Like every year, 2013 has given us some wonderful books and works of literature for people of all generations. Some of these books have been bought by tens of millions of people worldwide and has given a much-needed boost to the book publishing industry, making the publication of more literary works financially viable. Sunday Plus has compiled a selection of top-notch titles for those who want to read something more fulfilling before they go to bed. To improve the list we took some moments of Aysha Raja’s time, who is not only a prolific reader but also owns The Last Word- a bookshop that boasts an impressive collection of contemporary fiction and non-fiction by both local and international writers. She has been operating The Last Word for almost six years. Its outlets are located in Karachi, Khosar market, Islamabad and at Khadafi Stadium, Lahore. What is unique about her bookshop is that she selects and stocks only those books which she thinks people should read. Ms Aysha also works as a publicist and the books of authors like Muhammad Hanif, Daniel Mohiuddin, Musharraf Ali Farooqi etc are under her belt. She is also one of the members of Lahore Literary Festival and an advocate for more reading and writing in Pakistan. She had the privilege of serving on the panel of the Commonwealth Book Prize 2012. She is also the publisher and the co-editor of the Life’s Too Short Literary Review, a magazine that consists of new writing from Pakistan, and founding member of the short story prize of the same name. The following are the great reads of 2013.

Big Novels

Every year brings a crop of new novels, some of which soon disappear without trace, whilst others become classics and are enjoyed by generations of readers. The year 2013 introduced some great novels which caused a stir in literary circles. Some of the writers of these novels are established and many readers are well acquainted with their previous works, whilst some are newcomers who have proven their worth through their debut novels. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner is one such novel which created vibes in literary world. It is an intensely engaging exploration of the mystique of the feminine, the fake and the terrorist. Thrilling and fearless, this is a major American novel from a writer of spectacular talent and imagination. The Infatuations by the award-winning Spanish writer Javier Marías is another extraordinary new book that has been a literary sensation around the world: an immersive, provocative novel propelled by a seemingly random murder that we come to understand—or do we?—through one woman’s ever-unfurling imagination and infatuations. Then comes Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon which is a multi-character detective(-ish) story, set in 2001 in a New York thrumming with ventures linked to Silicon Alley, the home of Manhattan's tech companies. Its concerns are momentous: 9/11 – which takes place just over halfway through – the internet, and the price of capitalism. The novel succeeds not because conspiracy theories are back in vogue, but because Mr. Pynchon has always been writing about why we construct conspiracy theories, and his explorations have been borne out by the last twelve years. Another novel which is must in this list is The Kills by Richard House. This is an epic novel of crime and conspiracy told in four books. It begins with a man on the run and ends with a burned body. Moving across continents, characters and genres, there was no more ambitious or exciting novel in 2013 than this. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker is an immigrant tale that combines elements of Jewish and Arab folk mythology. It tells the story of two supernatural creatures who arrive separately in New York in 1899. One is a golem, created out of clay to be her master’s wife—but he dies at sea, leaving her disoriented and overwhelmed as their ship arrives in New York Harbor. The other is a jinni, a being of fire, trapped for a thousand years in a copper flask before a tinsmith in Manhattan’s Little Syria releases him. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's third novel Americanah is a superb dissection of race in the UK and the USA. It is ostensibly a love story – the tale of childhood sweethearts at school in Nigeria whose lives take different paths when they seek their fortunes in America and England – but it is also a brilliant dissection of modern attitudes to race, spanning three continents and touching on issues of identity, loss and loneliness. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud is an extraordinary novel, a psychological suspense story of the highest sort that will leave you thinking about its implications for days afterward. Messud’s skills are all on display here, but they seem to be in the service of a more heartfelt and profound tale than those she has previously told. John Williams’ Stoner is the story of a failure which has found posthumous success 48 years after first publication and 19 years after its author’s death, and - most remarkable of all - without the boost of any Nobel Prize or film adaptation. It is Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel and a work of quiet perfection.

Sci-Fi & Dystopian Fiction

A big trend in fiction, which is gaining popularity amongst younger readers, is dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction. It is a sub-genre of science fiction which is generally concerned with the end of human civilisation due to some catastrophe like nuclear warfare, pandemic, supernatural phenomena or any other general disaster. The genre gained popularity after the Second World War when USA dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and people became conscious about the global annihilation by nuclear weapons. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is a brilliantly imaginative and poignant fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror. It is Neil Gaiman’s first new novel for adults since his No 1 New York Times bestseller Anansi Boys. This bewitching and harrowing tale of mystery and survival, and memory and magic, makes the impossible all too real.... NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill. In his terrifying new novel Joe Hill makes sure you’ll never listen to Christmas carols without a shiver again. But more than just horror, NOS4A2 is a story of strength, of magic, of family, and the costs of love. It’s about finding what is lost, even when what we lose is ourselves. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is sequel to The Shining contains some real, grown-up monsters. The novel features the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the twelve-year-old girl, Abra Stone, who possesses an even greater psychic ability ("shining") than Danny did as a child. Many things can be said about Dave Eggers' latest novel, The Circle, the story of an ingenue's improbable rise at a technology company that's like the unholy lovechild of Google and Facebook. The Circle is a deft modern synthesis of Swiftian wit with Orwellian prognostication. The Shining Girls is a novel by South African author Lauren Beukes. The book centres around a time-travelling Depression-era drifter who must murder the "shining girls" in order to continue his travels. It is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal. The Bone Season is a supernatural dystopian novel by British writer Samantha Shannon and is her debut novel. It introduces a compelling heroine and also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.

