Some of My Favorite Things of 2013


Yes, it’s time for the year-end list of favorite stuff. Off the top of my head, here’s what I most enjoyed this year. Share you own top 5 lists in the comments.

Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) – This took me by complete surprise and is now one of my all time favorites. I wish Levin and Kitty lived next door so I could be friends with them.

The Wheel of Time series (Robert Jordan) – This probably doesn’t belong on the list, but I’ve been reading these books for about 20 years and just finished them this month. That’s an accomplishment worthy of mention. Sadly, the (14) books weren’t at all worth the time investment. Someone should edit the batch down to 4 or 5 crisply paced books.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars (Doescher) – This is one of my favorite things in the world. If you saw our stripped down production at Hutchmoot, be sure to read the uncut version in hardback (available in the store). We had to cut out some of the best stuff.

A Severe Mercy (Vanauken) – C. S. Lewis + Poetry + Sailing + Tragic Love Story = right up my alley. Beautiful book.

Till We Have Faces (Lewis) – It took me 50 or 60 pages to fall for this book, but once I did, I was head over heels until the end. Without a doubt it’s my favorite of everything I’ve read by Lewis.

12 Years a Slave – By a large margin, the best movie I saw this year. Great cinema.

Saving Mr. Banks – I was completely delighted by this whole movie. I smiled all the way through it. My favorite Emma Thompson role since Beatrice.

Mud – I didn’t see this one coming. It reminded me of a modern-day Huck Finn.

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing – It’s hard for me to imagine anyone as Benedick and Beatrice except Kenneth Branaugh and Emma Thompson, but I loved pretty much every second of this movie. Thank you, Joss (and William).

Breaking Bad – I binged the entire series a few months ago and it’ll probably be on my list of favorite pieces of cinema (film or TV) for the rest of my life. I’ve definitely never seen anything else on television that can match it. Finishing it was like finishing a classic piece of Russian literature—like Anna Karenina or Crime and Punishment. Best show ever.

Doctor Who – I think this is the year I finally fell for the Doctor. Love this show. So weird. So wacky. So timey-wimey. And yet so very good.

Sing the Bible with Slugs & Bugs – It’s kind of ridiculous how much I enjoy this record. Well done, Randy.

Arthur Alligood – I fell in love with Arthur Alligood’s music this year. I can’t get enough of either of his records (One Silver Needle and I Have Not Seen the Wind.)

The Mantis and the Moon – Chris Slaten’s (Son of Laughter’s) EP completely blew me away. It actually makes me angry when I listen to it because I want there to be at least 5 or 6 more songs, but there aren’t. Darn you, Chris Slaten.

Trouble Will Find Me (The National) – I thought sure Trouble Will Find Me would disappoint me coming on the heels of High Violet, of which I can probably recite every word. But against all odds, the new record is every bit as great and manages to have a vibe all its own. Love it.

The forthcoming Caleb (the band) album – I’m kind of cheating on this one. I spent a lot of time this year listening to Ben Shive producing Caleb’s new album in the next room. It’s ridiculously good, and I can’t wait for it to go public so the rest of the world can hear how awesome it is.

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


  1. Esther O'Reilly

    My two favorite movies (without seeing 12 Years a Slave) were Gravity and Captain Phillips. If forced to pick just one I would go with Captain Phillips. The only really weak scene was the opening scene with Phillips and his wife. After that–sweat-soaked, true to life and substantial. I loved every tense minute of it. Also, impressed that Hollywood resisted the urge to go all PC with the pirates. Just a few lines here and there and that was it.

    I liked Saving Mr. Banks quite a bit too. If Emma Thompson doesn’t win Best Actress I’ll eat my hat. Even though I know P.L. Travers’ personal life was actually much more bizarre and sordid than the movie shows, I found it refreshing that the film didn’t show or dwell on that. It had a single focus and did well with that. Was it all a little over-done? Maybe. But there was a good balance of light and dark with the main story and the back-story. Really quite sad and haunting in places. But my favorite parts were whenever the Sherman brothers were on screen. They were very fresh and fun.

    I got Shakespeare’s Star Wars for Christmas on your recommendation. It’s a great novelty concept and good for light reading, but I have to confess that the unvarying iambic pentameter gets a little bit stale after a while. Does the author change it up a bit, anywhere? Barring R2’s “Beep meeps” of course.

