TourofBooks

It seems almost everyone is compelled to close out the year with a list of Bests. Librarians are no exception, but this year we’re asking you to help us out.

What was the best book of 2013? We narrowed the field to 12 and fashioned the list into a bonafide Tournament of Books, starting on March 1.

The brackets will be posted on the Third Floor slatwall. Every week, paired books will go head to head. Our judges will select a winner to advance to the next round. Tournament books are available in multiple formats for your convenience.

Join in the fun by reading and voting for the best book. Ballots will also be on the Third Floor slatwall.

Here’s a list of this year’s Tournament of Book contenders vying to the title of 2013:

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I love reading books set in faraway lands.  The second best thing to traveling is armchair traveling…and it’s sure cheaper!  So, if you, like me, are not finding yourself traveling to Italy this summer, travel along with Jess Walter and his fantastic book set in Italy, Los Angeles and Seattle.  Told in several different time periods, the Italy-portion of the book starts off in the early 1960s.  Pasquale, a lonely Italian innkeeper, has his world turned upside-down when a beautiful American actress comes to stay in his fledgling hotel.  The actress, as it turns out, is on a break from the Cleopatra (the 1963 film) set, which is filming in Rome.  The actress’ stay in the small hotel changes the lives of everyone involved…including some members of the Cleopatra crew, which is how some of the story ends up in present day Los Angeles. 
The Italian storyline in particular is filled with a plethora of imagery of coastal Italy.  Walter, in vivid detail, describes the dilapidated hotel and the even smaller, more pathetic village it sits in.  As I was reading, I felt transported to this village, just south of the Cinque Terre (very popular coastal resort towns in Italy) but not close enough to be part of that very prestigious tourist mecca.  Because everyone flocks to the towns of Cinque Terre, Pasquale’s village and his hotel are practically business-free and most definitely tourist-free.  With that imagery, I was able to perfectly picture the town, the hotel and the breathtaking views that the hotel overlooks. 
For a good summer, beach read, you would not go wrong with Beautiful Ruins; all of the wonders and vistas of Italy without leaving home or spending a Euro!  
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For distinguished fiction by an American author: 

Awarded to The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.

 

Finalists:

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” by Nathan Englander (Alfred A. Knopf), a diverse yet consistently masterful collection of stories that explore Jewish identity and questions of modern life in ways that can both delight and unsettle the reader; and “The Snow Child,” by Eowyn Ivey (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown), and enchanting novel about an older homesteading couple who long for a child amid the harsh wilderness of Alaska and a feral girl who emerges from the woods to bring them hope.

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Lord Crick has died. While convulsing. And turning yellow. And providing his family with a gruesome corpse. Although young Lord Crick had some health issues (i.e. the pox) and a rather nasty disposition, it really was a ghastly and horrific death. His sister Lady Lydia decides that there must be a further investigation. The gossip against her husband Captain Flynn, who is her brother’s heir, is becoming scandalous. On the advice of her cousin Francis, she travels to London to meet with Dr. Thomas Silkstone, an American physician who is working, studying and teaching with British anatomist Dr. Carruthers. Silkstone, who is quite taken with Lady Lydia, agrees reluctantly to exhume and examine the corpse and answer questions at the inquest.

When he is at the estate, he finds not just a house in mourning, but a household full of secrets. Silkstone uses his primitive forensic and toxicology skills to study the remains, but he finds more questions than answers, and his list of suspects in the household grows.  The tension swells, and the plot twists,  but will Silkstone (with some help from Carruthers,) find the answers with his scientific methods before there is another body found on the estate? Harris writes a layered tale of forensic mystery using engaging characters who struggle with the conventions of their time. Silkstone is wonderful as the outsider looking into their society. Can’t wait to read the next one in the series!

The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris 

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This book begins with Japanese “picture brides” on a boat to early 20th Century America to meet their husbands.  These brides are young girls (some 12 or so) who have been shipped off by their parents with the intention of having them get married, have families and basically have better lives than they would in Japan.  The end of the book covers the heart-wrenching years of the Japanese Internment Camps during the post-Pearl Harbor era in the Western USA. 

