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From the Editor
The Best Books of the Coming Year
It used to be that we'd wait until the year actually ended before we announced the best books of the year. Even though we read the books early, waiting to announce the winners is simply good manners—if we announce the best books of 2013 before the end of 2013, it could give the impression that we aren't considering all the books. Readers might believe a brilliant book that didn't go on sale until New Year's Eve hadn't been considered.
But, as Christmas decorations go up the day after Halloween, and Black Friday sales start in the waning hours of Wednesday, our society offers ample proof that we're short on patience. We want what we want when we want it, and if it's given to us even earlier, we treat that happy surprise as a sell-by date that had better be beaten next time around.
You'll note that many of our competitors have been announcing their best-of lists for weeks now, with the earliest ones arriving even before Thanksgiving rush. Well, we don't want to be left out. And since it's too late to embarrass the competition by announcing on Halloween, we're going to go them one better and skip 2013 entirely. That's right, we're going to announce the BEST BOOKS OF 2014. Not only are we talking about books we haven't read yet—we're talking about books that haven't even been published yet. You can't beat that for early!
Before you click send on that irate e-mail, let me just say this: April Fool's. Yes, we're doing that early, too.
Booklist Top of the List, 2013
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
By Reza Aslan
"Aslan brings a fine popular style, shorn of all jargon, to bear on the presentation of Jesus of Nazareth as only a man. What's more, as he pares the supernatural or divine away from Jesus, he refrains from deriding it. . . . You don't have to lose your religion to learn much that's vitally germane to its history from this absorbing, reader-friendly book." —Ray Olson, Booklist, August 2013
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
By Bob Shacochis
"National Book Award winner Shacochis (Easy in the Islands) delivers his first novel in 20 years, a beautifully written, Norman Mailer–like (see Harlot's Ghost) treatise on international politics, secret wars, espionage, and terrorism. . . . A brilliant book with echoes of Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, and John le Carré." —John Mort, Booklist, August 2013
Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker's Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty
By Russell Freedman
"Freedman traces Franklin's life and work, showing how a mischievous boy became a rebellious apprentice, then a successful colonial printer, and finally an influential figure in the world and a pivotal figure in his nation's founding. . . . He writes perceptively about every stage of Franklin's life, weaving in lively anecdotes as well as quotes from Franklin's Autobiography and other writings. . . . Handsomely designed, solidly researched, and beautifully written." —Carolyn Phelan, Booklist, May 1, 2013
Written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang
Written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang
"In this two-book set about the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the nineteenth century in China, Yang sets loose twin voices in harmony and dissonance from opposite sides of the conflict. . . . Yang is in superb form here, arranging numerous touch points of ideological complexity and deeply plumbing his characters' points of view. . . . A poignant powerhouse work of historical fiction." —Ian Chipman, Booklist, August 2013
Youth Picture Book
Written and illustrated by Brian Floca
"Floca follows up the acclaimed Moonshot with this ebullient, breathtaking look at a family's 1869 journey from Omaha to Sacramento via the newly completed Transcontinental Railroad. . . . It's impossible to turn a page without learning something, but it's the multiple wow moments that will knock readers from their chairs." —Daniel Kraus, Booklist, July 2013
American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection
Edited by Spencer C. Tucker and others
"This work provides a broad, multidisciplinary examination of the time period and fulfills the aim of being a 'definitive' set. Noted historian Tucker and his editorial team have assembled nearly 3,000 entries as well as a collection of 172 primary
documents. . . . A remarkably thorough yet easy-to-digest encyclopedia." —Rebecca Vnuk, Booklist, September 1, 2013
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
By Daniel James Brown; read by Edward Herrmann
"You don't have to be interested in collegiate rowing to enjoy this compelling account of the 'rough-and-tumble country boys' from the University of Washington who beat Germany to win the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics. . . . Herrmann's reading shines. Moving at a steady pace and speaking in sonorous, commanding tones, he immerses us in the well-written text." —Sue-Ellen Beauregard, Booklist, September 1, 2013
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
By Holly Black; read by Christine Lakin
"The narration projects the evil tones emitted by many of the vampires as well as their seductive, entrapping silkiness with words. . . . Lakin's reading greatly enhances this tale, which is at once elegant and eerie, creepy and exhilarating. If you've been avoiding vampire tales, don't ignore this one—listen and be enthralled." —Pam Spencer Holley, Booklist, December 15, 2013
Booklist's Editor's Choice
In addition to the prestige implicit in being so named, Editors' Choice titles also form the pool, along with RUSA CODES Notable Books lists, for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. The Carnegie shortlist will be published this April, and the winners (one for fiction, one for nonfiction) will be announced this June at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas.
For our full list of editors' choice titles, hyperlinked to their Booklist reviews, please follow the links below.
Adult Books, 2013
Adult Books for Young Adults, 2013
Books for Youth, 2013
Reference Sources, 2013
Audio for Adults, 2013
Audio for Youth, 2013
Spotlight on Crafts and Gardening
Plantiful: Start Small, Grow Big with 150 Plants That Spread, Self-Sow, and Overwinter
By Kristin Green
Ah, the agony of the impatient gardener. The old adage, first year they sleep, second year they creep, frustrates those who can't wait for the third year before seeing their plants leaping in botanical euphoria.
A Garden of Marvels: The Discovery That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of the Way Plants Work
By Ruth Kassinger
Whether debunking the myth of the "vegetable lamb" borametz plant or cooing over the rippling lettuce-like appearance of the green sea slug, Kassinger proves that it truly is a jungle out there.
Top 10 Crafts and Gardening Books: 2013
That crafts and gardening books belong in the same spotlight will become evident as readers pick up and enjoy the following crafts and gardening titles, all reviewed in Booklist between December 15, 2012, and December 1, 2013.
Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales
By Marta McDowell
Part of the charm and eye-delighting intricacy of Beatrix Potter's beloved children's books about such endearing and enduring characters as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck are the precisely and vitally rendered illustrations of the English gardens, farms, and landscapes her characters so actively occupy.
Core Collection: Writers in the Garden
By Donna Seaman
Gardening books come in two basic varieties. Practical how-to guides offer instructions for the many phases of the demanding horticultural process from conception to planting to tending.
Adventures in Yarn Farming: Four Seasons on a New England Fiber Farm
By Barbara Parry
Visually as well as informatively inviting, Barry's story of her New England farm, particularly how she produces yarn for crafters, will absorb readers regardless of their previous interest in or even exposure to the nearly magical world of yarn preparation.
Cool Flexagon Art
By Anders Hanson and Elissa Mann
If origami swans aren't cutting it any longer, expand your mind with the movable, geometrical designs presented in this entry in the Cool Art with Math & Science series.
Top 10 Crafts and Gardening Books for Youth: 2013
Mix found treasures with bits of yarn, thread, flowers, and a quantity of seeds, and you'll have books that celebrate hobbies, crafts, and gardening.
By Ruth Owen
"Upcycling"—making wearable art with items that were bound for the trashcan—has become increasingly trendy, and it is a fun way to hone one's crafting skills.