Favorite books of 2013

The Oklahoman's reviewers choose their favorite books of 2013.
by Ken Raymond Published: December 28, 2013
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Hundreds of thousands of books — perhaps even as many as a million — are

published each year in the U.S., according to Forbes magazine. Of those, perhaps half

are self-published, either by authors doing all the work themselves or by hiring a vanity press.

Most of the books, Forbes notes, sell less than 250 copies.

These numbers aren't meant to discourage hopeful authors. Instead they highlight the lunacy of trying to compile a top 10 list of the year's best books. Sure, you can figure out which sold the most copies and which stayed longest on the best-seller lists, but those numbers can be manipulated. And since no one read a million books this year, who's to say that a fantastic gem didn't go unnoticed?

We're not going to try to name the best books of 2013 for you. That'd be sheer hubris. Below, The Oklahoman's reviewers present some of their favorite books of the year, with a little commentary on what made those books so memorable.

Happy new year!

“The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon” by Kevin Fedarko (Scribner, 432 pages, in stores).

Fedarko's first book is a masterpiece of literary nonfiction, a method of writing that uses the techniques of novelists and short story writers to tell true stories in a compelling manner. Think “Into Thin Air” or “The Perfect Storm.” Fedarko spent years as an editor at Outside magazine, working with some of the best writers in the world; with “The Emerald Mile,” he has joined them as a thoughtful, thorough researcher and superb storyteller. The book, which chronicles a massive flood that sent an unprecedented volume of water racing through the Grand Canyon, has made some of the year's best lists, although it went largely overlooked. Fedarko's tale ostensibly focuses on the three rivermen who rode the maelstrom in a fragile wooden dory and emerged alive and with a speed record, but it's also the story of the canyon itself, as well as the river and the dam and the men and women, scientists and scoundrels who have made their lives there.

Ken Raymond, Book Editor

“The Letters of Ernest

Hemingway, Volume 2: 1923-1925” edited by Sandra

Spanier, et. al. (Cambridge University Press, 604 pages, in stores).

Most who have ever aspired to be writers or artists, including myself, dream of living through a period like Hemingway's Paris Years. Hemingway's letters provide a view of the real person behind his legend in one of the most fascinating periods of an extraordinary life.

Nate Billings, Staff Writer

“Dallas 1963” by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis (Twelve, 384 pages, in stores) and “The Hanging of Samuel Ash” by Sheldon Russell (Minotaur, 312 pages, in stores).

Nonfiction: “Dallas 1963” portrays much of the Dallas power structure as racist in the years leading up to President John F. Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. The book is a powerful account of life in the Texas city, which wanted to be seen as sophisticated and progressive despite what went on behind the scenes.

Fiction: “The Hanging of Samuel Ash” is part of author Sheldon Russell's Hook Runyon mystery series. Russell is gaining fame from his perch in northwestern Oklahoma, and one gets the feeling the best is yet to come.

Dennie Hall, for The Oklahoman

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow, 192 pages, in stores).

Again Neil Gaiman has created a world both creepy and captivating. The narrator returns to the town where he grew up to attend a funeral and ends up on a mystical adventure through his own memories. Gaiman, who at times can be too dense for bedtime reading, offers up a tale here that will make its way into readers' dreams — and nightmares. Gaiman set out to write “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” as a short story. We, as readers, are very lucky he changed his plan.

Amy Raymond, Staff Writer

“The Romanov Cross” by Robert Masello (Bantam, 512 pages, in stores).

Masello's book is a medical thriller, historical novel and ghost story all in one. The story revisits the rise of Rasputin, the downfall of the Romanov family and the mystery surrounding the fate of Anastasia. The supernatural twist made it a fascinating read.

Betty Lytle, for The Oklahoman


by Ken Raymond
Book Editor
Ken Raymond is the book editor. He joined The Oklahoman in 1999. He has won dozens of state, regional and national writing awards. Three times he has been named the state's "overall best" writer by the Society of Professional Journalists. In...
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