Top 10 Best and Worst Books I Read In 2013

Happy 2014! Did you make any reading goals for the year? I always love getting new book recommendations, especially for those “cannot put down until it’s finished” kind of books!

So in honor of the new year, I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads from 2013. If you’re looking for a new book, I’ve got some great ones to share! From beach reads, to mystery, to memoirs and historical fiction, I’ve got you covered. Here they are below, in no particular order.

A List of the Best and Worst Books From 2013

Top 10 Best and Worst Books In 2013

On the Island
Tracey Garvis Graves

This was a light, fast, easy read. I read this book on a long flight, so I finished it all in almost one sitting. There were not a lot of twists or turns, and some parts that were slower than others, but over all it keep me interested. I didn’t want to put it down, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened. I was put off by the description at first, but don’t worry — nothing inappropriate happens. I enjoyed this book.

My Rating: 3 stars

A Stolen Life


A Stolen Life: A Memoir
Jaycee Dugard

This was an intense read. I couldn’t put it down. I was horrified at how she was taken, shocked at the planning and stalking that went into it, and exhilarated reading how she was found. Some have said that the book was a little confusing to read because of Jaycee’s 5th grade education level and stream-of-consciousness style of writing, but I actually didn’t find that at all. I thought it was very well written and the style was easy to read, even though the subject was not.

My Rating: 3 stars


Rena's Promise: Best and Worst Books I Read in 2013

Rena’s Promise: Two Sisters in Auschwitz
Rena Kornreich Gelissen, Heather Dune Macadam

One of the best books I read all year. Wow. It’s the true story of two sisters who were on the very first transport to Auschwitz. At first I could not even remotely comprehend how they voluntarily got on the transport until I read her first-hand account. I cannot believe how strong Rena was. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom is a similar account of surviving concentration camps in WWII, and is on my list as a favorite, unforgettable, life-impacting book. Rena’s Promise is now right up there with it. If you enjoy this genre, I highly, highly recommend this book.

My Rating: 5 stars


Unbroken: Best and Worst Books I Read in 2013

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Laura Hillenbrand

Another incredible, incredible story about survival in WWII. This was a long book, but I couldn’t put it down. I kept turning page after page, wanting to find out what happens. I couldn’t believe what all Louie survived and how he kept going. It got a little technical about military aircraft carriers in one very small section, but the rest of the book kept me on the edge of my seat. I was fascinated reading about his life after years of imprisonment and wished that part went into more detail. Would highly recommend if you enjoy this genre.

My Rating: 5 stars

The Lost Symbol


The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon)
Dan Brown

The is Book 3 in The Da Vinci Code series. I like this series. They’re good for a twisty, turny, entertaining read. They weave a lot of history in with the story, so they’re interesting to read and learn a few things too. The chapters are short and there are several storylines going on at once, so there’s always something exciting happening. This particular book was a little weird for me, but mysterious enough to keep me reading to find out what happens in the end.

My Rating: 3 stars


Look Again: A List of the Best and Worst Books I Read in 2013

Look Again
Lisa Scottoline

A light, easy read. Very predictable. I remember enjoying this book, and it kept me interested, but it was totally forgettable. I remember two weeks later talking to a friend about recent books we’d read and enjoyed, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of this book or even what it was about. I knew I’d just read something I liked, but just two weeks later I remembered nothing about it.

 My Rating: 3 stars


The Fault in Our Stars: A List of the Best and Worst Books I Read in 2013

The Fault in Our Stars
John Green

This was a nice quick read. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t looove it. It didn’t have as much of an effect on me as I’ve heard it has had on others. I’m glad I read it to see what all the hype was about. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.

