Donna Tartt

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

First, a word about this list: It's honestly just a fluke that my best books rundown for 2013 is so gender-biased. I didn't deliberately set out this year to read so many terrific books by women.

"Dickensian" is one of those literary modifiers that's overused. But before I officially retire this ruined adjective (or exile it to Australia, as Dickens himself would have done), I want to give it one final outing, because no other word will do. Here goes: Donna Tartt's grand new novel, The Goldfinch, is Dickensian both in the ambition of its jumbo, coincidence-laced plot, as well as in its symphonic range of emotions.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Theo Decker is a 13-year-old boy who, in an instant, gains a masterpiece, but loses his mother — who is also a kind of masterpiece.

Theo and his mother are looking at a special show of old Dutch Masters at the Met, and the little boy doesn't much enjoy it — "Dutch people standing around in Dutch clothes," he calls it. They see a painting of a little yellow pet finch, chained at the ankle, by an artist named Fabritius.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.