The Best Music of 2013

Looking for the best music of 2013? Look no further than these staff recommendations!

Ron’s picks
What do we know about Elvis Costello, one of my favorite performers for nearly 35 years?

  • He is not a famous ice skater (that would be Elvis Stojko) nor the King of Rock and Roll (Elvis Presley).
  • He has recorded more than 20 albums in a wide range of styles.
  • While primarily known as a songwriter, he is also an amazing vocalist and a pretty fair guitarist.

Wise up GhostOver the years EC has recorded albums with The Attractions, The Impostors, and as a solo artist. His latest album, Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs, teams Elvis with well-known hip-hop band The Roots in a potentially radical genre- bending mixture. The resulting songs have a definite Costello flavor, but with a hint of funk that is absent from his catalog. It’s a unique blend, shored up by career-best vocals. Check this out, along with a few of my other faves of 2013:

Album covers Ron

Zac’s picks
The words “classical music” make me cringe. The term comes off as stuffy, and it reeks of dead male composers’ works that have been sewn into the background of all the films and television programs I’ve seen since I was a kid. However, under the right circumstances, I have enjoyed traditional classical music, but only to a point. Let’s just say it would be disingenuous for me to claim I’ve ever fired up Beethoven or Copland on my smartphone or home stereo. Despite my general “meh” attitude to the classical genre, Sarah Neufeld’s Hero Brother somehow crept its way into my earbuds this year.

Hero BrotherI was previously familiar with Neufeld via her affiliation with Arcade Fire, a band you can find on my “recently played” list. While the Arcade Fire connection compelled me to give Hero Brother a try, it’s the album’s unique sound engineering that makes the title stand out and kept me coming back. Recorded in parking lots, caves, and other unique locations, the album has a self-contradicting, haunting sound. The recording comes off with the lo-fi feel of older Black Keys albums while retaining clarity present in the production of Arcade Fire’s newer works. The end result is a well-polished rough-cut album worthy of a listen by classical music buffs and naysayers alike.

Other Bests of 2013:

Album covers Zac


Lisa’s picks
Sing to the moon
My appreciation for this album probably has as much to do with timing as it does with overall sound. A couple days ago I came across the NPR staff’s 50 favorite albums of 2013 and I decided to do some listening (you’ll see more of their picks on my list). My attention was immediately grabbed by the featured track from Laura Mvula’s debut album, Sing to the Moon, “Green Garden”. Strong vocals, toe-tapping beat, and massive amounts of sound; what more could I ask for? Thankfully the album was on the shelves at the EPL, so I wasted no time in discovering that the rest of the album had more of the same to offer.

If my brain was Pandora, and I clicked the ‘Why this track?’ feature for the track listing for Sing to the Moon, I think it would tell me the following:

“We chose this entire album because you love alternative music with orchestral accompaniment (see Bjork – Homogenic, and Portishead – Roseland NYC Live albums); really enjoy vocalists with a unique sound and deeper register such as Lauryn Hill, Bebel Gilberto, and Carmen McRae; and on a subliminal level you’ve been craving music that sounds vaguely-Christmassy that isn’t Christmas music.”

OK, that last reason sounds odd, but it’s undeniably something that I find amusing about this album. In a way the chimes, bells, and ethereal backup singing in Mvula’s tracks evoke the same feeling of wonder and joy that Christmas music can evoke, yet they don’t share the same baggage that overplayed seasonal music can carry. All that being said, this album fills a niche left open by my annual boycott of Christmas music stations, and will continue to sound good to me throughout the year.

Other 2013 favorites:

Album covers Lisa


Carol’s picks
Daft Punk
I’ve been in love with Daft Punk for almost 20 years. In that time they have created a number of songs that to this day still float through my mind on a random basis. Right at this moment, for instance, I’m tapping my toes to “Around the World.” This year the electronic duo created a new album, Random Access Memories, which has more of an R&B/pop feel to it. Dedicated Daft Punk fans: do not despair! This actually works out pretty well. They went a little more mainstream and as a result it’s more likely you will hear them on the radio, on TV, or out in public. Don’t be a music snob. Embrace your new musical brothers and sisters as they get on board the Daft Punk bandwagon. And if their popularity eventually wanes, it’ll leave more for you and me.

