I was super lazy this year. I didn’t put together the fancy-schmancy top books I’ve read this year list. I read some good stuff, and a lot of middling stuff that I pushed through to try and figure out why the book didn’t work for me. I read a terrific work in progress that will be coming out as a book in 2017 and I read some books (both published and not) that should have stayed either under the bed or as an unshared digital file. It was an okay year of reading. Maybe I’ll organize the highlights later.
In the annual tradition of useless best of lists, I hereby present my best reads for 2014. As per my reading habits, this does not mean books that came out this year, only books I read for the first time over the past twelve months.
As I reviewed my reading list for the year, a couple of generalities jumped out. First, I enjoyed a number of shorter works. I also started a lot of crap novellas and short stories that weren’t worth finishing. Second, there are some terrific books appropriate for middle schoolers out there. Gail Carriger, Rebecca Stead and Nick Bruel are far more age level appropriate than was the Stephen King I devoured at age 11–which was about the age I was when I first read The Shining. What goes around, comes around…
Without further ado:
10) Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble – Nick Bruel – Once again, Bruel takes a complicated subject (in this case story craft) and breaks it down into easy to understand components all while engaging in a battle of wills with Bad Kitty. I will read his Bad Kitty books even when my kids outgrown them.
9) Fiend – Peter Stenson – Audio book read by Tom Haberkorn. I specify audio book, because I understand some people take issue with the grammar. The narrator, Tom Haberkorn brought a manic energy to Peter Stenson’s tale of a zombie apocalypse. The survivors are all meth-heads who will succumb to the zombie disease if they don’t get their fix. This book is as close as I wish to get to the urgent crush of addiction.
8) Austinland – Shannon Hale – plenty of authors have tried to write a regency and played with the tropes of Jane Austin’s books and life with varying degrees of success, but Hale’s view of Jane Austin theme park flaunts the anachronism and absurdity of an obsession with all things Austin. I picked this up because of the publication backstory. The content beat my expectations and kudos to Hale for sticking with her vision.
7) The Boys of Summer – Sarah Madison – The historical M/M romance read as part of 2014’s January Project stayed with me all year. I read a handful of other M/M historical in literary and romance categories. John Boyne’s The Absolutist got more attention, but Madison’s was the superior book both in character and story execution.
6) Gulp – Mary Roach – I’ve said it before and I hope I will say it again, I will follow Mary Roach anywhere her curious mind takes her. I laughed and learned, even through the squeamish bits.
5) Dr. Sleep – Stephen King – The man is the master. And I expect a sequel featuring the grown up Abra Stone in about twenty years.
4) Marshlands – Matthew Olshan – In this slim volume of a story told in reverse order hides beautiful language, history lessons and thoughtful meditations on colonialism, otherness, dictatorships, war, brutality, torture and forgiveness. This book deserves a wider audience.
3) Etiquette and Espionage – Gail Carriger – Is it literary sacrilege to say I’d rather attend Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality than Hogwarts? This steam punk adventure follows young Sophronia’s as she and her mechanimal navigate the floating school, avoid Picklemen, and learn how to kill someone with a handkerchief.
2) Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn – It lives up to the hype and is better than the movie.
1) We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson – this book has been around since 1962. HOW DID I NOT KNOW OF ITS EXISTANCE PRIOR TO 2014!!!!! An instant all-time favorite.
Fun for the whole family edition: The Sasquatch Escape, and The Lonely Lake Monster both Suzanne Selfors, When you Reach me – Rebecca Stead
Short Story edition: Bug Stuff – Vicki Batman – for a quick laugh, La Llorona – Leslie Garcia – a haunting ghost story.
Other contenders: Lost in Shangri-La – Mitchell Zuckoff, Bad Traveler – Lola Karns, January Thaw – Jess Lourey, Shine, Shine, Shine – Lydia Netzer
Any suggestions for next year’s reading? Post them below.
If you’ve followed me since inception, you know the routine, and you might need your head examined. For the rest of you, here’s the run-down. Each year in December, I post the ten best books I’ve read all year, regardless of when the book first appeared in publication. I consider ebooks, audio books and yes, paper books so long as I read them this calendar year. And since a few days remain in 2013, I pledge I will only read crap the rest of the year so as to not ruin my list.
10. Flowertown by S.G. Redling — I had high expectations for this dystopian novel and this book met-if not surpassed- them. After a chemical disaster leaves an Iowa town in quarantine, the inhabitant yearn for freedom or at least answers. Ellie is a terrific anti-hero who must decide whether to continue a slow death or find a way to channel her rage at the true enemy. As an FYI- There’s a lot of language in here – didn’t bother me but it may put off some readers and may explain why it hasn’t taken off like some other dystopian series aimed more at the young adult market.
9. If the Shoe Fits by Amber T. Smith — This updated Cinderella story features an evil ex-stepmother, a talking cat, a pair of memorable shoes, Mr. Charming and an even more charming heroine in Ella. I love that Ella has a lot of self-confidence and can laugh at her own propensity for getting into awkward social situations. She is the type of gal who will make you laugh so hard to spit beer out your nose on girls night out. There is a terrific sense of play in this book. If you want serious literature, run the other direction. This book is a light as air delightful bon-bon, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.
8. Mrs. Perfect by Jane Porter — Jane Porter did something I never thought was possible – she made a type A perfectionist super Mom human. Part of the appeal for me in this book stems from how well it meshed with book #2 on my list. The heroines surely ran into each other somewhere along the way with bile and hilarity ensuing.
7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett — this is one of those books that will fuel conversations for years. It’s not a perfect book, but memorable with winning characters you think about long after you close the covers.
6. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea — I blogged about this book last week. Click here to see why it made my best list.
5. The Time Between by Karen White — Not only is this a strange choice since it actually came out this year, but I haven’t met anyone else who has read it, which is weird and a shame. I’ll be honest, if I’d seen it in a bookstore, I might have walked past it, but I received a complementary copy from the author at a writing conference and picked it up when a bunch of other books were in moving boxes. I won’t spoil the mystery surrounding the great aunts, but will say if you enjoy Southern Fiction (it’s set in the Carolinas), or even stories that address familial guilt, pick up this book. You can practically smell the sea breeze.
4. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim — Embrace your inner Nellie Olsen – Alison did, but this book is so much more. Part Hollywood memoir, part feminist manifest, part overcoming horrors, you’ll learn about humanity and laugh so hard you might pee your wetsuit. (See – that’s why you need to read the book).
3. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker — Another young adult dystopian, but this one, I’d share with my 10 year old. Unlike many dystopians that feature a world divided by have/have nots and marked by violence, this looks at transition time. The earth’s rotation is slowing, the time between sunrise and sunset increases daily. This almost poetic look at the banal during a life changing epoch reminds me of my fave nuclear holocaust film/series of the 1980’s Testament.
2. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple — freakin’ hilarious and I admire the untraditional storytelling.
1. The Fault in our Stars by John Green — I finished this several months ago and words still fail me when I try to communicate the elegant, unapologetic beauty of this story of about teens with childhood cancer
So that’s it – what should I read next?