the girl’s neighbor.
9. The Silence and the Roar
By Nihad Sirees
The gist: “Sirees’s deeply philosophical and satirical novel echoes Kafka and Orwell.”
10. The Good Lord Bird
By James McBride
see details above
The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2013
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
2. The Flamethrowers
By Rachel Kushner
3. The Goldfinch
By Donna Tartt
4. Life After Life
By Kate Atkinson
5. Tenth of December
By George Saunders
6. After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead
By Alan S. Blinder
7. Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House
By Peter Baker
8. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
By Sheri Fink
9. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
By Christopher Clark
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By Sonali Deraniyagala
Best Books of 2013, Good Lord Bird, Oprah, Publisher's Weekly, The Flamethrowers, the New York Times | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Fiction, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books
Former Parents.com blogger and current New York Times
bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch
wrote a cool new novel, and of course she wants to tell us about it. In her book, The Theory of Opposites
, she writes about a woman who thinks she has the perfect life–that the stars have aligned for her and her dreams have come true. Then, her husband asks for a “break,” her boss fires her and all hell breaks loose. Read this book for a fun–and sometimes sad–adventure through heartbreak and healing.
What inspired Allison to write this kind of women’s fiction? Find out in her guest blog below:
“What’s the toughest part of parenting for you, dear readers?
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For me, It is accepting that I can’t control everything in my kids’ lives. Not the day to day stuff. I’ve always been a parent who believes that children have to sort out many things on their own, and with a 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, there is plenty to sort out.
Complicated friendships; homework time-management; sticking up for themselves against a not-so-nice kid who sits behind them on the bus; sibling squabbles that could potentially end in broken limbs. These are things that I happily let my kids manage on their own (unless I really do sense that a broken limb is imminent). Continue Reading
Ravina Thakkar, an eighth-grader in Plainfield, IL, has cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening medical condition that affects her lungs and digestive system. She doesn’t define herself that way, though. She thinks of herself as a writer–and a girl who loves to dance and listen to music.
When she became eligible, her social worker helped make her dreams come true through the Make-A-Wish® Illinois foundation.
Ravina wanted to write a book for middle graders, and she did just that yesterday when Sourcebooks released her new title. The publisher gave Ravina the entire author experience–from working with editors and designers to revising the manuscript and weighing in on the cover art.
Ravina’s book is called Adventure of a Lifetime and was written when she was 8-years-old. It’s about a 9-year-old girl named Betty who battles alongside a character from her favorite fiction series as they race from one danger to the next.Adventure of a Lifetime It was released on her 14th birthday. Ravina’s doing a marketing and publicity campaign that includes this Q&A with me: nts and bravery.
KK: How old were you when you wanted to become a writer? What age should we parents start encouraging our little ones who seem interested in it?
RT: (At left.) I was 6 when I decided I wanted to be a writer, I think…or at least, that was when the idea first got in my head. If children show interest in writing, then I would definitely suggest encouraging them early on! My parents’ support is one of the reasons I’m here today.
KK: How does your illness tie into your deep desire to write? How do your experiences affect your writing?
RT: Well, in my case, Cystic Fibrosis affects my lungs more than anything else. I take medication and do three treatments a day to stay healthy, and since those treatments take up much time in my day, they’re usually the time when I sit down to write. However, I don’t think Cystic Fibrosis has really affected my actual writing in anyway though…I’ve never really written about it.
KK: Kids your age are really busy. How did you communicate your passion to your parents, and make sure you had enough time to write, while juggling school, friends and after-school activities?
RT: The time I had during treatments helped a lot. I’m not in many extra-curricular activities anyway, but as school gets harder and harder, there’s less time to write. I’ve been juggling ideas around in my head and jotting them down for a later date, so I can write them out once everything gets less hectic.
KK: What advice do you have for other parents whose kids are interested in writing?
RT: Support them! If they want to, let your children tell you about their stories. Readers make the best writers, so encourage that. However, some kids just like writing as a hobby and that’s fine–never make it into a chore of sorts for them.
KK: If you could meet any writer, who would it be?
RT: Oh, this is funny, considering my first ‘wish’ with the foundation was to meet J.K. Rowling. Sadly, she’s not a participant in the Make A Wish foundation, but I’d still love to meet her! Either her or John Green, most definitely.
KK: If you could write another book, what would it be about?
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RT: I’m not quite sure yet…I’ve kind of gravitated towards realistic fiction instead of adventure fiction, so if I did write something else, it would probably be that genre.
If you’ve ever daydreamed about turning that secret spaghetti sauce recipe into more than a family crowd pleaser, here’s your playbook: Author Rachel Hofstetter interviewed dozens of successful food entrepreneurs–mostly women–for her new book, Cooking Up a Business and gives you tips for getting started.