Because one good thing deserves another, I thought I should mention another great album that “dropped” this year, as the kids say. Capital Cities released In a Tidal Wave of Mystery, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. The biggest hit so far has definitely been “Safe and Sound,” whose lyrics contain the album title. But look past the pop charts and feast your ears on guitar that harkens back to the previously mentioned R&B-style Daft Punk. “Kangaroo Court” is catchy enough to make anyone an instant fan, and keep you moving through a workout or just cooking dinner. My favorite, though, has got to be “Farrah Fawcett Hair” for this lyric alone:

I like it when it rains at night and I’m curled up in bed with a good book.

Other CDs I’ve loved so much I’ve purchased them (and listened to them nonstop) in 2013:

Album covers Carol

Stay tuned (get it, tuned?) for the best music of 2014, coming to your bandwidth soon!

Best of 2013: Audiovisual

We end our best of 2013 list with our picks for the best films, television series and music. So much to see and hear, so little time.

Feature Films:

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Seven Psychopaths 
Marty is a struggling screenwriter who wants nothing more than to finish his script. Instead, he becomes entangled with the Los Angeles gangster underworld when his odd, but well-meaning friends kidnap a volatile gangster’s shih tzu.

McDonagh delivers an edgy, funny screenplay that deals with serious issues like creativity, fantasy vs. reality, and does so with a terrific cast.  – Alan

Gimme the Loot
Malcolm and Sofia are the most determined teenage graffiti writers in the Bronx. But when a rival gang buffs their latest masterpiece, they hatch a plan to get their revenge by planning the ultimate graffiti tag, to bomb the New York Mets’ home run apple.

An endearingly raw debut film depicting the lives of urban youth who happen to be graffiti bombers. – Kate

If I Were You
After Madelyn and Lucy meet by chance, they make a pact to fix their unhappy lives: they will only do what the other one says and ignore their own instincts. But Madelyn has a secret.

Marcia Gay Harden is great in the lead role; it’s a perfectly balanced dramedy of errors. – Kate

The Kid with a Bike
Twelve-year-old Cyril is living in a group home but refuses to believe he has been rejected by his single father. He spends his days frantically trying to reach the man, over the phone or on his beloved bicycle. In French with English subtitles.

Full of heartbreaking betrayals and unexpected grace – Kate via ifcfilms.com

Television Series:

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Luther Season 3
A twisted fetishist is targeting young women in London. As Luther is called to another case, will the killer escape his grips? Luther faces an even bigger threat as members of his own team will stop at nothing to bring him down.

The eagerly anticipated third mini-series of the thriller/detective/murder mystery Luther is gruesome at times, but this quality of entertainment television programming is not to be missed. – Kate

The Fall Series 1
In the five-part drama series made and set in Northern Ireland, Gillian Anderson stars as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson who is brought in from the London Metropolitan Police to help catch the killer when a murder in Belfast remains unsolved.

The stereotypical role of the female detective gets turned on its head while a thriller of a story unfolds. – Kate

Documentaries:

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Venus & Serena
An unfiltered look into the remarkable lives of the greatest sister-act professional tennis has ever seen. With unprecedented access, the film tells the inspiring story of how these two women, against all odds, but with the help of visionary parents, made it to the top.

Gives us insight into Venus and Serena’s fascinating relationship as sisters and as competitors, how they became the pro tennis powerhouses they are, and what their lives are like now. – Kate

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
A stunning documentary about the life of indigenous people living in the heart of the Siberian Taiga. Deep in the wilderness, far away from civilization, 300 people inhabit the small village of Bakhtia at the river Yenisei. There are only two ways to reach this outpost: by helicopter or boat.

A look at a centuries-unchanged culture – an incredibly difficult lifestyle, one that is truly astounding and completely foreign to most of us. – Kate

The Whale: the true story of Luna
The Whale tells the remarkable true story of a young, wild killer whale (an Orca) nicknamed Luna, who lost contact with his family on the coast of British Columbia and became famous around the world when he tried to make friends with human beings.

This documentary stands out among the relative many recent releases about killer whales. – Kate

Saving Face
Every year, hundreds of people are attacked with acid in Pakistan. The majority of these are women, who are left physically and emotionally scarred. Saving Face tells the stories of two acid-attack survivors. The film also follows plastic surgeon Dr. Mohammad Jawad, who put his London practice on hold to return to his home country to help acid victims.

