Seriously.  If I had to narrow down these holidays to a single theme, it would be Cookies & Canines.  Okay, technically TWO themes but they do occasionally converge.  Like earlier tonight when I came across mom’s dog, Caramel, chewing on a molasses cookie that apparently fell off the kitchen table.  Let’s just say that dog demonstrated a “less than festive spirit” when I attempted to divest him of the cookie.  Hours later, he’s still riding his sugar high.

So, yes, Cookies & Canines…

I woke up this morning to discover mom had gotten up early to do some baking.  Almond cookies = my favorites.
Another old favorite from her repertoire = molasses cookies.
We visited my aunt, an accomplished baker herself, who served up fourteen varieties.
And then there’s my mother’s cross-street neighbor who served them up with a French twist: macaroons, financiers, brownies, and boozy truffles.

As for the dogs…

Felix sports his youthful do.x

Caramel – sleeping off his sugar high?  And, by the way, who names their male dog Caramel?  I can’t blame mom because she adopted him after his former owner surrendered him.

Ralphie stylin’ in Hilfiger.
Aha!  Caught in the act!

All told, I will have read about 80 books in 2013.  Not bad, but down from previous annual averages.  I think that part of the problem this year was the fact that I got bogged down in a lot of mediocre reads.  Not bad reads – those I’ll just give up on – but middling reads, those books you continue reading in the hopes they’ll improve. Sadly, in almost all cases, they do not.

In order to improve my reading efficiency in 2014, I consulted a bunch of Best of 2013 lists, read the reviews, studied the synopses, consulted the covers, and eventually distilled the titles down to 25 Maybe-Must-Reads:

Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
The Interestings – Meg Woltizer
League of Denial – Mark Fainaru-Wada
The Circle – Dave Eggers
Tenth of December – George Saunders
Super Graphics – Tim Leong
A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
Gorgeous – Paul Rudnick
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Nexus – Ramez Naam
NOS4A2 – Joe Hill
Neptune’s Brood – Charles Stross
Brilliance – Marcus Sakey
Dogtripping – David Rosenfelt
Vampires in the Lemon Grove – Karen Russell
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
The Isle of Youth – Laura Van Den Berg
Love Minus Eighty – Will McIntosh
On Looking – Alexandra Horowitz
This Explains Everything – John Brockman
Time Warped – Claudia Hammond
Anything That Moves – Dana Goodyear
Schroder – Amity Gaige
Lives of Tao – Lesley Chu

Familiar with any of the above titles?  Are there any you’d recommend?  Any you’d advise me to steer clear of?

Better yet, what were YOUR Top Reads of 2013?

18 thoughts on “December 29, 2013: Cookies and Canines! Soliciting your literary opinions! Your Top Reads of 2013!

  1. My reads have been either classics or a few “End of the World” stories. I just finished “The Walk” by Lee Goldberg. It’s about “The Big One” earthquake in L.A. I like his stuff, so I enjoyed his book. Are there any sci-fi Apocalyptic books that you could recommend?

    How are you keeping fit while you are visiting your mom? Is there a gym nearby? Do you take long walks in the snow? Maybe some base jumping off the Place des Arts building? 🙂

  2. I know I’m not supposed to play favorites….but Ralphie is adorable! ; )

  3. My top read of 2013? Your blog, of course. Interesting and always entertaining.

    Your family is a cooking machine. Very impressive.

  4. I listened to “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Gaiman and enjoyed it.
    It’s the only one I’m familiar with.

  5. cookies!

    i haven’t read any of those.

    my top reads;
    sisters of fortune: america’s caton sisters at home & abroad by jehanne wake
    nefertiti: unlocking the mystery surrounding egypt’s most famous & beautiful queen by joyce a. tyldesley
    hatchepsut: the female pharaoh by the same
    the parasol protectorate by gail carriger
    the queen of the ring: sex, muscles, diamonds, & the making of an american legend by jeff leen
    queen isabella: treachery, adultery, & murder in medieval england by alison weir
    just one more thing by peter falk

  6. Hello Joseph, the most memorable book i’ve read in 2013 was “The Treasure Islands” by Nickolas Shaxson which analyses how states and corporations do their business with the off-shore companies.Very interesting for the nowadays world…

  7. Unfortunately I read so damn slowly that I don’t get through many books. In fact, I’ve still got unread books that I was given at Christmas last year! And now I’ve added to the pile this year with The Time Traveller’s Almanac which is a massive compilation of many, many time travel stories and Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton (who rarely writes anything less than 1000 pages). So I need to buckle down and start reading more.

