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Our Picks for the Best Winter Books of 2013

While readers in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the beginning of their summer, those of us in the southern hemisphere are settling in for a few months of cooler evenings and cosy time by the fireplace (or heater!). I personally find winter to be one of the best times for reading and there are certainly plenty of great stories to choose from to encourage you to curl up with a book. Here are a few of my picks for great books that will transport you into completely different worlds. There are lots of big names releasing new thrillers this winter, so if you are after the ‘tried and tested’ international stars you will relish the new books from John LeCarreJeffrey Deaver and Jo Nesbo, amongst others.

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I also recommend watching out for the new book from Ruth Rendell, No Man’s Nightingale. This is a new story in the inspector Wexford series, which Ruth Rendell started (believe it or not) in the 1960s. There are very few authors who could sustain a series for such a long time and also keep it so varied and ever evolving. I always look forward to a new Wexford and I am never disappointed! You can read more about No Man’s Nightingale here. Michael Robotham is an author who does not need much introduction in Australia; he’s also made quite a name for himself abroad. Michael’s new psychological thriller, Watching You, promises to keep you glued to the pages until you reach the very end. Read more here. While thrillers aren’t necessarily my favourite genre, occasionally a book comes along that really grabs my attention: Lexicon by Max Barry is one such book. If you’re looking for an unconventional thriller that is also thought provoking, try this book. I particularly recommend it to those who are fascinated with the idea of words as weapons — can words really kill? Read more here.

ontemporary women’s fiction

For those who enjoy popular fiction, I’d like to single out three very different titles.

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The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley is a debut novel, and as such it is not perfect, but I still found it quite magical and I know that the story will stay with me for a while. If you enjoy a touch of the unusual, if you can suspend disbelief and you like romantic stories, this is a novel to watch out for. Read more The Shadow Year is the second novel by Hannah Richell, who is firmly planting herself in the family drama category with some good suspense thrown in. The Shadow Year is a compelling story told at a great pace; I’d love to hear if anyone else is able to predict the revelation on the last page … I bet not! Read more here Finally, if you like love stories with a little bit of spice, I suggest you set aside some time to read The Yearning by an Australian author who writes under the name of Kate Belle. Our members have paid a lot of attention to this title already, so check out readers’ reviews here.

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Historical fiction

For fans of historical fiction I must mention My Notorious Life by Madame X by Kate Manning, which I loved. Even though this is a big book, by the time I got to the last page I was sorry it was over. This fascinating novel, based on a true story, is set in gritty New York City in the last half of the nineteenth century. You will see New York like never before, but mostly you will be taken by the main character, Axie Muldoon, and her rags-to-riches story of a poor orphan who becomes one of the most successful — and controversial — midwives of her time. Read more

Literary fiction

I had a really hard time picking just three titles from this genre — there are just so many great books to choose from — but in the end I settled on the following.

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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is an utterly brilliant novel and my pick for the winner of The Women’s Prize Fiction this year (although I highly recommend every single novel on this year’s shortlist). At the heart of this novel lies a seemingly simple question: What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? Atkinson explores this and many other questions by killing and resurrecting her main heroine over and over again, celebrating the best and the worst in all of us. Read more

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra is a highly readable story of unspeakable horrors that will keep you spellbound. It takes place in Chechnya, moving back and forth in time over recent history. I find that it is often unfair to make comparisons when talking about novels such as this, but if you enjoyed The Tiger’s Wife you will probably appreciate it. I just started reading Marra’s novel, and two chapters into it I wished I had a day off to finish it — it is confronting but also simply fantastic Read more

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is another debut novel, although it is worth mentioning that Hannah has been mentored by Geraldine Brooks. Based on a true story, Burial Rites explores the case of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman beheaded in Iceland in 1829. I was attracted to this novel by the premise and by the end of the first page I was completely enchanted; even though I read it a couple of months ago, I still keep thinking of Agnes. Read more here.

Young adult bone season

One of the most talked-about YA novels this year is the upcoming Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. This is book 1 in the new seven-book series; it is a sprawling, complex and futuristic novel that presents an alternative universe of seers, soothsayers and their enemies. Could Shannon’s plucky heroine — a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her — stand shoulder to shoulder with Harry Potter? Watch Samantha talk about writing of her saga. And finally …

ocean end

I mention The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman at the very end of my list simply because, once again, Gaiman has created a novel that defies classification, crossing many genres and age groups. I count myself among the lucky few who have received an advance reading copy and I read the novel all in one sitting, forgetting the world around me. It is an extraordinary, fable-like tale, equally dark and sparkling with amazing imagery, awesome characters and the kind of images that only Gaiman seems to be able to conjure. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

All the titles above are gathered under the tag Great Reads Winter 2013, so you can pick and choose or add all of them to your personal bookshelf. I would also love to hear back from you about the books that you think I should add to my reading stacks — after all, there is nothing better than a personal recommendation.

Happy reading!

anna@thereadingroom.com