Maclean’s Top 20 Books Of 2013

The fiction and non-fiction titles that we loved this year


But where is the lamb? by James Goodman

The absorbing tale of the wildly variant ways commentators over the centuries have interpreted God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.

Nocturne by Helen Humphreys

Bleakly intense and grief-racked for the novelist, her memoir of her deceased brother is, for a reader, simply beautiful, still and moving in even measure.

The last man in Russia by Oliver Bullough

The disastrous demographic results of a 50-year bender in Russia, detailed through the story arc of a dissident Orthodox priest under Communism.

Evil Men by James Dawes

An unsettlingly brilliant book that flirts with atrocity porn, even as it looks at war crimes through the eyes of an exceptional group of war criminals.

1913 by Charles Emmerson

An eye-opening demonstration of just how modern the supposedly premodern world was, from Tehran to the Canadian boomtown of Winnipeg.

Behind The Shock Machine by Gina Perry

The real story of the infamous Milgram experiments—test subjects applying electric shocks to others—is more compelling than the original event.

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

A gifted storyteller meets awesome material: Lucky Lindy, Al Capone, Babe Ruth and the perversely entertaining Calvin Coolidge.

The Longer I’m Prime Minister by Paul Wells

Maclean’s political editor takes the long view, illuminating how Stephen Harper aims to last long enough in office to permanently remake this country.

Cotton Tenants by James Agee

Essays about tenant farmers written in 1941 serve as a timeless depiction of poverty and social injustice.

After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey

A son grapples to solve his father’s mysterious death in this poignant memoir.

Drinking With Men by Rosie Schapp

An exuberant, wry and oddly wholesome homage to bar culture from a female perspective.

The Spark by Kristine Barnett

The story of an autistic toddler who became a genius-level teenage physics prodigy, and of his mother’s audacious theories about how learning happens.

Kansas City Lightning by Stanley Crouch

The richest and most heartfelt available study of the Midwestern culture that gave rise to the great and doomed jazz saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker.

Music In The Castle Of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner

The British conductor produces a biography that concentrates on Bach’s Lutheran faith and the music that preoccupied him—dozens of choral cantatas.


Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

A married British geneticist is on trial for murder alongside her lover. Every page bristles with menace.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

This masterful morality tale skewers mid-life malaise in modern America.

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

The story of a bullied teen and a writer who herself is adrift weaves a spell that pulls on the heartstrings.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

A beautifully rendered tale about 12 men who have gathered for a secret council.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

As two Dutch couples at a swank restaurant discuss their children, the story twists in unforeseeable ways.

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

This vivid novel captures a brief, violent and historically decisive moment in 17th-century Ontario.