My Rating: 3

Code Name Verity


Code Name Verity
Elizabeth E. Wein

To be honest, this was one of the most painfully boring books I have ever read. I don’t know what made me keep going. Usually if a book is that bad, I’ll just stop reading. I guess I kept thinking it would get better. It didn’t. The “twist” at the end was so anticlimactic, I had to go back and re-read it just to make sure I didn’t miss it. I thought I’d like this book since I typically enjoy reading and learning about WWII, but unless you basically want to read the world’s most exhaustive dictionary about airplanes, skip this one. However, I can assure you that two weeks later I did not forget the name of the book or what it was about. I was still mad I wasted all that time reading it! I want those hours of my life back!

My Rating: 0 stars

What Alice Forgot


What Alice Forgot
Liane Moriarty

This was such a fun, interesting book! Alice is madly in love with her new husband and they are expecting their first child. The next thing she knows, she wakes up on the floor of the gym (she hates working out??!) and it’s 10 years later. She has three kids who she doesn’t know at all and she’s getting a divorce from her beloved husband. She doesn’t understand at all. That’s where the book starts. I flew through this book and when I got towards the end I stayed up all night reading it just to find out what happened. Couldn’t put it down.

My Rating: 4 stars


The Book Thief: A List of the Best and Worst Books I Read in 2013

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak

It took me twice to get through this book. The first time I got about halfway through, and I was bored, so I put it down and didn’t pick it back up. After hearing so many, many, many reviews of how good this book is (and given that I typically am drawn to this genre), I decided to give it another shot. It had been awhile since I’d read it the first time though, so I just decided to start all the way over. The second time I didn’t have any problem getting through it. Loved the story and especially loved the ending. We saw the movie over Christmas, and while they left out a lot and really toned the movie down, I loved it too. I had a huge emotional response to it, and one of those really good, freeing, stress-relieving cries. Although I think I freaked Kevin out a bit, lol! So glad I gave this book another chance.

My Rating: 4 stars


What Do  You Think Of This Best And Worst Books List?

So there you have it! I hope you found a new one that looks exciting. If you’ve read these, do you agree or disagree? What were the best and worst books you read in 2013? Do you have any recommendations to share?

Thanks so much for reading!! Can’t wait to hear your recommendations. :) Happy reading!

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58 Responses
  1. Jenni

    I loved this book list and read most of them!! Unbroken is my favorite book!! Do you have an updated list for the first half of 2014?? I like getting a rating on a book too… to know how “clean” it is.

  2. Florence

    I’ve heard so much about The Book Thief, I think I’m going to have to read it too. I would also highly recommend American Pastoral, if you haven’t read it.

  3. Jocelyn

    I LOVED Code Name Verity! I thought it was such a great read, and the twist at the end blew me away. It was also very sad :( I felt the same way about The Fault in our Stars, and The Book Thief.

    If you’re looking for a book with a cool twist I recommend The Other Typist.

  4. Alison at NOVA Frugal Family

    I am going to add Rena’s Promise to my list! I read so many books last year and the only one that I really didn’t like was the Thirteenth Tale. Everyone that I talked to that read it loved it but I couldn’t get into it but I kept reading, hoping it was going to get better. It didn’t :( This is the great list. Happy reading!!

  5. Chelsea

    I’ve come to your site for food inspiration for a few years but this is my first comment. I have read and love some of the books you recommended like Unbroken and The Book Thief. What really caught my eye is your description of Code Name Verity because I had the same experience, although I didn’t/couldn’t finish the book. I wanted to love it because several people had recommended it to me but the dictionary style of writing really got to me, too. Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to read some of your favorites.

  6. Susan Smith

    You should keep your Goodreads account current. It’s a great way to track all these books that people have recommended. It looks like your last update may have been when you started to read The Book Thief the first time. Haha :)
    I recommend Red Tent and The Glass Castle (as other’s have) and also The Memory Keepers Daughter. Very moving.
    Myself and some friends have a book club once a month and we take turns choosing the book and hosting the event. Lots of fun. We try to keep our Goodreads accounts current and enjoy searching the years best list on Goodreads. I have added a few of your titles to my to-read list.
    Happy Reading.

