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Flavorwire Staffers’ Favorite Books of 2013

With the end of every calendar year comes the customary influx of “Best Of” lists, definitively ranking the créme de la cultural créme of the last 365 days. But sometimes “best” doesn’t accurately describe the things that stick with us most, or that we irrationally love out of personal preference. So to cap off 2013, Flavorwire staffers listed their favorite cultural items of the year — the books, movies, and experiences we’ll be taking into 2014. Click through for Flavorwire’s favorite books of 2013, from 800-page epics to tell-all memoirs.

My Education, by Susan Choi

It wasn’t what I’d call the “best” book of 2013 (I’d give that title to Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers or Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped or Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon), but I dove into and sped through My Education like nothing else I read this year. And though a campus novel about a grad student’s attraction to a handsome, iconoclastic professor with a reputation for seducing students will always have an unfair advantage on my to-read list, the clever left turn Choi takes early in the book — and the youthful energy of her writing throughout — made it my favorite reading experience of 2013. — Judy Berman, Editor in Chief

Collected Poems, by Joseph Ceravolo

The long-awaited collected poems of Joseph Ceravolo became a fast favorite, even though I’m still working my way through the book. It includes all his unpublished and out-of-print poems — all startlingly beautiful. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s wonderful new novel was perhaps the most anticipated book of the year, and I was lucky to grab a galley copy in the middle of August. I essentially locked myself in an apartment and didn’t emerge until I had finished the 800-page tome three days later, setting for myself a personal record for most pages read in a weekend. It was tragic, hilarious, absolutely beautiful, and one of the most well-constructed modern epics I’ve read in years. — Tyler Coates, Deputy Editor

An unoriginal choice, but it was definitely Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I read it in just about one sitting; I’m a sucker for thickly plotted stuff like this. — Michelle Dean, Editor at Large

Present Shock, Douglas Rushkoff

A fascinating examination of the world in which we live, and one that’s more thoughtful and nuanced than the normal hand-wringing “OMG technology” narratives that tend to dominate popular discourse on the topics he addresses. Rushkoff’s theories are fascinating, and the book’s written in a way that reflects its subject matter, leaping from subject to subject like a hyperspeed Twitter feed, leaving you thoroughly impressed by the breadth of his vision, but never unable to follow his narrative. — Tom Hawking, Music Editor

Speedboat, by Renata Adler

Since I’ve already written several lists that break down different categories of books I loved in 2013, I’m going to go ahead and say my two favorite reading experiences this year were probably Renata Adler’s Speedboat and finishing up Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch in a café right near Central Park as the snow began to fall outside. That seems fitting. — Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

The Friedkin Connection, by William Friedkin

Few books I read this year gave me more pure pleasure than William Friedkin’s addictive memoir, in which the straight-talking ‘70s auteur tears through his ‘70s heyday, his ‘80s failures, and his triumphant comeback, displaying the no-bullshit moxie that makes his films so rich, while fully owning the hubris and bridge-burning that took him out of circulation. The guy’s a helluva storyteller, no matter what the medium, and Connection was the film-lover’s read of the year. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., by Adelle Waldman

It’s on every top-ten shortlist there is, but there’s a reason Waldman’s debut novel left such an impression: it’s a razor-sharp, empathetic character study of a very specific type, and it’s a type most prospective book reviewers know well. A thorough examination of how even the most sensitive writerly guys can be insensitive jerks, Waldman never allows the book to lapse into a one-note morality tale (no matter what Ross Douthat might think). Funny, insightful, and spot-on; chances are readers, particularly the young and Brooklyn-dwelling ones, will recognize themselves in Waldman’s deeply flawed cast of characters. — Alison Herman, Editorial Assistant

Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin

With the national conversation reverberating once again with talk of racial inequality, James Baldwin’s unapologetically incisive essays in Notes of a Native Son depict a country that may not have changed all that much since the book was first published fifty-eight years ago. Baldwin’s words remain as fresh and provocative as they were in 1955, making Notes a permanent fixture on any must-read list. — Kevin Pires, Editorial Apprentice

Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage, by Rob Delaney

Comedian Rob Delaney’s memoir is a funny, fast read that feels like grabbing a cup of coffee with an old friend. Delaney is a master storyteller who’s clearly lead a rich life, and he’ll gladly tell you about the time he bungee-jumped off the Manhattan Bridge or when he got hepatitis from a cake. It’s a book full of smart, poignant observations about shame, love, and death, and it kept me company on lonely nights. You can read one of the best chapters right now: “Drugs Will Kill Your Friends,” an intimate, heartbreaking excerpt that was recently published in The Atlantic. — Sarah Fonder, Editorial Apprentice