Our books of the year

Lots-of-booksFrom Zadie Smith’s new novel to Herman Melville’s classic and a ghost story from Michelle Paver. We bring you a perfectly formed wishlist of our favourite books from 2013.

, John Williams

Published 50 years ago, rediscovered this year, named ‘Book of the Year’ by Waterstones. I became evangelical about this book once I’d read it. Quietly compelling, deeply moving.

Careless People, Sarah Churchwell

The story of the writing of The Great Gatsby, and a great way to reread and remember that wonderful novel. It’s the biography of the time the novel was written and set in. Enlightening for fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Once There was a War, John Steinbeck

Collection of journalistic pieces written in the second world war, seeing people and events in a factual light that I found emotional to read. Read in a beautiful Folio Society edition that increases the pleasure of the reading experience.

John Simmons


Appropriately, my books of the year have both been the result of 26 projects. And both of them are classics.

Rights of Man, Thomas Paine

The Norwich Unesco city of world literature project made me read Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. It’s the kind of book which, had I read it as a 19 year old, would have been one of those formative books that would never have left me through life. It’s beautifully written, superbly argued, and immensely brave. I may have read it too late for it to have shaped my life, but it has shaped the world we all live in. How many books have done that?

Moby Dick, Herman Melville

For the D&AD Story Works project, I re-read Moby Dick. I did read this as a 19 year old, and it has been hugely influential for me. I suppose a very reasonable choice for a desert island book (perhaps after being shipwrecked by a sperm whale attack). It’s mad, brilliant, frustrating, soaring, but beyond anything it was a vast, ambitious project, and has made everything else I’ve read this year (apart from Rights of Man) look pale and limited by comparison.

Martin Lee


The Blood of Flowers, Anita Amirrezvani

Set in 17th century Iran, this is a powerful and haunting story of a young girl’s journey from innocence to adulthood.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt

Set in a New England college this is a murder mystery, except you know who died and who did it. The question is will they be caught and how?

The President’s Hat, Antoine Laurain

What happens when you wear someone else’s hat? What happens when you wear Mitterand’s hat?

Dark Matter: A Ghost Story, Michelle Paver

It says it’s a ghost story and by jove it is! Gave me the shivers. Set in the high Arctic. As the FT says ‘A tale of terror and beauty and wonder.’

Faye Sharpe


In no particular order, I loved Red Doc by Anne Carson, This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz and Railtracks by Anne Michaels and John Berger.

Elen Lewis


NW, Zadie Smith

I’m a huge fan of Zadie Smith and her latest novel didn’t disappoint. Set in north west London – as the title suggests – Smith tells the tale of four Londoners trying to escape the past.

Laura Hunter

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