Emma’s Top 10 of 2013

1. Tenth of December by George Saunders This collection of short stories by MacArthur genius grant winner, Saunders, has really polarized opinion. People either love it or hate it and I am one of the former. The seeming simplicity of Saunder’s writing belies an ability to make the reader empathize with the downtrodden and disenfranchised and to find hope and humanity in the most desperate of situations. The title story of a young misfit who encounters a cancer patient intent on suicide on a frozen pond will stay with you long after the final page has been turned.

2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Fans of Donna Tartt (including me) have waited 11 years for this novel and it does not disappoint. Tartt is a master and her genius lies in writing novels that are simultaneously dense in their description and tense page turners at the same time, such a combination is a rarity. The Goldfinch tells the tale of Theo, who accidentally steals a masterpiece in the most dire of circumstances, and follows his adventures while meditating on life, obsession, love and the transformative power of art.

3. Locke and Key by Joe Hill
The Locke and Key series of graphic novels is not for the weak stomached and definitely fixed in the Gothic horror genre. The Locke family move back to their family home after a tragedy and discover the house has many secrets to be unlocked.

4. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
Another recipient of the MacArthur genius grant, this is Russell’s second collection of short stories. From enslaved women who grow silk in their bellies like silkworms, a teenage boy who is given talismans by a seagull and a masseuse who discovers she can heal the psychic scars of a war vet, these stories are magical and strange and always original.

5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Possibly his most personal novel to date, The Ocean at the End of the Lane tells the story, in flashback, of a young boy’s trauma at the hands of an au pair who usurps his mother and his friendship with a girl down the road, Lettie Hempstock, who may or may not be a witch. A fairytale for grown-ups, many are saying this is Gaiman’s best work yet.

6. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Irreverent, provocative and shocking, Moran weaves hilarious observations from her own life with a call to arms to modern feminists.

7. Glossolalia by David Jauss A
master of his craft, it is hard to believe that these stories are written by the same man. Glossolalia literally means “speaking in tongues,” and Jauss’ work spans the breadth of humanity: male and female, young and old, from cultures as disparate as a Catholic priest among Mayans to a Dominican baseball player far away from home to a Russian hunchback humiliated by his employer. Comparisons to Chekhov are justified.

8. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
The sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Taylor continues the story of Karou and Akiva on opposing sides of an ancient war between angels and monsters. One of the most original fantasy (and YA) series out there.

9. The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf An unusual historical novel set in the Enlightenment, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones tells the tale of Tristan Hart, a brilliant young doctor, sadist and madman. Unexpectedly funny, and at heart, a love story, this novel juxtaposes the language of the time with more modern attitudes.

10. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Pessl’s second novel after Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Night Film is a dark and unsettling novel that follows a disgraced journalist as he investigates the death of Ashley Cordova and its links with her father, the reclusive Stanislas Cordova, cult film director. Pessl is so successful at world building and creating mood in this novel that you will be half convinced that Cordova and his films actually exist.