Her biggest takeaway? Moms make the best food entrepreneurs. Here’s how they turned their passion into a career—and how you can, too. Rachel knows what she’s talking about. She’s the former food editor at O, The Oprah Magazine. She’s also an entrepreneur herself with her company guesterly that creates custom magazines. (So super cool–check it out.)
KK: What are some examples of good food businesses that other moms have cooked up?
Rachel Hofstetter: Moms make great food entrepreneurs because kids provide great inspiration—and they are excellent taste testers! If your picky eater likes what you’re cooking up or if you, as a mom, care about the issue your product is solving, chances are other kids and moms will agree.
For example, when Shannan Swanson (at left) and Liane Weintraub were dismayed at the baby food they found at their local supermarkets, they began to make their own, dreaming up and pureeing combinations of fruits and vegetables that they deemed worthy of their little ones’ developing taste buds. And they began to talk, simply hypothetically, about selling this healthier baby food. That inspiration eventually led to Tasty Brand.
I also love Kara Goldin’s story of how she stumbled upon the idea of Hint Water. Kara’s family was drinking tons of sugary drinks—and she herself was drinking way too much Diet Coke! So she cleaned out the kitchen and put everyone on good old tap water—a moratorium that lasted all of two weeks. But instead of drinking water, they ended up drinking…nothing at all. Kara knew she had to change something or she’d have a home full of dangerously dehydrated kids. Her eyes drifted around the kitchen, looking for an idea, and landed on the big bowl of fruit on her counter, part of her new attempt to stock the house with real, wholesome foods. Kara chopped up a handful, tossed it in a pitcher, added water, and put it in the fridge to chill. A few hours later, she poured a glass to try. It was interesting. It had taste. It was . . . delicious. She poured another glass, and then some for her kids. Everyone approved! And after accolades started pouring in from other parents, Kara decided to turn her fruit-flavored waters into a business; today her waters are sold at over half the grocery stores in the U.S.
KK: How do you gauge whether your idea for a business is a good one?
RH: Have your friends and family taste test your product: Do they rave about it? Do they ask you to bring it to every event? Ask them: “If this was in a store, would you be willing to pay for it? How much?” It’s okay to change your product as you respond to feedback! Liane and Shannan at Tasty Brand started by making organic baby food—and now they only make snacks. Food businesses are great because you don’t need a lot of special equipment to test your idea: just a kitchen and the ability to make a recipe. So you can jump in, try it out, and gauge if your idea works as you go along.
KK: What are your top three tips on starting up your own shop–doing something you really, really love?
RH: 1. Pick a product that makes your life easy once it’s out of your kitchen. For example, in Cooking Up a Business I share the story of Love Grown Foods. They originally thought they’d sell founder Maddy D’Amato’s famous pesto. But they found that while it’s easy to make pesto for your dinner party of ten, it’s exponentially more difficult to make and store 50 batches for your local farmers market. Instead, make a product that’s easy to cook in large batches and is shelf stable (non-perishable).
2. Create a name for your product and tell a story. Why is this special? What’s memorable about it?
3. The best way to get people excited about your product (and to get them to buy it!) is to let them taste. Give away as many tastes or free samples as you can at farmer’s market, grocery store demos, local festival and fairs, mom’s events and more.
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How was your Thanksgiving? Did Hanukah start for you, too? I know it was fun, yummy and, yes, of course, we’re all grateful for our many blessings.
But let’s get real. Hanging out with family can be, well, totally awkward.
So I have just the thing you need today as you work through those leftovers and that hangover (either from the alcohol or a major family overdose or both). You need to know that you are not the only one who scratches her head when everyone gets together for the holidays. And your family is not the only one that’s a little weird. These people are out there–and they took photographs to prove it.
So feel very good about yourself when you check out these completely real Thanksgiving pictures from the new book, Awkward Family Holiday Photos. I’ve got your back. And you are welcome.
*Photos courtesy of Mike Bender and Doug Chernack, authors of the mega-bestselling and beloved Awkward Family Photos and Awkward Family Pet Photos. Whether you’re sporting Mom’s hand-sewn Halloween costume, recreating a nativity scene for the annual Christmas card, or sitting on the lap of the creature you were told was the Easter Bunny, holidays make for those cringe-worthy memories that we will carry in our hearts for years to come….and, lucky for us, Mike and Doug have collected some of the most outstanding and outrageous of these holiday snapshots into their latest book, Awkward Family Holiday Photos.
Check out these 14 family holiday traditions you’ll want to start this year.
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