A stark reminder of the atrocities committed against women in Pakistan. –Kate

The Gatekeepers
A documentary featuring interviews with all surviving former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency whose activities and membership are closely held state secrets.

The history of Shin Bet is more fascinating than you might think; it’s a heady film, but worth it. – Kate

Music:

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Reflektor  |  Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire follows up their acclaimed and Grammy-winning album, The Suburbs, with one of the most buzzed-about albums of 2013.

It sounds like an ‘another Arcade Fire album’ without feeling cookie-cutter. It doesn’t break new ground for the band, and in this case, that’s a good thing. – Zac

The Very Best of the Pogues  |  The Pogues
The Pogues had a stellar career, spinning tunes that combined elements of traditional Celtic music with maximum rock and roll.

Their songs have a jaunty piratey air, bringing a soulpatch of happiness to my days. – Ron

Hesitation Marks  |  Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor has always been adept at bringing in new styles and advancements in electronic music production; his hard work pays off in this album.

All the dark, grimy, oddly-dancy cuts you’d expect from a Nine Inch Nails release, made addictive by Trent Reznor’s flawless production. Listen to this loud, preferably with some really good headphones. – Lisa

Best of 2013: Young Adult

There is no denying that young adult books are one of the most popular genres in publishing today. Find out why with this list of our staff’s picks for the best of 2013.

Fiction:

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Etiquette & Espionage  |  Gail Carriger
In an alternate England of 1851, spirited 14-year-old Sophronia is enrolled in a finishing school where, she is surprised to learn, lessons include not only the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also diversion, deceit, and espionage.

Strong female characters, spies, steampunk, thwarted parents.  What more could one ask for in a read? – Ron

The Nightmare Affair  |  Mindee Arnett
Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for “magickind,” 16-year-old Destiny Everhart feeds on the dreams of others, working with a handsome human student to find a killer.

The first book in an addictive new series, this book combines some of my favorite paranormal elements (dreams and magic) and gets under your skin. I can’t wait for the next book in the series (next year—hopefully)! – Carol

Born of Illusion  |  Teri J. Brown
Set in 1920s New York City, this is the story of budding magician Anna Van Housen, who has spent her whole life playing sidekick to her faux-medium mother–and trying to hide the fact the she actually possesses the very abilities her mother fakes.

Talking to ghosts. Harry Houdini. Early 20th-century obsession with the occult. What’s not to love? – Carol

Also Known As  |  Robin Benway
As the active-duty daughter of international spies, 16-year-old safecracker Maggie Silver never attended high school. When she and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, she is introduced to cliques, school lunches and dating.

Who didn’t dream of being a spy when they were a teen? Maggie is the kind of girl I always wanted to be: smart and quick on her feet. Oh, and she can pick locks like no one’s business. – Carol

Non-Fiction:

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100 Questions You’d Never Ask Your Parents : Straight Answers to Teens’ Questions About Sex, Sexuality, and Health  |  Elisabeth Henderson
A guide for teens about sex and related topics draws on the expertise of a psychologist and an OB/GYN to offer answers to questions on a wide range of subjects that teenagers may be reluctant to discuss with adults.

The questions are compiled from the author’s experience as a middle-school sex-education teacher and are answered frankly and accurately. – Theresa

A Girl’s Guide to Fitting in Fitness  |  Erin Whitehead and Jennipher Walters
Presents a fitness plan for teenage girls, covering exercise, relaxation, and diet, emphasizing how to incorporate physical fitness into a busy schedule.

Helpful illustrations for all of the workouts and quotes from teens about how they manage to fit fitness in offer encouragement to take a realistic approach to a more healthy lifestyle for busy teens. – Theresa

Doctor Who : Character Encyclopedia   |   Jason Loborik
Meet all the most important characters from the entire history of Doctor Who, including every Doctor and companion. Packed with fascinating facts and statistics for characters from the Abzorbaloff to the Zygons.

Colorful cut-out poses and stunning stills from the program invite browsing. – Theresa

DIY Nail Art: 75 Creative Nail Art Designs  |  Catherine Rodgers
Catherine Rodgers, creator of the popular nail art YouTube Channel Totally Cool Nails, shares her secrets in DIY Nail Art. Packed with easy-to-follow instructions and helpful tips for recreating Catherine’s stunning looks, you can create one-of-a-kind nail art designs without ever stepping inside a nail salon.

