PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


2013 Was a Fine Year to Have Your Head In a Book

Five books published in 2013 that stayed with me, that I found myself urging on others, that I now say to you, Hey! Read this!

Flock of books image from Shutterstock.com.

End-of-year summaries invariably confound me. How to choose the best books out of 365 days of reading? What makes a book somehow better than its siblings? In this era of declining readership, should we even be making these sorts of lists? Sadly, I find it far easier to determine the worst books, and who wants a list of those? We want good news to start of our New Year.

Here, then, are five books from 2013 that stuck with me through thick and thin, in alphabetical order by title.


Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III

Dirty Love’s four linked novellas examines the ways we fail one another in love, in all the old-fashioned ways: lies, adultery, criticism, betrayals, booze. And now, in the newer, sometimes more painful ways, through social media.

“Listen Carefully, As Our Options Have Changed”, describes Mark Welch, a successful project manager. Welch fails to leave his dictatorial management style at the office. The gravity of this miscalculation does not hit him until he learns wife Laura is conducting a serious affair.

In “Marla”, a young, overweight bank teller has a good job, a nice apartment, and close girlfriends. Yet she longs for a boyfriend. When she takes up with the rigid Dennis, she finds herself longing for her formerly solitary life.

Robert Doucette is “The Bartender” of the title, a would-be poet afraid to write. When he meets and marries the quietly trusting Althea, he is unfaithful.

In “Dirty Love”, teenager Devon Brandt is trying to recover after a sexually explicit video appears on the internet. She does this by spending hours logged into Chatroulette and zoning out on her “iEverything”, as her bewildered, aged uncle looks on.

Read full article on Dirty Love here.


Every Grain of Rice by Fuschia Dunlop

There are cookbooks, and then there are cookbooks whose every recipe calls out to you. Fuschia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice is the latter. It is filled with simple yet shockingly delicious Chinese food. A little meat goes a long way in most recipes, while others are completely vegetarian. The resulting cuisine relies on inventively seasoned vegetables, tofu, legumes, rice, and noodles. Nor does Chinese food employ dairy, making it a boon for vegans and their friends wishing to serve something besides pasta at dinner parties.

Every Grain of Rice is beneficial to any of us wishing to eat less meat without missing it, or to try something new, breaking out of the eating ruts we all fall into.

Despite a few exotic ingredients, Every Grain of Rice offers food largely within American/European reach. Consider the cover shot of Dan Dan Noodles: pork, greens, noodles, sauce. No food rehydrators, centrifuges or sous vide machines are needed to prepare this. You don’t even need a food processor.

The hardest part of Every Grain of Rice is deciding what to cook first. The book beckons both newcomers and experts while solving the problem of what to feed your vegan and vegetarian friends (or yourself). Just make room in your fridge. You’re gonna need it.

Read full article on Every Grain of Rice here.


Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Hachisu

Twenty years ago, Nancy Singleton met Tadaaki Hachisu, a third-generation farmer. The couple fell in love, married, had children, and restored the Hachisu family’s homestead. Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food chronicles the result.

Japanese Farm Food is a memoir of a woman’s unexpected life as a Japanese farmwife. Hachisu never expected to spend her life in Japan. Twenty years on, she has never fully acclimated to a country so different from her birthplace. Her tone is often acerbic, even defiant as she reiterates the many ways she will never be a “good Japanese farmwife”.

Hachisu and her husband, a practitioner of Shinto, are deeply connected to their land and home, which she refers to with a capital “H”—the House. Seeing the photographs of their traditional Japanese home, with its ancient furnishings and central beam, the daikoku bashira, one understands. This house, though beautiful, is no magazine showpiece: it is a place where a family lives and works to keep the old ways alive. Theirs is an honorable life. Even if one never cooks a thing from this cookbook—which would be a shame—it is a wonderful read.

Read full article Japanese Farm Food here.


The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

In Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, brothers Subhash and Udayan are inseparable, living in a tiny village outside Calcutta. Subhash is the dutiful, obedient son. Udayan, the rebellious one.

Both excel academically, but the unrest spreading through India captures Udayan’s restless intellect. He becomes absorbed in the Communist party, drifting from Subhash, who is working toward graduate school in the United States.

Once in the US, Subhash receives infrequent letters from Udayan, which he is instructed to burn. Subhash cannot understand Udayan’s activities until he is abruptly summoned home: the police have shot his brother.

The Lowland is constructed around the impact of absence: the hole in the world where Udayan once fit. Now his loved ones must conduct their lives around this space: his brother, parents, wife, and unborn daughter.

The Lowland asks what happens once youth has passed, when pitiless hindsight sets in. When one is alone, ageing, with ample time to revisit a moment in youth forever impacting everything afterward. Fortunately, there is still room for love, for even in the smallest fraction of hope. Without it, The Lowland would be nearly unbearable reading, although impossible to put down.

Read full articles on The Lowland here and here.


Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

In this final installment of the "Maddaddam" trilogy, readers discover the beginnings and endings of characters introduced in Oryx and Crake: Glenn, aka Crake, Jimmy, aka Snowman, Oryx, the woman they both love, Zeb, Toby, and a host of others. Atwood details the environmental devastation causing the "waterless flood", how Crake engineered a plague killing most of humanity, and how the survivors are moving forward. Crake's exquisitely engineered humans, dubbed "Crakers", evolve in surprisingly old-fashioned ways. There are funny moments offset by deeply emotional scenes.

Have your hanky close at hand. If you aren't already recycling and carrying your own shopping bags, Maddaddam will ensure that you start.

Read full article Maddaddam here.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.