I absolutely loved the story, the lyricalness, the lushness and the tone of this novel.  Otsuka has a gift of being able to express series of complex emotions with just a few words.  Her writing style seems natural, fluid, yet filled with power.  She does a fantastic job of creating a scene with as few words as possible.  Less, if definitely more here.  After-all, the novel is around 120 pages.

Saying all of that, I still found myself wanting a little more.  NOT more of the words…more of the individual characters and their own stories.  This novel is told in the first person plural voice (or point of view).  Meaning: WE did this, WE did that. With such powerful stories to tell, I wish Otsuka would have picked one or two women to focus on instead of the global “we.”  This does not mean I did not like the book.  I loved it.  I just would have loved it even more had there been a little more individual detail.

But, I understand why she choose the plural voice to write it.  The subject matter here is highly emotional…and by keeping it in the plural, both Otsuka and the reader are able to keep a fair and appropriate distance.  Either way, a must read for all…

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index.phpAnne Tyler once again captures the heart and soul of someone going through a trying time. This time, it’s Aaron…who lives an unremarkable life with an unremarkable woman…Dorothy.  But, after Dorothy’s sudden death, Aaron’s period of adjustment offers more than just grief and depression.  He simply cannot let Dorothy go. This is a touching, sweet book that is filled with heart and emotion.  I found myself laughing at Aaron more than once…whether this was intentional humor on Tyler’s part… just the sad-sack, vulnerable ways of Aaron manifesting themselves as comic moments I do not know.  I would like to think that Tyler wanted us to laugh at him a little…so he and her reader’s would try and take life a little less seriously.  Tyler, who is known for her engaging and emotive character studies, really captures the soul of this wayward man.  I would be hard pressed to say it is Tyler’s best work but it is one of her best.

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A fire races though a London private school and a mother rushes to save her daughter’s life. How the fire started provides the backdrop for this suspenseful thriller with paranormal aspects and graced with lyrical writing.

This novel with its realistic portrayal of contemporary families is heartbreaking in its tragic elements but appealing in its devotion to the protective instincts that are the core of the love between mothers and children. The twists and turns in the thriller are so well done that the culprit is revealed deftly in the final pages.

Readers of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Broken Harbor by Tana French will devour Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton.

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This year, eyes and TV sets around the world will be focused on London, the capital of what is really a small island between the North Atlantic and the North Sea, also known as the United Kingdom.  London is in England, one of four countries that make up the UK…the others being Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.     What is it about London that makes it such a fascinating city?

Well, for one, unlike many European cities, London is seriously multicultural.  VERY multicultural.  And I’m not talking tourists.  I’m talking residents.  All races, religions, socioeconomic levels are on view throughout most parts of London.  Yes, in some of the swankier sections (Knightsbridge, Mayfair to name two), most of the people have more than their fair share of  Pound Sterling in their pockets.  But, London is a mammoth, vast city with section upon section of diverse areas.  Take Kensington…which borders ritzy area Knightsbridge and is not far from the also ritzy Chelsea.  Kensington has more Indian restaurants than British restaurants it seems.  The Indian dish Chicken tikka masala, not fish and chips, is even London’s honorary national meal. When we think British, we think Protestant and white.  In the countryside, maybe…but not in London.

Let’s move on to London’s fascinating history.  Unlike our cities in this country, London has recorded history dating back thousands of years.  Yes…thousands.  From the Romans who founded the city as Londinium to the Anglo-Saxons to the Tudors, every corner of London bears some history worth repeating.  The formally-walled “City of London” is the present-day financial center of the capital and is one of the 32 boroughs of London.  There are still places within The City, or Square Mile, as it is sometimes called, where you can see some of the London Wall, first built around The City by the Romans.  Just to the east of The City lies Whitechapel, the former stomping grounds of that vicious deviant Jack the Ripper, who killed at least five prostitutes in the late 1880s.  And on the other side of the River Thames (which throughout much of history, was wider than the present-day river running through London today), there is the George Inn in Southwark…a pub that can date it’s history back to the 17th Century.  Yes, that’s right…the 1600s.  No, the George we see today is not the exact same one from the 1600s, but there has been a pub on that site for almost 400 years!  That’s a lot of pints!