Add the basic tools she suggests and some colorful polish to make a gift basket for a favorite teen. – Theresa

Best of 2013: For the Kids

Today we explore all the great picture books, fiction, how-to and much more in our list of the best books for children in 2013. Cats work construction? Who knew?

Children’s Fiction:

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That is not a Good Idea!  |  Mo Willems
A surprising lesson about the importance of listening to one’s inner gosling ensues when a very hungry fox issues a dinner invitation to a very plump goose.

This is another genius picture book from one of my favorite authors. Told in the format of an old silent movie with villains and innocent damsels, this story builds suspense and ends with a surprise. Great for storytimes! – Andrea

Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses  |  James Dean
Pete the cat is feeling glum, and a friend cheers him by giving him a pair of “magic” sunglasses that help him transform his world. A grouchy squirrel, an upside-down turtle, and a grumpy alligator want the glasses too.

Expressive paintings and lots of action make this a story that will help young children understand their own emotions. – Esta

Not Your Typical Dragon  |  Dan Bar-el
A young dragon tries to breathe out flames, but instead snorts out whipped cream, party streamers, and other hilarious things.  Other dragons are upset, but a knight who is also an oddball becomes his good friend.

Hilarious illustrations and a playful yet comforting story about being different. – Esta

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The Long, Long Line  |  Tomoko Ohmura
A very long line of 50 animals is waiting anxiously and asking “What’s this line for?” It’s a wild and wacky roller coaster ride that they all want to try, with hilarious results.

The bold graphics invite kids to count, identify the animals, and talk about the actions that they see. Great for developing a young child’s pre-math skills! – Esta

Llama Llama and the Bully Goat  |  Anna Dewdney
Gilroy Goat bullies others in school — teasing, kicking sand, snatching toys.  Little Llama dares to speak back. He shows the others how to “walk away and tell someone.”  Then the compassionate teacher leads Gilroy into learning how to be a friend.

This gentle story helps young children understand that bullying often derives from the bully’s own unhappiness. This is also a comforting story focused on caring about others’ feelings.– Esta

Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow  |  David Soman
A brave girl in red-spotted boots and ladybug costume explores the outdoors after a snowstorm.  She and her dog Bingo get stuck, build snow creatures, and explore the magic of deep snow.

This daring, spunky little girl always shows her spirit of adventure!  This is the latest in the delightful “Ladybug Girl” series of books. – Esta

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The Snatchabook  |  Helen Docherty
Young animals are reading or listening to stories at bedtime when a little creature called the “Snatchabook” sneaks in and steals the books…but why? He has no-one to read to him!  Brave rabbit figures out a delightful solution to the problem!

Lively rhyme and playful illustrations give this book great appeal.  It’s a sweet and reassuring story about the power and joy of reading. – Esta

Baby Bear Counts One |  Ashley Woolf
A young bear watches all the animals around him prepare for winter, and then sees his first snow.

This author/illustrator’s artwork is superb and dramatic, and young children will thrill as they find and count hidden details and end with snowflakes “too many to count.” – Esta

Construction Kitties  |  Judy Goodwin-Sturges
A lively crew of cats wearing their hard-hats work together with a dump truck, excavator, backhoe and other heavy trucks at a construction site.

Young children will enjoy the action as they see how these machines work.  The cats stop for their favorite lunch: sardines and milk. – Esta

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library  |  Chris Grabenstein
Twelve-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero (the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello), with other students but finds that come morning he must work with friends to solve puzzles in order to escape.

As an adult who thinks an awful lot like a 12-year-old, I found this book a hilarious adventure through one of my most favorite institutions: a public library. A “Ready Player One” for the middle-school crowd. – Carol

Children’s Non-Fiction:

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Think Again! : False Facts Attacked, Errors Exploded, Myths Busted  |  Clive Gifford
Organized into five broadly themed sections the human body, the animal world, science, history, and popular culture this book tackles commonly held and commonly repeated mistaken beliefs head-on. Each falsehood is debunked in straightforward and factual explanations grounded in real scientific research, incorporating discussions of why the myth persists.

