2013: A Disappointing Year for Fiction?

In June I always start to compile a list of my favourite books of the year so far, but this time I’m struggling to come up with enough to make a list worth-while. So far I haven’t rated a single 2013 fiction release with 5 stars and the 4.5 star books are few and far between. There are lots of entertaining reads, but nothing seems to be pushing the boundaries. I haven’t read anything that has the potential to become a classic and I’ll remember very few a decade from now.

At this time of year I’m normally buried under a pile of books that might make the Booker longlist, but apart from All That Is by James Salter (which doesn’t really appeal to me anyway) the candidates are thin on the ground.  Where are all the outstanding books?

Things were better last year….

2012 was a fantastic year for fiction and by the half-way point I’d read a wonderful range of outstanding books. The good thing is that many of these are now being released in paperback, so you can now experience these amazing books more easily/cheaply than last year.

I especially recommend these four:

HeftTell the Wolves I'm HomeThe Street SweeperHHhH

I don’t have enough books to justify a full list, but tomorrow I’ll celebrate the books that have managed to capture my attention this year.

Have you noticed a similar downturn in the quality of new releases this year?

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  1. I read Heft and Tell the Wolves I’m Home (loved both), but now that you mentioned it. I haven’t had too many wows this year.

    Have u read …and the Mountains Echoed? – that is suppose to be very good.

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, No, I haven’t read Mountains Echoed yet. I have a copy and hope it lives up to the hype.

  2. I feel like I’ve just been in a terrible reading slump for about a year, and traveling fulltime definitely hasn’t helped it. That said, I have read a few books I really enjoyed this year, specifically Maggie O’Farrell’s newest book, and just finished a debut called The People in the Trees that was spectacular. Would highly recommend both!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I’ve never been bowled over by O’Farrell before so wasn’t that excited about trying her new one. I’m sure I will at some point, but I’ll wait until it appears at the library.

      The People in the Trees is new to me. It isn’t released in the UK until August, but I’ll keep an eye out for it now. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. David says:

    I do know what you mean, Jackie. It isn’t that I haven’t read any fantastic books this year (I have) but very few have been published during 2013. And it isn’t just British books either – I read a fair bit of Canadian fiction and although it is early in the year (most of their big hitters come out in August and September) I’ve been largely disappointed with those I have read, even books I’d been looking forward to like D.W. Wilson’s ‘Ballistics’.

    Of those books that HAVE come out this year, the stand-outs for me so far have been ‘The Lion Seeker’ by Kenneth Bonert (currently only available in Canada, though a US edition is due later in the year so hopefully a UK one will follow); ‘Benediction’ by Kent Haruf; ‘Fallen Land’ by Patrick Flanery, and ‘Little Raw Souls’, a collection of short stories by Steven Schwartz.

    Quite a few 4-star reads though: Jim Crace, Aminata Forna, Claire Messud, Jonathan Buckley, Melvyn Bragg, Kate Atkinson – I’d be happy to see any of those on the Booker longlist.

    1. Jackie says:

      David, Thanks for reminding me about Patrick Flanery. Your comment made me remember that I had a copy of Absolution sitting unread on my shelf. I picked it up last night and read the first 50 pages – I’m loving it! I can see that I might go and get his new one very soon :-) I also need to try Haruf. I have heard amazing things about ‘Benediction’ but I haven’t read the rest of the trilogy so need to sort that out soon too.

      Thanks for the other recommendations. I may well get to them in the run up to the Booker.

      1. David says:

        Kent Haruf is a wonderful writer. Don’t worry about the ‘trilogy’ thing – that’s just the way Picador are marketing them (Knopf in the US don’t call it a trilogy). ‘Eventide’ was a direct sequel to ‘Plainsong’ but ‘Benediction’ stands on its own very easily. All five of his books are about the same Colorado town – if you read them in order you get a picture of its ups an downs from the 1970s to the present day, but there’s nothing to stop you just diving in with ‘Benediction’.

        1. Jackie says:

          David, Thanks for letting me know. I do like reading things in order, but I’ll see which I can find in the library system first.

  4. I’ve been reading less literary fiction and more backlist titles, so I’m totally out of the loop. But I do look forward to seeing what you’ve come up with for this year, even if it’s a shorter-than-usual list.

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, I’ve just posted the list. I hope you find something of interest.

  5. Sandy says:

    I have noticed the same thing, even though I don’t always read the new new books. I think also that after awhile I start to get more lenient with my ratings, which isn’t good! I loved Heft, and have HHhH (thanks to you!) and just ordered Tell the Wolves I’m Home on audio.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, It is great to hear that you’ve ordered ‘Tell the Wolves’ I think you’ll love it! *fingerscrossed*

  6. stujallen says:

    yes nothing blown my socks of so far this year ,saying that last year in translation was a very strong year ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, Yes, last year was very strong. It is good to know I’m not alone in my thoughts on this year.

  7. Emma says:

    Thank goodness it’s not just me! I feel exactly the same as you. I remember reading some amazing books last year, even in January. But this year nothing has really made me go ‘wow!’ I’m taking it as an opportunity to read lot of older books I’ve been meaning to read for ages which I’m almost certain I’ll love! But yes it does beg the question as to why there is nothing truly outstanding coming out this year. :( sad times!

    1. Jackie says:

      Emma, It is good to know I’m not the only one to have noticed it. Hopefully there will be a few gems released later in the year.

  8. I’ve just read Fallen Land by Patrick Flanery and really enjoyed it – so much more than James Salter which fell flat for me. I really like the Jim Crace novel too.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I’m hearing that the James Salter is loved by men and doesn’t seem to work for women. I’m sure I’ll try it at some point, but I’m not expecting too much. Glad you enjoyed the Flanery – I think I’m becoming a big fan!

      1. The Salter was definitely a man’s novel – nuff said I think. I must now read ‘Absolution’ by Flanery, doing it in the wrong order.

  9. Hm. Maybe everything good will appear in the second half of the year? I feel like 2013 is an insanely good year for fiction, but that’s partly because so many of my best-beloved authors are releasing new books. Have you read Americanah yet? I just finished it and adoooooored it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I haven’t tried Americanah yet, but I hadn’t heard anything about it until now. I was expecting loads of amazing reviews to appear on its publication, but that hasn’t been the case so I was a bit worried. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

  10. Charlie says:

    For ease I looked at my reading list for this year so far, comparing books I’ve read that have been released this year and last year and I’d say both are about the same but 2012 was slightly better. That could all change in the next 6 months though!

  11. I know exactly what you mean! I feel the same to an extent. When I look at those four books you’ve reminded us of from 2012, which you know I loved very much too, I can’t say I’ve had that same feeling this year.


  1. The Best Books of 2013…so far – Farm Lane Books Blog

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