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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?

24 replies on “2013: A Disappointing Year for Fiction?”

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!

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!

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.

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.

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’.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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!

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!

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