Colorful illustrations and tons of fascinating information.  You can open to any page and learn something new. – Theresa

The Big Book of Crafts & Activities  |   James Mitchem, editor 
This book is packed with crafts, recipes, games and activities for children who want to get creative and try new things-from growing tasty fruit and vegetables to customizing your furniture.

This book is full of crafts and activities that are fun and don’t require specialized materials or equipment. – Theresa

Myths Busted! Just When You Thought You Knew What You Knew– |  Emily Krieger 
From the origins of fortune cookies to alligators living in the sewers of New York City, this book gives kids the tools to break and bust wild and wacky myths from around the world.

More than 100 ‘myths’ are debunked, first with a suggestion of how they came to be believed and then with the science that disproves them. – Theresa

Star Wars: Science Fair Book  |  Samantha Margles
Presents thirty step-by-step instructions for science projects and experiments based on elements from the “Star Wars” film series, including how to create crystals, make a hydrometer, and move objects with “the force.”

An engaging concept to encourage young scientists with all the tips needed to make a great science fair project. – Theresa

Best of 2013: Just the Facts (Non-Fiction)

We continue our best of 2013 series of posts today with our favorites in Non-Fiction. Enjoy these books concerning history, science, humor, politics, and much more.

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Eminent Hipsters  |  Donald Fagen
The musician, songwriter, and cofounder of Steely Dan reveals the cultural figures and currents that shaped his artistic sensibility, as well as offering a look at his college days and a hilarious account of life on the road.

Covering everything from Jean Shepherd to jazz concerts to his own tour diary, Fagen writes with a wicked intelligence and wit. – Alan

The Boys in the Boat  |  Daniel James Brown
Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans.

This is a fantastic story of everyday fellows from the pacific northwest who overcame many strikes against them to prevail and win gold at the 1936 Olympics. – Leslie

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal  |  Mary Roach
In her trademark style, Mary Roach investigates the beginning, and end, of our food, addressing such questions as why crunchy food is so appealing, how much we can eat before our stomachs burst, and whether constipation killed Elvis.

This book is not only informative, but also really funny in parts. – Leslie

One Summer:  America, 1927  |  Bill Bryson
Bryson examines closely the events and personalities of the summer of 1927 when America’s story was one of brawling adventure, reckless optimism and delirious energy.

Bryson is always entertaining and informative and this book is up there with his best. – Leslie

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Humans of New York  |  Brandon Stanton
In the summer of 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton set out on an ambitious project: to single-handedly create a photographic census of New York City. Armed with his camera, he began crisscrossing the city, covering thousands of miles on foot, all in his attempt to capture ordinary New Yorkers in the most extraordinary of moments

If you’re a fan of the blog, you will love this collection. – Leslie

I Am Malala  |  Malala Yousafzai
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday October 9, 2012, she almost paid the ultimate price.

This is an inspirational book written by an inspirational young woman. – Leslie

The Faithful Executioner  |   Joel F. Harrington
Based on the journal of Frantz Schmidt, a Nuremburg executioner who died in the early seventeenth century, this endlessly fascinating book explores not just the life of a professional killer but also the times in which he lived.

This was a surprisingly engrossing read that raised many interesting questions about social status, justice, and what it takes to survive in any given society. – Richard

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls  |  David Sedaris
From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler’s experiences. Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten.

Sedaris writes for the New Yorker, but his writing—far from stuffy, is engaging and entertaining, and sometimes puts a spin on a topic when you least expect it. – Joyce

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Dad is Fat  |  Jim Gaffigan
Memoir. A stand-up comedian expresses the joys and horrors of life with his wife and five young children. It has been compared to Bill Cosby’s Fatherhood.

I love Gaffigan’s comedic style, and his routines always hint at the chaos he and his wife face living with 5 young kids in a 2-bedroom NYC apartment. Favorite quote: there is no difference between a 4-year-old eating a taco and throwing a taco on the floor. – Carol

The Time Between Dreams: How to Navigate Uncertainty in Your Life and Work  |  Carol A. Vecchio
With warmth, humor, and sincerity, Carol Vecchio provides a clear understanding of the natural cycles of change and guides us in defining our distinct needs and wants.