  2. Esther O'Reilly

    Oh wait, actually scratch that on the movies. I forgot about Mud. That was really my number one. The other two are in a tie for second.

  3. Heather Rose

    I was so happy to see Till We Have Faces on your list! I just got it for Christmas, and haven’t finished it yet, but I am loving it too!

    I’ve got a more detailed review of it on my blog right now.
    I think my favorite thing so far this year has been…
    The 30 chapter preview of the Warden and the Wolf King. By far. I’ve got a short word on that in my blog post, too.


    Oh, and Doctor Who! I finally relented to my friends’ persuasions this year and have loved it! ^_^
    Awesome show. So is BBC’s Sherlock. Though between the two, Doctor Who is my favorite. It’s my favorite of most shows, actually.

  4. Hannah Long

    Like you, after watching the magnificent Branagh and Thompson, I don’t think I can ever fully accept any other Benedick and Beatrice. But the new version was a lot of fun.

    My lists didn’t end up being anywhere near as concise, but for what they’re worth:

    Top 10 Books:
    Top 15 Movies/Top 10 TV shows:

    I must give a shout out to the hilarious British TV show: Last of the Summer Wine (terrible name – it’s not a soap opera, actually, it’s a comedy). It’s like Wallace and Gromit in real life. (Exacerbated by the fact that Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace, was one of the stars.) After a while, it gets rather predictable, but the 1990s episodes were pure comic gold.

  5. Eowyn - Hannah Long

    Like you, after watching the magnificent Branagh and Thompson, I don’t think I can ever fully accept any other Benedick and Beatrice. But the new version was a lot of fun.

    My lists didn’t end up being anywhere near as concise, but for what they’re worth:

    Top 10 Books:
    Top 15 Movies/Top 10 TV shows:

    I must give a shout out to the hilarious British TV show: Last of the Summer Wine (terrible name – it’s not a soap opera, actually, it’s a comedy). It’s like Wallace and Gromit in real life. (Exacerbated by the fact that Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace, was one of the stars.) After a while, it gets rather predictable, but the 1990s episodes were pure comic gold.

    As for Doctor Who, I’m torn. It’s fun, but it can sometimes be childish. And somehow, the whole humanism thing grates more than usual. I know it’s practically a science fiction requirement, but in this it’s made incarnate in the Doctor. So ultimately, I think I’d prefer Sherlock. And Discworld. 🙂

  6. Terry Kreutzkamp

    I only picked books this year. I gave 5 stars (on to 7 books (out of 68 read in 2013):
    Wonder by R.J. Palacio
    In the Absence of God by Richard L. Cleary
    Canadian History for Dummies by Will Ferguson
    The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
    In Search of Deep Faith by Jim Belcher
    Paris by Edward Rutherfurd
    Mark – The Gospel of Passion by Michael Card
    – brief reviews of each at

  7. Amy L

    Til We Have Faces is one of my favorites, too. But I am woefully incapable of explaining why I love it. Any description I give of the story sounds just plain weird.

  8. Chris Whitler

    We do this very thing with our kids every year…they fill out a memory book and part of it is listing favorite things like this from the past year. It fun to see what changes and what doesn’t.

    For me, book…

    I have fallen in love with audio books. My favorite time of the school day was when our teacher would read to us and an audio book kinda takes me back there. Also, it gives me the ability to enjoy a story and go for a walk which are also two of my favorite things.

    I really enjoyed the audio book of World War Z this year! Haha…just trying to think of my old teacher reading that one to me 🙂 But seriously, it upped the ante on what an audio book can be and was a cool way to tell a story. Also, quite creepy.

    Movie and TV…

    I agree heartily with Breaking Bad. What an end! Probably the most satisfying end to a series ever and so well written throughout.

    The 7 episode show Derek by Rickey Gervais. I can’t heartily recommend it because one of the characters is quite disgusting to experience but the ending episode of that show is probably the best thing Gervais will ever do.

    Star Trek Into Darkness was a fun trip to the theater and I was disappointed with the Hobbit film this year but (at risk of being kicked out of the rabbit room for this) I have changed my tune after re-watching the first film and immediately going back to see the most recent one in HFR 3-D. I really had fun. Bilbo’s face while realizing how big Smaug is could be worth the cost of admission.


