Books + Music

The Best Books of 2013 | Our Picks

By Donna Sinopoli - 15 Dec 2013

Fiction

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt 

Amazon's Book of the Year, The Goldfinch follows the life of Theo, a young boy who surviving the death of his mother, leads a troubled life in Manhattan, moving from house to house or living on the streets to avoid being taken in as an orphan. A small painting of a goldfinch reminds him of his mother and draws him into the art underworld. A gripping, epic read from the author of the much acclaimed, The Secret History.

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser 

The 2013 winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, this provoking novel charts two very different characters living disparate lives – Laura, a travel writer, and Ravi, a displaced Sri Lankan who dreams of being a tourist. Raising timely questions of otherness and belonging, these characters shed an insightful light on what it means to be a refugee, and a traveler in the modern world.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Through the eyes of Dorrigo Evans, a doctor and prisoner of war, the horrors of the Burma Death Railway are revealed. Not just a war story, this is also a study of a father and son, family and love, and guilt and heroism in the face of human horros . A complex, but flawlessly executed novel, where the present and past move alongside each other in a stirring, poignant fusion. 

The Son by Phillipp Meyer

A multi-generational epic set in the American West, The Son explores the human universals of greed, savagery, power, and desire. Formidable and beautifully wrought, this novel follows the success and ruin of Eli and his family. Abducted by Comanche warriors as a young boy, Eli eventually returns to the 'white' world, where he goes on to build a thriving a cattle and oil empire. The following generations endure and contribute to the rise and fall of that empire. 

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

The confessions of a primary school teacher who becomes completely entranced by the family of one of her students and is cruelly betrayed. Nora is the 'woman upstairs'—the reliable friend and neighbour, living a life of quiet desperation—when she meets the Shahid family and her life changes. Nora is a rare creature in the literary world, an angry woman. 

The Light Between the Oceans by ML Stedman

The story of a light house keeper who is faced with a moral quandary—to tell the truth or hide the truth to placate his wife—and the devastating consequences of his decision.  Set on the rugged south coast of Western Australian in the period following WW1.  

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

One of the breakout hits of the year, Burial Rites is a haunting novel about the last woman to be executed in Iceland, who was accused and found guilty of murdering her lover. Hannah Kent's fictional account of this historical event proves a fascinating and dramatic insight into life in Iceland in the early 1800s, and the austere and often difficult lives of its people.    

Mr Wigg by Inga Simpson

A simple but lovely book that celebrates the small things in life.  Mr Wigg is a widower who lives in the country and spends his days tending his garden, cooking and watching cricket—and he has a special project to finish.  

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan 

Pride and Prejudice meets Bridget Jones' Diary. An amusing novel about the Singaporean/Chinese jet set and their indiscriminate spending. The book revolves around Nick, the heir to a Singaporean fortune, who is living as a professor in New York where no-one knows about his crazy rich family, including his girlfriend.  A romp of a novel.  

Cookbooks

The Agrarian Kitchen by Rodney Dunn

The highly anticipated first book from former Australian Gourmet Traveller Editor, Rodney Dunn. This collection of recipes, celebrating all the is good about slow food eating with the seasons, comes from Dunn's cooking school and sustainable farm outside Hobart.

Ben's BBQ Bible by Ben O'Donoghue

A good one for the bloke in the household, for inspiration at the BBQ! TUL Note: The Urban List team have tried the barbecued peaches first hand, and can safely say we've found our new favourite summer dessert.

Non-Fiction

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

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Sandberg asks, why are there so few female leaders, and why don't women make it all the way to the top? Imploring women to 'lean in' to the discomfort and difficulty that can accompany juggling family and work, this is a useful and insightful feminist tome for a new generation of women.

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