The book you’ll reach for whenever work and life changes have you seeking an inspiring transition plan. – Anita

Life at the Marmont: The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Legendary Hotel of the Stars–Chateau Marmont  |  Raymond Sarlot, Fred E. Basten
From its perch overlooking the Sunset Strip, the glamorous Marmont reigned for decades as the spot for artists, writers, musicians, and actors of every stripe and remains a home-away-from-home for A-listers. Here, Sarlot and Basten share a wealth of scandalous and intriguing tales.

Hollywood history and celebrity gossip collide in this legendary volume back in print after 2 decades. As a book lover, I appreciated the style. As a film lover, I enjoyed a behind the scenes glimpse into the private lives of stars from Grace Kelly to John Belushi. – Alan

I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp |  Richard Hell
Punk pioneer Richard Hell, who coined the phrase “Please Kill Me” provides the details of an intensely interesting life in 1970’s New York City.

As a poet, the man also knows how to write compellingly about a rich subject, being in the nexus of the birth of New York Punk. – Alan

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The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family  |  Josh Hanagarne
An inspiring story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette’s found salvation in books and weight-lifting.

A highly readable memoir; you don’t have to be a librarian to appreciate it. Hanagarne is a great writer as well as an insightful, inspiring person. – Alan

Kittenhood: Life-Size Portraits of Kittens in Their First 12 Weeks  |  Sarah Beth Ernhart
This book is 100% life-size photographs of kittens, including names and ages. Each turn of the page brings you face-to-face with adorable bundles of cuteness.

Because kittens! – Carol

Dessert Designer: Creations You Can Make and Eat!  |  Dana Rau
Step by step instructions teach readers how to create food art with cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and candies.

Update your kitchen to an art space with these beautiful and creative ideas for decorating goodies. My favorite ideas are the Treasure Chest made with Hershey Kit Kat Bars and embellishing a cake with rainbow sour candy strips. – Andrea

Best of 2013: Fiction

It’s hard to believe, but 2013 is about to enter into our collective memory. Before we boldly go into the new year, it is important to take a moment to remember the significant events of the past year. For us here at the library that means remembering the many books, films and albums that we encountered int 2013. To that end, we are publishing a series of posts highlighting some of our favorites from the past year. Today we start with the ever popular fiction category. Prepare for your “to read” list to get much longer.

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The Circle  |  Dave Eggers
When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime.  What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

This is a frightening modern 1984 where privacy is theft and the corporation becomes our pseudo-family.  – Esta

Dreams and Shadows  |  C. Robert Cargill
A brilliantly crafted modern tale from acclaimed film critic and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill — part Neil Gaiman, part Guillermo Del Toro, part William S. Burroughs — that charts the lives of two boys from their star-crossed childhood in the realm of magic and mystery to their anguished adulthoods

Cargill’s style of writing blends folklore, mythology, fantasy, and a wonderfully sarcastic sense of humor. – Lisa

The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel  |  Helene Wecker
Chava, a golem brought to life by a disgraced rabbi, and Ahmad, a jinni made of fire, form an unlikely friendship on the streets of New York until a fateful choice changes everything.

Wecker’s descriptions of turn-of-the-century New York are just magical. –Lisa

Insane City  |  Dave Barry
Astonished by his imminent marriage to a woman he believed out of his league, Seth flies to their destination wedding in Florida only to be swept up in a maelstrom of violence involving rioters, Russian gangsters, angry strippers, and a desperate python.

The story cannot possibly get any more complex or ridiculous and then it does.  And then again. – Ron

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Seiobo There Below  |  László Krasznahorkai
A torrent of hypnotic, lyrical prose, Krasznahorkai’s novel explores the process of seeing and representation, tackling notions of the sublime and the holy as they exist in art.

The tone of the writing is refreshingly original. Seiobo There Below puts you in the presence of a keen intelligence and sensibility. – Scott

The Infatuations  |   Javier Marías
From the award-winning Spanish writer Javier Maras comes an extraordinary new book that has been a literary sensation around the world: an immersive, provocative novel propelled by a seemingly random murder that we come to understand — or do we? — through one woman’s ever-unfurling imagination and infatuations.