Lastly, let’s look at London’s cultural side.  Most major cities can boast opera houses and a smattering of theaters and maybe one or two concert venues.  But, London is the HOME of the stage production…with its West End surpassing our Broadway in both longevity, history and profitability.  Many famed Broadway productions began as West End productions…and many acclaimed actors and actresses got their start on the London stage.

As the Summer Olympics approach (the opening ceremonies are on July 27), we thought everyone might want to get into a LONDON frame of mind to prepare.  Here are some books and authors that might fit the bill:

Books set in London
40 Love by Madeleine Wickham
Abbot Agency series by Veronica Heley
Abdication by Juliet Nicolson
About A Boy by Nick Hornby
After You by Julie Buxbaum
Airs and Graces by Roz Southey
Alan Grant series by Josephine Tey
Amsterdam by Ian Mcewan
The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris
Anatomy of Murder by Imogen Robertson
Anna Travis series & Jane Tennison/Prime Suspect series by Lynda La Plante
Anthem for Doomed Youth by Carola Dunn
Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
The Best of Friends by Joanna Trollope
The Best of Times by Penny Vincenzi
Bill Slider series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series & William Monk series by Anne Perry
Detective Stella Mooney series by David Lawrence
Blue Monday by Nicci French
Brock & Kolla series by Barry Maitland
The Brothers of Baker Street by Michael Robertson
Bryant & May Peculiar Crimes Unit series by Christopher Fowler
Chelsea Mansions by Barry Matland
The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey
Dead Beat by Patricia Hall
Dead Scared by S. J. Bolton
The Dog Who Came In From the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith
Eleven by Mark Watson
The English Monster, Or, the Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass by Lloyd Shepherd
The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne
Forget Me Not by Sue Margolis
Fraud by Anita Brookner
Free To Trade by Michael Ridpath
Get Maitland by James Patrick Hunt
Gold by Chris Cleave
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Get Me Out Of Here by Henry Sutton
The Good the Bad and the Uncanny By Simon Green
Hannah Wolfe series by Sarah Dunant
Hawkwood by James Mcgee
Helen West series by Frances Fyfield
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffengger
The High Flyer by Susan Howatch
The Honey Trap by Clive Edgerton
The House of Eliott by Jean Marsh
How It All Began by Penelope Lively
I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson
In Office Hours by Lucy Kellaway
In The Kitchen by Monica Ali
India Black by Carol K. Carr
Inglorious by Joanna Kavenna
The Innocents by Francesca Segal
The Invasion Year by Dewey Lambdin
Invisible River by Helena Mcewen
Jack Caffery series by Mo Hayder
John Coffin series by Gwendoline Butler
John McLeish & Francesca Wilson series by Janet Neel
Johnny “One Eye” Hawke series by David Stuart Davies
London Calling by James Craig
London Fields by Martin Amis
Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
The List by Martin Fletcher
London Holiday by Richard Peck
Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear
Man of the Month Club by Jackie Clune
Mark Tartaglia series by Elena Forbes
A Married Man by Catherine Alcott
The Minority Council by Kate Griffin
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia Macneal
The Mysterium by P. C. Doherty
Nigel Barnes series by Dan Waddell
No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie
Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson
The Other Side of The Story by Marian Keyes
Park Lane by Frances Osborne
A Parliament of Spies by Cassandra Clark
Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes
Peter Fletcher series by Simon Shaw
