Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy had the brilliant idea to host a link-up about the best books people read in 2013 - if you're looking to start stacking up your reading list for 2014, go check it out! (Note: these are the best books read in 2013, not published.)
Thanks to my amazing Kindle and free books from Amazon, coupled with listening to audiobooks on our commute, I actually got a fair number of books read in 2013. Picking only a handful is a challenge, so I've decided to give you the top 5 that immediately spring to mind. (As a bonus, I've also tacked on the top three "practical skills books" that I found last year at the bottom.)
1. The Halo Series Yes, I know it's cheating to use a series, but we listened to every audiobook in this series that we could and I can't possibly pick a favorite! Whether you're familiar with the game or not, these were incredibly well written and deeply engaging. I recommend starting with one by Karen Travis. (Nearly all of these are available on audible, and you can get the Kindle versions for $2.99.)
2. Shadow of Night
I was anxiously awaiting getting my hands on SoN (the sequel to Discovery of Witches) and am now twitchingly awaiting the trilogy's final book. A unique twist on witches and vampires, it twists and turns through unexpected developments at every step and was a challenge to put down!
3. Anatomy of Violence
Completely different than anything else I've read recently, this book was phenomenal. It is not a light or easy read - it will definitely make your brain work - but the author demonstrates a singular ability to take dense, complex science and deliver it in an accessible, embraceable way that keeps you hooked, blows away preconceptions, and stays with you long after you've finished reading. It seriously challenged some of my beliefs about why people do the things they do and what our response as individuals and a society should be. Whether you agree with his suggestions near the end of not (I mostly don't), this will make you think.
4. The Five Money Personalities
I didn't expect to be impressed by this, but I now consider it in my top five books every married couple should read (right alongside The Five Love Languages). It's a quick and easy read (and you can take the personality test free online whether you buy the book or not - yay!), but it gives you something a lot of people don't have - a clear framework and concise language with which to discuss your fears and priorities about money. It can provide powerful new insight into why some things in your financial life are working and others are a struggle, and what to do about it.
5. Is Marriage for White People
This is one of those books that begs to be read out in public somewhere, just to watch people's eyebrows shoot through their scalps. That aside, it is also a well-written exploration into topics that tend to be badly handled by the media (and society in general). The conclusions were surprising but overwhelmingly positive, and the personal stories deftly handled.
Bonus Round: Practical Skills Books I Found & Loved
Wild Edibles: A Practical Guide to Foraging, with Easy Identification of 60 Edible Plants and 67 Recipes
Quite possibly the best of this kind of book that I've found, WE changed how I look at my yard. An easy size to carry around while walking through your yard or local park, the book has excellent pictures, concise descriptions (with all the information you actually need), and helpful use suggestions and recipes for all the new plants you discover.
Yoga for Runners is exactly what I have been looking for. As a new runner (who generally sucks at the stretching/warmup/cool down aspect), I am loving the practical information and easy-to-use format of this book. Without making you feel like an idiot, it shows you where you're at risk for injury, which stretches to use to prevent those injuries, and how to handle specific personal challenges (bad knees, sore back, etc.). It also includes how-to break downs of individual poses, full yoga sequences, and quick reference charts so you can find what you want in a hurry.
Reflexology is on my list of things to master in 2014. It's quick, free, and healthy, and can reduce one's dependence on or inclination to less constructive alternatives like dosing up on pain relievers or drinking. After trying a bunch of different books, I've found this one to be the best for beginners. Everything you need to know to get started in an easy-reference format that is well written and doesn't treat you like an idiot or try to shape your opinion of broader alternative health policy. Yay!
That's my list for 2013 - don't forget to hop over to Modern Mrs. Darcy's link up to see what everyone else has been reading!