This is a thought-provoking look at the inscrutability of desire, motivation, and what Kant has termed ‘radical evil.’  It also includes some tremendous writing about a grief observed. – Scott

Tenth of December  |  George Saunders
A collection of stories which includes “Home,” a wryly whimsical account of a soldier’s return from war; “Victory lap,” a tale about an inventive abduction attempt; and the title story, in which a suicidal cancer patient saves the life of a young misfit.

Saunders brings it all: flesh-and-blood characters, inventive plots, vivid settings, and spot-on language. – Scott

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales  |  Yoko Ogawa
Sinister forces collide – and unite a host of desperate characters – in this eerie cycle of interwoven tales. Murderers and mourners, mothers and children, lovers and innocent bystanders – their fates converge in an ominous and darkly beautiful web.

I’ve always been a fan of Ogawa’s sparse prose, which draws you in, gives you a false sense of security, and then yanks the rug out from under you. – Richard

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Deadbeat – Makes You Stronger  |  Guy Adams
Two old friends witness what they think is a living person being put into a coffin and carried out of a funeral home. They attempt to unravel the mystery around this tableau.

Each character narrates at different times and the story is filled with surprises. – Ron

Little Elvises  |  Timothy Hallinan
A crook, who acts as a detective for other crooks, tries to clear a record producer/possible mafia guy of murder. The producer’s claim to fame: a troop of attractive, untalented male singers in the early 60’s.

The protagonist is a criminal who has never been caught, sort of a Robin Hood type, and this makes for a spin on noir detective writing. – Ron

The Rosie Project  |  Graeme C. Simsion
Don, a professor of genetics, sets up a project designed to find him the perfect wife, starting with a questionnaire that has to be adjusted a little as he goes along. Then he meets Rosie, who is everything he’s not looking for in a wife…

An amazing debut novel written with warmth and intelligence, filled with laugh out loud moments and loveable characters… an entertaining feel-good romantic comedy. – Andrea

T.C. Boyle Stories II  |  T. Coraghessan Boyle
You can curl up and delight in this collection of 58 stories by a master storyteller, including 14 previously unpublished stories.  Whether it’s about facing mortality, first love, or fighting to survive, T.C. Boyle crafts a vibrant dramatic story.

You will be swept away by the power of his writing–there is every human emotion in these stories: fear, tenderness, savagery, longing.  This emotional storm is balanced with Boyle’s amazing sense of sarcasm, humor and irony. – Esta

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The Illusion of Separateness  |  Simon Van Booy
Six seemingly unconnected people that are linked in ways not revealed to the characters and only slowly revealed to the reader.  A tender story told in an unusual way.

This is beautifully written with passages I read and then read again to savor.  Loved it from start to finish. – Teri

The Cuckoo’s Calling  |  Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling
Working as a private investigator after losing his leg in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike takes the case of a supermodel’s suspicious suicide & finds himself in a world of millionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, desperate designers and hedonist pursuits.

I confess I placed my hold after the author’s true identity was revealed. But I am a sucker for old-school gumshoe PI mysteries and this one fits the bill. Hopefully this is the start of a series! – Carol

The Burgess Boys  |  Elizabeth Strout
A teen loner impulsively commits a hate crime — he places a pig’s head in the doorway of a mosque in a quiet Maine town. His actions upend his family and force them to confront their own repressed emotions and traumas of the past.

The story is filled with so much compassion and revelation that you almost fall in love with each character! – Esta

The Interestings  |  Meg Wolitzer
In the 1970’s, a group of six young adults vow to be true to their creativity and to stay connected. Their bonds carry them through years of trial and trauma into the present.

This is a saga of an era of social unrest and change. We can savor the details of each character’s exploration of their own sexuality, fears, and ambitions. – Esta

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves  |  Karen Joy Fowler
Rosemary grows up with a very peculiar and unusual sister, and years later she mourns the loss when Fern disappears. The family starts to crumble with anger and retribution as older brother Lowell becomes a radical animal-rights activist.

A dark story that bursts with surprises and secrets revealed, as it questions what it is to be human or animal. – Esta

Life After Life  |  Kate Atkinson
Ursula Todd is born on a cold snowy day in 1910, and dies before drawing her first breath. Almost immediately she is reborn on that same day. And so goes this novel of what ifs, as Ursula and her family continue to wend their way through the century.

Compelling characters and a fascinating plot — plus the most amazing chapter on the London blitz. You’ll feel as if you were there.— Eileen