Each month the Amazon book editors hold a number of meetings, both official and ad hoc, to discuss the best books we've read, culminating in our Best Books of the Month selections. Those lists lead us to this time of year, in which we take a look at our favorites-- including upcoming books through the end of December, and the few that might have slipped through the cracks the first go around. And after a lot more discussion (sometimes heated), and rounds of votes, we arrive at our Best Books of the Year.
Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is our pick as the Best Book of 2013. In some ways, that came as no surprise to us (although it did come as a result of a healthy and prolonged discussion). Our intrepid, extremely well-read director, Sara Nelson, jumped on The Goldfinch early on, singing its praises to anyone who would listen. And she started months before the book was even published. The Goldfinch has just debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, but it lands at #1 for us. To echo what some are already saying, it's the kind of novel that only comes around every decade or s arguably Dickensian in its treatment of Leo, a 14-year-old boy who loses his mother, steals a painting, and sets off on a journey populated by a rich cast of memorable characters.
Our number two pick is Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed, a book as well-written and deeply moving as his first two novels (The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns), proving perhaps that lightninig can strike thrice.
The number three book on the Best Books of the Year list is David Finkel's phenomenal Thank You for Your Service, a nonfiction account of the hopes and pain that soldiers carry back with them from war. It's not an easy read, because the subject isn't an easy one, but I could argue that it's the most important book on this list. The writing is exquisite, the compassion disarming.
The fourth book on the list was our #1 book when we announced our Best Books of the Year So Far back in June. Chances are you're already familiar with Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, a brilliant, multi-layered novel in which her protagonist moves through multiple lives, each one an iteration on the last, flirting with the balance between choice and fate. It deserves all the accolades it has received.
Finally, one of the ones that got away the first time. Sort of, at least. Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier was a category selection in our Best Books of July, but it didn't make our main Best of the Month list. Chalk up its high place on Best of the Year list to a classic word-of-mouth story. It was only later that this nonfiction saga of Robert "Papa Pilgrim" Hale, his wife Country Rose, and their 15 children living in the depths of Alaska started getting passed around among the Amazon editors. (A few read it back in July, but not all.) This compelling story filled with dark secrets and surprising disclosures, eventually consumed us so much that we felt we had to give it a high ranking on the Best Books of the Year. We believe readers will not be disappointed.
Of course there are lots of other great books in the top 100, and in our dozens of Best Books of the Year categories. We've put so much into this year of reading and discussing, and sometimes arguing, that it's a thrill to finally be able to share the Best Books of 2013 with you. There's something for everyone here, so enjoy!