Deck the shelves this holiday season with top books of 2013 |

Deck the shelves this holiday season with top books of 2013

The holiday season is defined by lists: Santa checks who’s naughty and nice, children finalize their Christmas wishes and The Bookworm of Edwards, Colo., reveals its best books of the year. Here is a list of the 10 best in 2013 — fully vetted by the staff, who collectively reads more than 1,000 titles a year.

“We don’t always come to an agreement on what makes the books great, but narrowing it down to our absolute favorites is actually easier than you would think,” said Nicole Magistro, the store’s owner. “The cream rises. It’s just a fact.”

Our favorite fiction: “Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” by Anthony Marra

The staff is normally most critical of novels, but here is one that captured every bookseller’s heart. The story rotates around Havaa, an orphaned girl taken in by caring neighbors and doctors, set against the backdrop of the Chechen War. It is a story about the human experience, the difficult choices we make and learning to accept each other’s trespasses and is written with exquisite prose that glimmers with magic amidst tragedy.

Best book club book: “Me Before You,” by Jojo Moyes

This book is not a romance, but a book about loving life. In it, an uppity British family employs conventional Louisa Clark as their son’s companion following a crippling accident. The memory of a vibrant and successful previous life leaves Will too fond of the past to go on, let alone leave the house. But Louisa’s devotion, humor and authenticity brings Will out of his slump and removes her from her otherwise ordinary existence. Bittersweet, clever and full of twists that will keep the club talking about the “what ifs” in life.

Most unusual (likeable) story: “The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards,” by Kristopher Jansma

An international, coming-of-age story so unique that it will leave you seeing spots for days, almost unsure of what you read! The plot is part “The Great Gatsby” and part “On the Road,” with a peculiar, contemporary voice. Set in New York, India and Luxembourg, Jansma beautifully sets the stage for aloof characters with brilliant futures. Karin Baker, a manager at The Bookworm, said this book is “the most clever, slanted story I’ve ever read. Only the second book I’ve read twice in a row.”

This year’s “Unbroken”: “Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown

Laura Hillenbrand fans have a new author to read. Daniel James Brown’s “Boys in the Boat” tracks the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew to the Olympics. Ordinary boys, these athletes were determined to earn their gold medal at the Berlin Olympics. Fighting to rediscover his self-identity, Joe Rantz’s efforts unite the crew. His story will resonate with athletes and anyone who loves a feel-good book about triumphing over the past and conquering discord.

Most readable history: “The Men Who United the States,” by Simon Winchester

Using an unconventional structure of the five classic elements: wood, earth, water, fire and metal, Winchester beautifully details acts of pioneering men that have brought us together as one united country. He goes beyond the national concept of ideals and constitutional freedoms and shows the roles of familiar, forgotten and unknown men and how each expedition or discovery created the United States. Excellent book for any history fan, but also great for those who are interested in fascinating snippets in an easy-to-read work.

Best cookbook: “Art of Simple Food II,” by Alice Waters

Alice Waters, iconic restaurateur and culinary pioneer of farm-to-table, brings us another mouth-watering, vegetable-focused cookbook. By removing the guesswork and providing healthy, delicious recipes, she inspires the every-day home cook. Her commentaries touch on history, plant care and tending a garden, in addition to variations that help to honor the ingredients, not show off fancy chef-school tricks. Sure to become a classic!

Best book for teens: “The 5th Wave,” by Rick Yancey

Great for fans of “The Hunger Games” or “Divergent,” Rick Yancey’s “The 5th Wave” is a well-written dystopian novel for readers who need a break-neck pace balanced with a human connection. Amid chaos, Cassie must depend on her survival instincts while fleeing from blood-thirsty creatures who have taken over her world. A non-stop thrill ride for teens and adults.

Just plain gorgeous: “The Art of the National Parks,” by Jean Stern

With more than 450 pieces showcasing 70 artists and sculptors, this large-format book is a must for anyone who has hiked the trails, watched a sunset, marveled at buffalo herds or yearned to experience our nation’s mythic and transformative vistas. It is also an indispensable compendium of artists who are at the forefront of 21st century American landscape and wildlife art.

Best family read aloud: “Flora and Ulysses,” by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by KG Campbell

This book opens with an epic battle rivaling David and Goliath, Frodo and Sauron, and Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader: squirrel versus vacuum cleaner! But Flora Belle Buckman saves Ulysses the squirrel just before defeat, and the relationship that ensues is nothing short of classic. The lively characters jump off the page as DiCamillo weaves a story about overcoming fears, accepting differences and true friendship. Flora and her superhero squirrel will steal your heart.

Best picture book: “The Day the Crayons Quit,” by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Strike! Strike! The crayons are on strike! Quibbling crayons unsure of their purpose in life leave little Duncan without a way to color. Duncan must find a way to get them back and settle their differences before he can resume his artistic pursuits. If you have a tattered copy of “Click Clack Moo” on the shelf, then pick up “The Day the Crayons Quit” to rest right next to it.

Leigh Horton is the journalism intern at The Bookworm of Edwards, Colo., and a senior at the Colorado School of Mines.

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