    Hands down, Sing the Bible. My kids love it. We listed to it often and I think I could stand to hear the songs “Freedom” and “Love” every morning for the rest of my life.

    Happy New Year!

  9. Hetty

    For me, this has been the year of finally getting into things people have told me about for years. Pete, I also fell for the Doctor this year!

    Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie) — So witty, delightful and sad. A new all time favorite.

    Dune (Frank Herbert) — I love this book. I can’t even tell you why I liked it so much but I did and I will never forget it.

    Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling)– Why did it take me this long to listen to everyone and read these books? Some of the older posts on The Rabbit Room were the reason I was able to put my fear aside and enjoy these for the beauty that they are.

    George MacDonald — I read (or listened) to several stories but my favorite so far is “The Day Boy and The Night Girl.” His stories cut me to the heart.

    The Milk Carton Kids — I saw them open for Josh Ritter in Nashville this year and I have been listening to them ever since.

    Lost — I finally watched the last season and to my surprise I really enjoyed it.
    Dr. Who — What is not to like about the Doctor?

    I saw a lot of movies that I didn’t like this year (unfortunately many were in the theater) so the only ones that come to mind as being an enjoyable experience:

    Safety Not Guaranteed — this is a really creative movie and one that keeps coming back to mind.
    The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug — I had such low expectations that I actually had a blast watching this film.

  10. Nicole McLernon

    I utterly agree with everything on the books and movies lists. A Severe Mercy and Til We Have Faces are some of the most stunning books I’ve ever read. Some of the items I have not experienced yet but they’ve been on my list for a while. Except for possibly the Wheels of Time.

    And can I just say that 2013 was The Year of The Doctor for me? I started watching it in the early spring and I am a full-fledged Whovian now. A friend and I were talking the other day about how science fiction (and Doctor Who in particular) helps us imagine bigger things. Sci-fi gives us words and images and ideas that we may not have even dreamed of on our own.

  11. Esther O'Reilly

    Allow me also to plug an indie film called Kings of Summer. It’s a coming-of-age comedy. The cons: Some foul language and wince-worthy portrayal of familial dysfunction. The pros: Looks gorgeous, feels organic, and has one of the best scripts I’ve seen all year. I think it could be a Rabbit Room thing.

  12. gllenguy

    top book – The Pastor – A Memoir – by Eugene Peterson
    top album – Olafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter
    top movie – still have yet to see The Hobbit – part 2 – tomorrow…

  13. Esther O'Reilly

    Rest assured GllenGuy, The Hobbit 2 is in no danger of causing you to hastily rearrange your best-of list.

  14. Carl Anderson

    I’ve come back to share my top book picks:

    Children’s Books (Read with my 5 and 2 year old)
    The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge- Jill Barklem
    Mr. Popper’s Penguins
    (and reread Chronicles of Narnia)
    Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems
    Look! A Book! by Bob Staake

    All of these books are just plain fun, and Elephant and Piggie always have our family rolling in laughter.

    The Chosen – Chaim Potok
    Peace Like a River – Leif Enger

    Mandatory Rabbit Room reading 🙂

    Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books- A great resource in helping me delve deeper in my reading and be more thoughtful not only about my book selections, but to ask critical questions and ask the “why?” and “what for?” questions.

    Me, myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer / Angry Conversations with God by Susan Isaacs- I’ve grouped these two books together because they each, in their own ways, taught me about laying down my desires/dreams and pursuing God, Himself, rather than what I think is best for me.

    and for the baseball fans out there:
    Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball by R.A. Dickey- Riveting story of a man who was broken and has come through in humility to serve God and open his life up as a shining example for others.

  15. Esther O'Reilly

    Ooooh, excellent pick on the Phil Vischer. I got that one for Christmas and just finished it today. Nearly made me cry a couple times.

  16. Laure Hittle

    Till We Have Faces—the last paragraph on the last page just cuts to my heart and hurts me in the most exquisitely beautiful way. There are a couple of soul-liquifying quotes that all roll together in my mind; if one comes up the others invariably follow right on its heels, and they always come when i am at my weakest or neediest or least trusting or most grieved with G-d. “Please sir, you may eat me if you like. i’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.” “If you can deceive me, you may.” “Where else could we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” And that last paragraph in TWHF, right before Arnon adds his ending. “i know now… i might…” That line IS the entire book.

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