    I have been listening to a lot of audio books on my drive to and from work. I’m listening to the Old Man’s War series at the moment. It’s good but I don’t know why people rave about it so much. 90% of my audio book listening this year has been The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. They’re brilliant!

  8. I have to stop looking at the pictures. That’s another 5 pounds I picked up just looking at them. I love almond cookies too, but those molasses ones look delicious too.

    All the dogs are adorable. I usually don’t like them in sweaters and such, but Relphie looks pretty comfortable in his. Felix’s is very handsome in his “do”.
    I like Caramel’s idea of getting over a sugar high. 😀

  9. Wow, so many desserts, so little time, love the sprinkles on moms cookies, never enough sprinkles. Love them on my icecream. Will look up those books to see if there are any I can not live without. But I would rather have the cookies, and 14 varieties, wow, all I can say is wow and yum. You are living the high life my friend! (sugar high)
    ~and do not show that picture to boyfriend Bubba or heads will roll. Felix looks so cute and of course Caramel and Ralphie, styling and profiling, sounds like you are having a yummy good time.

  10. Ralphie has a future as a fashion model. Wowza!

    I still can’t read. every doc I speak with says the same thing, menopause. Seriously? I am hoping I can retrain my brain, but in the meantime, I am slogging through F&SF issues, and a China Mieville novel, although not the same one as last year. I get audio books for my husband, but those are difficult too. Oh well, I have to keep trying!

    New year’s eve day, I will be baking cookies, but only one type. I’m trying shortbreads, I have a lovely new mold. Also, baking a loaf of bread, in addition to making sure all the chores are done “for the year”. Salt on the doorstep. I’d light a bonfire tonight, but we have bad air quality, no burning allowed. Boo!

  11. I want to read more, my fave way to find a book is still wandering the stacks, and since they closed the bookstore across the street from my office I’ve shifted my reading time to instant watching time. Netflix is so addictive.

    Those are some cute canines! Caramel the Cookie Bandit is so cute.

    Those treats look delicious! I love almond cookies. I wish I could bake like that, I can make Toll House cookies and that’s about it.

  12. Ralphie is gorgeous!

    I’m currently reading “The Atlantis Plague”, the follow up to “The Atlantis Gene”. Great story. As I mentioned previously, it would make a great movie or series.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  13. Sword Art Online 2 just got announced for 2014 Joe, can’t say I’m surprised. It’s also covering the Phantom Bullet arc which is 3 books long. And perhaps some other stuff.

  14. Can you blame Akemi? Ralphie is very stylish. He’s a better dresser than I am but really, gray goes with everything!

    Cookies! Yum….

    Top reads? That’s a hard one. I’m really loving the John Sanford “Prey” series. Also, any David Balducci book is engrossing.

    A lot of people are listening to Audiobooks on the blog. They are great for driving or housework! I could listen for hours to Richard Ferrone, who reads the Prey series. He has a great voice! I’m pretty sure Ferrone could read chemistry books and I would be enthralled.

    If anyone is looking for a good sci-fi audio, one of my favorite audio book series: The Robot Novels by Asimov. Wonderful audio books!

  15. I wanted to wish you and Akemi the very best in 2014. Thanks you so much for you very entertaining and informative blog.

  16. Truthfully, I saw no macaroons in the bunch, but I did spot a macaron. (LOL). The cookies look delicious and I agree–I love almond cookies.

    As far as my top read for 2013? This blog. (I’m on a roll today, aren’t I?)

    Love the dogs. They all look so very loved.

  17. Re: book recs

    This is one I discovered only this month, but I’m totally hooked. Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia. It’s a series with four books currently out, ongoing. Urban fantasy about fighting a variety of very scary and badass monsters. Humor, wonderful characters, intricate plots, and lots of action. The Baen covers make them look like shallow pulp, but they’re not at all. If you haven’t read it, you really, really need to. (Also, the audiobooks are really good.)

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