  7. Heather K Miller

    The Book Thief is one of my favorite books of all time! I also love Unbroken! Thanks for the book recommendations! I’m excited to get started on the list! I also am glad I read your review on Code Name Verity because I don’t want to waste my time and that was at the top of the list!

  8. Meg

    I just finished reading The Husband’s Secret (by the same author as What Alice Forgot) and it is REALLY good. Definitely kept me reading. Even after finding out what the secret is, there’s a lot more to the story.

  9. Jaimie

    Thank you for the list! I started reading The Fault in Our Stars too and got bored. I didn’t get very far with it. The book I really loved this year is called “World of Shell and Bone” by S.K. Falls. I definitely recommend it!!

  10. Shaina

    I think the key to you liking a book is a character-driven narrative, have historical roots or framework that it depends on, and not be too information heavy. I still think you should read Between Shades of Grey. It’s a quick read, WWII focused, but not on a part you usually hear about, and I think you’d like the characters and story. Add it to your list for this year.

  11. Stephanie

    I’m glad I found this post, one of my goals for 2014 is to read more. I’m pinning this so I can go through and read some of these.

  12. Julie C

    Love, love, love this post, Amanda! I am an avid reader and I will add your books to my to-do reading list. Since you are a fellow dog lover, I will give you my two favorite dog related books (both 5 stars).

    Finding Jack by Gareth Crocker

    Weekends with Daisy by Sharron Kahn Luttrell

    I hope you post your best/worst 2014 reads next year.

  13. Leslie W

    Love hearing/reading other people’s opinions about what they are reading. If there is ever a lull in conversation at a gathering I look someone in the eye & ask “are you a reader?”. If I get a blank look I move on. More often than not someone’s eyes light up & it’s on! I would like you to read my favorite book, The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein.I fully admit to being an emotional sap but would love to hear other’s opinions of this book. Thanks!

  14. Becky

    I want to read “Unbroken” also. I agree with April, the diary of Anne Frank was a wonderful book I could not put down and cried while reading it. Great book for the soul. I also agree with Patricia on the book “Under the Dome” by Stephen King….the book was so much better than the tv show plus very different and definitely a page turner. I am also reading Dave Ramsey’s book “Complete Guide to Money”. Thanks for this great topic to discuss.

  15. Becky

    I have always and still do read every Mary Higgins Clark books she writes but since she doesn’t write that many I found another author I am enjoying. His name is Harlan Coben. I have read 4 of his books so far in 2013. 2 were exceptional and complete page turners called “The Woods” & “6 Years”. Then the other 2 were slow for me “Just One Look” and “Stay Close”. I am currently reading Harlan Coben’s book “Hold Tight”. I want to read “What Alice Forgot”. I’m always up to try new authors but having you review the books first will help. I hate wasting my time reading boring books. Thanks for all your reviews.

  16. Kristel

    Just finished We Are Water by Wally Lamb. I didn’t want it to end!! Also enjoyed a The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian about the Armenian genocide. Not my favourite of his, but still a great read.

  17. Steph

    I just finished reading 3 by Lisa Patton: Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter, Yankee Doodle Dixie, and Southern as a Second Language. They should be read in that order. These were laugh out loud books and when I was done with the last one I was sad…I felt like my friends moved away!!!

  18. Susie Q

    I feel like I’ve met my kindred spirit when it comes to books. I also didn’t love “The Fault in our Stars.” I usually love books set during WWII too. And it took me two times too to read “The book Thief.” Haven’t seen the movie yet. I can’t wait to read “What Alice Forgot” and “unbroken.” I just finished “Heaven is for Real.” I’d give it a 3 on your scale. It’s a quick and easy read. Thanks for sharing these books.