The Piccadilly Plot by Susanna Gregory
The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
Rag and Bone by James R. Benn
The Reckoning by Jane Casey
Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella
Rescuing Rose by Isabel Wolff
Roommate Wanted by Lisa Jewell
Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen
Rumpole series by John Mortimer
Sacrilege by S.J. Parris
Sam Jones series by Lauren Henderson
Second Chance by Jane Green
The Seven Sisters by Margaret Drabble
Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella
The Silent Oligarch by Chris Morgan Jones
A Small Fortune by Rosie Dastgir
The Solitary House by Lynn Shepherd
A Special Relationship by Douglas Kennedy
The Spoiler by Annalena Mcafee
Strangers by Anita Brookner
Suzie Mountford series by John Gardner
A Tale of Two Cities by Ralph Mowat
The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman
Thomas Chaloner series by Susanna Gregory
Tides of War by Stella Tillyard
Tom Thorne series by Mark Billingham
The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
Trish Maguire series by Natasha Cooper
The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss
Waiting For Sunrise by William Boyd
When Maidens Mourn by C.S. Harris
Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath by Kate Moses
The Yard by Alex Grecian
Yoga Teacher by Alexandra Gray
Zero History by William Gibson
British Mystery Authors
Agatha Christie
Ann Granger: Mitchell and Markby series
Anthea Fraser
Antonia Fraser
Arthur Conan Doyle 
Audrey Peterson
Barbara Vine
Bruce Alexander
C.S. Harris
Candace Robb
Carola Dunn: Cornish Mystery series
Cassandra Chan
Cassandra Clark
Charles Finch
Charles Todd
Chris Morgan Jones
Colin Dexter: Inspector Morse series
David Liss
Deanna Raybourn
Deborah Crombie
Deborah Grabien
Denise Mina
Diana Killian
Dick Francis
Dorothy Cannell: Ellie Haskell series
Dorothy L. Sayers
Elisabeth Bastion
Elizabeth George
Elizabeth Peters
Ellis Peters
Fiona Mountain
Gayle Lynds
Gillian Linscott
Graham Moore
H.R.F. Keating
Iain Pears
Ian Rankin (Scottish)
J.M. Gregson: Lambert and Hook series
James Craig
Jane Casey
Jeffrey Archer
Jeri Westerson
Jill McGown
Jill Paton Walsh
Joanna Challis
John Harvey
John Lawton
John Sherwood
John William Wainwright:
Judith Cook: John Latymer series
Kate Atkinson
Kate Charles
Kate Ross
Kenneth Cameron
Laura Joh Rowland
Laurie R. King
Madeleine Robins
Margaret Fraser
Margaret Yorke
Marian Babson
Marianne Macdonald
Marjorie Allingham
Marjorie Eccles
Martha Grimes
Martin Edwards: Hannah Scarlet & Daniel Kind Lake District Mysteries
Martina Cole
Mary Stewart
MC Beaton: Agatha Raisin series
Michael Robertson
Michael Robotham
Minette Walters
Nancy Atherton
Ngaio Marsh
Nicci French
Nicola Upson
P.C. Doherty
P.D. James
Patricia Hall: Michael Thackeray & Laura Ackroyd series
Peter James
Peter Lovesey
Peter Robinson: Alan Banks series
Peter Turnbull: Hennessey and Yellich series
Rebecca Kent
Reggie Nadelson
Reginald Hill
Reginald Hill: Dalziel and Pascoe series
Robert Barnard: Charlie Peace series
Robert Goddard
Robert Harris
Robert Lee Hall
Roberta Gellis
Rosamund Lupton
Rosemary Stevens
Ruth Rendell: Inspector Wexford series
S.J. Bolton
S.J. Parris
Sally Spencer: Monika Paniatowski series
Santa Montefiore
Sheri Cobb South
Simon Brett: Fethering series
Sophie Hannah
Stella Whitelaw: Jordan Lacey series
Stuart Pawson
Thomas Harris
Val McDermid
Veronica Black: Sister Joan series
Will Thomas
General Fiction Authors
Anita Brookner
Barbara Pym
Carla Neggers
Eloise James
Ian McEwan
Isabel Wolff
Jane Green
Jasper Fforde
Jeffrey Archer
Joanna Trollope
Julia Quinn
Julian Barnes
Madeleine Wickham
Marcia Willet
Margaret Drabble
Marian Keyes
Mark Haddon
Martin Amis
Mary Balogh
Mary Sheepshanks
Nicci French
Nick Hornby
Penelope Lively
Peter Carey
Salmon Rushdie
Sophie Kinsella
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