International Fiction

There are some international fictions which became instant hit. One of those is The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez which focuses on the bewilderment and fear of a society corrupted and taken over by stealth. It confirms Vásquez's mastery of a sophisticated form of Latin American literary noir that leads the reader through Borgesian labyrinths. In navigating them, with guiding lights ranging from Conrad to Le Carré, his fiction also reveals the role of outsiders in a violent history. Five Star Billionaire is an entertaining, expansive, and eye-opening novel that captures the vibrance of China today. It is a book by Tash Aw whose previous work has been called “mesmerizing,” “haunting,” ‘breathtaking’, ‘mercilessly gripping’, ‘seductive’, and ‘luminous’. Lenin's Kisses by Yan Lianke is an absurdist historical allegory of the money-making fever that swept China after Deng Xiaoping opened up the Chinese economy in the 1990s. It is set in Liven, a mountain village founded by disabled dropouts from a forced relocation in the Qing Dynasty, so remote that it has escaped official attention. The back story of the village and its characters is told through the device of footnotes and further reading, labelled, like the chapters, only in odd numbers as a nod to China's continuing literary and historical censorship. The other novels The Infatuations by Javier Marías and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are other two big international fictions which are also mentioned in Big Novels category.

Biographies (Art related personalities)

Some notable creative talents have been given the biographical treatment. In leading biographies of the year there is A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford which records the insights and ideas of a man described as the world’s most popular living painter in all their vigour, individuality and depth. It is a self-portrait in discussion, observation and reflection. A Bigger Message is a record of Hockney’s entire intellectual and artistic Odyssey so far – and a revelation of the pleasures of ‘just looking’ at the infinite natural beauty which surrounds us. This book is a celebration of trees and bigger trees and some of the biggest landscape paintings in art history. It is about much more than that, but trees are at its massive, strongly beating, very English heart, and David Hockney's discovery of them is an invitation to us all to look better, see better, enjoy more. Norman Foster is a phenomenon - as an architect, but also as an individual. He is responsible for a dozen or more of the most recognizable buildings of the last 30 years. Deyan Sudjic's insightful and elegantly written biography Norman Foster: A Life in Architecture charts the remarkable life this personality. Though countless books have been written about Van Gogh, no serious, ambitious examination of his life has been attempted in more than seventy years. Naifeh and Smith have re-created Van Gogh’s life with an astounding vividness and psychological acuity that bring a completely new and sympathetic understanding to this unique artistic genius in their book Van Gogh: The Life. There is an autobiography of Steven Patrick Morrissey with the title Morrissey. He was born in Manchester on May 22nd 1959. Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Smiths (1982-1987), Morrissey has been a solo artist for twenty-six years, during which time he has had three number 1 albums in England in three different decades. Autobiography covers Morrissey's life from his birth until the present day.

Non-fiction

Non-fiction is a story based on real facts and information. It is a narrative, account, or other communicative work whose assertions and descriptions are believed by the author to be factual. The famous non-fiction of 2013 are: Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein is about the rise of smartphones and tablets which have altered the business of making computers. At the centre of this change are Apple and Google, two companies whose philosophies, leaders, and commercial acumen have steamrolled the competition. In the age of Android and the iPad, these corporations are locked in a feud that will play out not just in the marketplace but in the courts and on screens around the world. Dogfight reads like a novel: vivid nonfiction with never-before-heard details. We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson is another famous book of 2013. The identities of Lulzsec and Anonymous hackers baffled the world's security forces, journalist Parmy Olson managed to gain extraordinary access to the groups, leading to this fascinating account mentioned the book. Then comes Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products by Leander Kahney. Based on interviews with Jony Ive’s former colleagues and Kahney’s own familiarity with the world of Apple, this book gives insight into how Jony Ive (now senior vice president of design) has redefined the ways in which we work, entertain, and communicate with one another. Ive’s designs have not only made Apple one of the most valuable companies in the world; they’ve overturned entire industries, from music and mobile phones to PCs and tablets. Then there is Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s book The New Digital Age which is the most ambitious attempt to date to sketch the contours of the world that will emerge as a result of the penetration of electronic networking into every corner of the globe and every part of people's lives. Never before has the future been so vividly and transparently imagined.

Children literature

Children's literature or juvenile literature includes stories, books, and poems that are enjoyed by children. Every year a large number of books are written for children. The prominent books for children in 2013 includes More Than This which is everything you would expect from Patrick Ness. Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman is the most exciting adventure ever to be written about milk since Tolstoy's epic novel War and Milk. It has aliens, pirates, dinosaurs and everything in it. Another outstanding piece of literature is To Be a Cat by Matt Haig. It is a fascinating and magical tale. Then there Demon Dentist by David Walliams which is a jaw‐achingly funny and teeth‐chatteringly thrilling tale about an evil dentist who has an over‐the‐top devotion to teeth extractions.

Pakistani Literature

The Scatter Here Is Too Great heralds a major new voice from Pakistan with a stunning debut—a novel by Bilal Tanweer told in a rich variety of distinctive voices that converge at a single horrific event: a bomb blast at a station in the heart of the city. Tanweer reveals the pain, loneliness, and longing of the characters and celebrates the power of the written word to heal individuals and communities plagued by violence. It allows the reader to look beyond the headlines. Tanweer has managed to make us look at what we already know in a new way: “These stories, I realised, were lost. Nobody was going to know that part of the city but as a place where a bomb went off. The bomb was going to become the story of this city.” The Scatter Here Is Too Great is telling these untold and real.

Peter Grant series

The adventures of Peter Grant, a young officer in the Metropolitan Police; who, following an unexpected encounter with a ghost, is recruited into the small branch of the Met that deals with magic and the supernatural. Broken Homes is the latest book of this series. The other books are Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground. Ben Aaronovitch is the author of this series.