  19. Kim G.

    Hi Amanda-

    Completely agree with you about Look Again- totally predictable. It’s almost like there was *too* many twists and turns, it just made it unrealistic. I was reading through some of the suggestions that others have given in the comments, and two mentioned that I LOVED are Gone Girl and Night Road. Both were SO good. Gone Girl is being made into a movie with Ben Affleck…so there’s that. ;)

  20. Tricia Richner

    I completely agree with you about Unbroken. That was the most memorable and haunting book I have ever read.

    Didn’t see Gone Girl or any of the 50 Shades on your list. . .while 50 might not be your thing, Gone Girl is well worth the time. Really really good.

  21. Patricia

    If you are a Stephen King fan, or even if you are not, Under The Dome is fantastic! The book is nothing like the TV series, and actually so much better. It is a very long book, just over 1000 pages, but I read it with my co-workers and we all loved it.

  22. Emily R.

    I also read The Fault In Our Stars and The Book Thief in 2013, and I pretty much agree with you on both! However, I think part of why The Book Thief appealed slightly more to me is that I listened to the audio book on Audible. The narrator was great and really helped set the tone and scene for me mentally. I actually started looking forward to my commute! (Then things got sad, so I was a little less excited.) :) The Fault In Our Stars was a tear-jerker, of course, but as you said, it didn’t hit me quite as hard as it did many others.

  23. Heidi Ferguson

    I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED UNBROKEN!! I couldn’t put it down and my husband who hates to read, took my advice and read it-he too loved it and said (just like I did) one of the best books I’ve EVER read. We made our 12 year old read it-he needed perspective of what REAL hero’s are. He said it was “awesome”. – 5+Stars

    Another book that impacted me in a similar way (I just love true stories) is:

    STOLEN LIVES by Malika Oufkir (it was released in 2002-so it’s older). It was an Oprah Book Club book. I count it as one of my all time favorites too. You will be gripped from the very beginning of the book and stay up all night reading just to read the story! 5+Stars

    Other books I read this year:
    The Light Between Oceans – OK, but not great. Boring at times. 2 stars

    A Hundred Summers- Really great beach read. Adorable Love story. Enjoyed it a lot – 4 stars

    The Aviator’s Wife – Really good too. Nice to see Ann Lindberg as her own person. An was enlighten about how strange/cold Charles was-3 stars

    Same Kind of Different As Me- Short but impacting read. True story, increased my compassion for the homeless and how just HOW MUCH you can change a life (and others) by the simple act of befriending someone that you normally would not. – 4 stars

    The Glass Castle-Wow, cannot believe some people are allowed to be parents. This book really made me SO GRATEFUL for the upbringing that I had. Made me love my parents even more than I already do. Made me realize that not everyone was blessed that way. Harsh to read sometimes and you wonder why someone would ever go back after being treated certain ways but you also realize the compassion she showed her parents was for her, not them. 4 stars

    Where’d You Go Bernadette: Super fun, hilarious, smart read. I read it on my kindle while on the Elliptical and had to remind myself not to laugh out loud sometimes (was at the gym). 4 Stars

    Redeeming Love: Don’t know why it took me so long to read it. I’m not normally a “Love Story” kind of person but this one is a classic. It weaves in God’s unrelenting love for his children and how it plays a huge part in our love for others. It’s based on the love story of Hosea and Gomer in the Bible. Loved it! 4 Stars

    Still LoLo: This is the book by Lauren Scruggs, the girl who walked into the plane propeller…not riveting but an easy read that shows how the love of family and God can get you through anything. She’s a lovely person and it shows her will to live and not just plainly! She gives it her all. 3 1/2 Stars

    Thanks Amanda for your reviews!! I’ve written a few down to get started on (going through chemo right now so reading lots is easy right now :-)

  24. Crystal

    Hi Amanda! I enjoyed hearing about what books you liked and didn’t. I also read What Alice Forgot. I liked it ok but found it to be very predictable. Are you on Goodreads? It’s a site that tracks what you’re reading, have read and want to read and more. Others can see this as well and if you liked a book or not. If anything, I like how it keeps track of books I want to read. I’m MissCrysM if you are on or ever sign up. :)

  25. Ashley

    Thank you so much for not liking Code Name Verity! I started reading it last because my sister-in-law gave it to me and within the first page I was so bored. I don’t like the writing style/tone and it’s just all over the place. I tried skipping through it to many random spots and it never got better.

  26. michelle

    Thank you for the recommendations I love getting them and a few on here you liked I haven’t read and will be buying. WWII recommendation I just read “Beasts in the Garden” and you may like that. I’d also recommend Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, couldn’t put it down. Tough topics but well written. Also, Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It a long one but every page is good!

  27. Tanny S.

    I AGREE! Unbroken was my best read of 2013! I recommend “A Long Way Gone” for 2014. Amazing memoir of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone in the 90’s.

  28. Lynne

    Thanks for the great post! I really enjoy reading, and it’s always good to get recommendations. I read “On the Island” and loved it. Have you checked out “Goodreads”? It’s a website for people who love to read. My favorite author is Nora Roberts – I’m currently reading her “In Death” series. Romantic suspense – my favorite genre. Read on and enjoy!

  29. Haley @ The Girly Girl Cooks

    Thanks for the info on the books you read last year! I’ve been looking for some new reads :) What Alice Forgot sounds like something I would thoroughly enjoy!

  30. Amy

    I laughed when I read your description of The Lost Symbol being “a little weird for” you…I felt the same way. Loved Brown’s other books, so my anticipation of this one made my disappointment so much worse!

  31. Karen

    Love reading book recs! Although I feel like most my reading is via blogs these days. :) One of the best books I’ve read (and it’s been years, but I still recommend) is City of Thieves by David Benoiff. Takes place during WWII as well and it’s a book you can’t put down! I started the Book Thief and dropped it too. I saw the movie advertise and have been hearing the hype. Your review makes me want to pick it back up again.

  32. April

    Love this list and will be looking for these books at my library soon! I love the Holocaust and WWII genre books, whether fictional or not. Ever since I read the fiction book Sarah’s Key and of course I read Ann Frank’s diary as a teenager too, I have been hooked on the stories from that time period. Also, my grandfather fought in WWII and can still recall many things that happened while he was overseas so that is part of why I find it so intriguing too.

  33. Kelly


    I just finished Code Name Verity myself – I actually liked it, because I enjoy espionage stories and was interested in the female characters, but I didn’t really like the ending much at all. If you like WWII books I just finished one that I liked a lot – The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by PS Duffy.

    I also just read Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys about a young Lithuanian girl and her family who get sucked into the Soviet Gulag system. It is listed as young adult historical fiction, but I think that the content is meant for a more mature audience. The imagery of what the family goes through is pretty brutal.

    I am looking forward to reading Looking for Me – Beth Hoffman’s latest. I loved Saving Ce Ce Honeycutt, and can’t wait for this one!

    Another I read recently that I found simply ho-hum was Already Home by Susan Mallery. It’s about a recently divorced woman who moves home to Georgetown TX to open a kitchen store. I liked the characters, but some of the plot was too predictable and a bit cheesy. Also, I don’t mind romance but like a “clean read” – there were some scenes of intimacy that I didn’t appreciate and had to skip over.

    I am also a big fan of Gene Stratton-Porter… she wrote about 100 years ago, but her characters are vivid and so real. Worth finding in a library or Google Books online. What’s funny is that I don’t typically like her characters at all when I first start reading a book – but their strong personalities eventually win me over. :)

    Thanks for starting a book clubbish conversation! I love to hear what others are enjoying.

    1. Mary Jane

      if you prefer “clean reads”, have you tried Charles Martin? Start with “The Mountain Between Us”…on my Top 10 Favorite Books list. It is riveting!! He has romance but no blushable scenes. :-)

    2. Katie @decoratemylife

      I agree! When I posted my favorite 2013 reads last week and Code Name Verity was on it! When I was in London this summer, there were posters everywhere for it so maybe that made it seem “cool”. I’m a total WWII geek though- also enjoyed “Rose Under Fire” by the same author. It has the same character, Maggie, in the other book and continues her story.

      Amanda, you posted several I haven’t heard of and I’m looking forward to trying out. Love the Hiding Place so I’m excited to read Rena’s Promise. Thanks for sharing!

  34. Beverly

    I agree with you about On The Island, What Alice Forgot and A Stolen Life. I personally loved The Fault In Our Stars, but I’m a big John Green fan. My recommendation for you is anything written by Jojo Moyes. I started with Me Before You, then read The Last Letter From Your Lover, and The Girl You Left Behind. She is an amazing author!!

  35. Stephanie @ The Good Stuff

    I didn’t particularly care for Code Name Verity either. I know so many people who love it and as I was reading I felt like I should be liking it more, but it just fell flat for me. I’m not sure why and it’s been awhile since I’ve read it. I gave it 3*s, which I think was fairly generous, but the premise was interesting at least and I found the writing to be decent. Glad I’m not alone in not loving it :)

    I added Rena’s Promise to my ‘to-be-read’ list. Thanks for the recommendation!

  36. Dawn

    Two books that I loved: Love You More by Lisa Gardner and Night Road by Kristin Hannah. Just an FYI, Night Road is a tear jerker. Have your tissues handy.

  37. LyndaS

    The Hiding Place is one of my favorite books.

    I did not realize you were into the genre. You might like The Zion Covenant books by Bodie Thoene. They were published around the early ’90’s.

    I enjoyed The Book Thief and Dan Brown’s book. I haven’t read the others, but it looks like there are about three that I now need to go and buy. There is nothing quite having a good book to read.

  38. Gladys

    Do you read actual books or do you read on a Kindle or iPad? I read a LOT of books in a year and although I have an ipad , I am considering a Kindle, because of its lighter weight . Since I read in bed, it seems the lighter weight of the Kindle would be much easier to handle. Just wondering how others are reading books these days.

    1. Amy

      Gladys…I SWORE I would never go digital…I have MOUNTAINS of books in my basement…but then I got a Kobo (similar to a Kindle) and I can’t go back!!!

  39. Dawn

    I have had the same problem with The Book Thief. I started it and couldn’t get very far into the story. I will have to give it another try!

  40. Jessica

    I LOVED On The Island! One of my favorites of 2012. A new follow up novella came out in 2013 called Uncharted. It’s like a secret untold story and you get to catch up on TJ & Anna’s life years later.

  41. Julia @ hungryandconfused

    I love historical fiction, especially about WWII, so I’m looking forward to reading some of your suggestions. I too enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars, but that’s mainly because I love Amsterdam and so that made it better to read. Like you, I liked it but didn’t love it.

  42. Tracy

    Thanks for the info! It was great seeing the ratings and the notes about what you liked and didn’t! The only book I have in common was the Lisa Scottoline book—I really liked it. I have a recommendation for you! “Fear Has a Name” by Creston Mapes. I’m hopeful he is busy writing more like this one! And, I would also recommend Harlan Coben and Jodi Picoult. I usually can’t put theirs down either.

    Michelle’s note about the Lee Child’s books is one I have heard before–I might have to look into those this year.

    Happy Reading!

  43. Heather5018

    I read the Call the Midwife Trilogy this summer. If you haven’t read it, I think you would love it. I learned so much about post-WWI England. Some of the (true) stories are horrifying, others are so amazing they are hard to be believe; the books are truly unforgettable.

  44. Michelle Ramsay

    Hi Amanda, you might like the Jake Reacher series of books written by Lee Child – they do follow a sequence so best to start at the first one. They don’t necessarily follow on, so if you read them out of sequence it is not a problem, but it just makes sense if you do.


    I must say that the Hiding Place is one of my favourite and had quite an effect on me.

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