Monday, January 5, 2015

The 10 Best Books I Read In 2014

Hello and welcome to my very favorite post of the year. I'm one of those weirdos who sets reading goals and keeps track of what I read every year. Then I pick the top 10 and thrown them up on the blog just in case any of you are looking for something good to read. Not sure why this is the FUNNEST THING EVER to me but it is. Books AND lists! Whoop! (Check out 2013's list here and 2012's list here for more recommendations.)

It was a very strange reading year for me. Maybe partly because my goals for this year were pretty lofty. I planned to read Infinite Jest, War & Peace, The Bell Jar some Raymond Carver, a bit of Nora Ephron and the entire Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. Infinite Jest took me three months to read and, while I enjoyed aspects of it, I sorta wanted to throw it out of my car window on the 405. (Which would've caused an earthquake; have you SEEN the size of that thing?) But, I finished it and I'm super proud. I want a shirt. I want a trophy.  I want my three months back. I made all my goals except (and it's a big except) I only read five of the twenty Vorkosigan books and I only made it a third of the way through War & Peace, which ate up another month of reading time. I never quit books halfway. I always always finish them. But War & Peace got the better of me. What I remember about it is this: soldiers taking meetings. Good, right? Hahahahaha yeah.

So, this year I spent four months reading gigantic books I wasn't enjoying and the rest of the time reading a bunch of series like the Divergent series by Veronica Roth and The Giver quartet by Lois Lowry (which were both okaaay) and multiple novels by a handful of authors like Rainbow Rowell, Donna Tartt and Meg Wolitzer. I would find an author I dug and then read three in a row. I wouldn't say it was a banner book year for me but there were five that I really loved and five that I really liked so this list should be pretty dope, yo. Here we go:

1) The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Oh, this book! This book is completely consuming and beautifully written. I've recommended it to everyone who has uttered the word "book" anywhere near me in the last nine months. It follows a piece of art called "The Goldfinch" but really it's a story about loss and identity. It spans many years in one character's life and the book manages to be both character driven and riveting. I'm already looking forward to reading this again in a few years.

2) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I think there's a reason I waited so long to read this book. I don't think I would've fully appreciated it if I'd read it in my teens or twenties. There's a deep melancholy to this book but don't make the mistake of thinking that it's too sad to be palatable. Sylvia Plath nails certain aspects of being a human who wrestles with sanity and depression. I would recommend reading something light and fun after this and not Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton like I did. I mean, dude.

3) The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
This is the most relatable book I've read in recent memory. It follows a group of friends from a camp for the arts in the sixties throughout their lives, ending in current day New York City. Some of them succeed and some of them don't but the story of their struggles and their relationships with each other is so realistic and so beautiful that I threw down the book and exclaimed, "I FUCKING LOVED THAT!" to my dog when I finished it.

4) Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver
A friend of mine -whose taste in books I trust- loaned me this book and The Bell Jar at the beginning of the year. I ended up loving both and returned them to him with a lot of enthusiasm and thank yous. For lack of a better way to describe Carver's style, I'll just say that it's spare and real. Sort-of like Hemingway but way more realistic, like you're sitting in a room watching the characters, not being told a story. His storytelling isn't like anything I've ever read before but I enjoyed the stories very much. I look forward to reading much more Carver in the future.

5) The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
This was the last book I read in 2014 and what a way to end the year! Didion tells the tale of the year her husband died right in front of her while her only daughter was in the hospital with a very serious and very unusual illness. The book feels extremely intimate. You're led down the path of grief with the author and you discover what it all means or doesn't mean right along side her. It's not as sad as you would think. Instead it's inspirational.

6) Prince Lestat by Anne Rice
I loved this book. Loved it. I mean, it filled me with glee. But when a friend who had read and loved the first couple of books of the Vampire Chronicles back in the day asked if she should buy it, I told her to catch up on the other books first. The book gives mega-fans things they've been waiting for for decades and it's stock full of moody sexy moments between beautiful immortals but you really need to remember your Anne Rice to enjoy this one. I found it to be dark and sweeping and satisfying. Everything I want in a book with Lestat in the title.

7) The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
I loved The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex so I expected to love this one too. I would say I liked it a lot but didn't fall head over. It feels like a book for book lovers. A book for people who study books. It feels very inside, like the book equivalent to a tv show about the industry like "Extras" or "The Comeback." Which is not to say a regular reader wouldn't enjoy it. The characters are interesting and complex and as the novel goes on, you grow to really care about what happens to them even if they're not entirely relatable.

8) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
This is not the type of book I'd normally pick up and read but it was recommended to me by a friend at a party -someone who has the same taste in books as I do- so I bought it and dove in. It's a really great little love story. Very simple but just lovely in a way that not many of the YA books I've read are. It's set in the 80s and the two title characters are so much like the people I knew growing up that the book felt like a warm fuzzy nostalgic hug.

9) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I'm not usually looking to read books about the second World War. Not that I haven't read my share but anything involving Nazis usually makes me feel like puking. But, this book had been recommended several times so I decided to go for it. I'm really glad I did. It follows a girl who becomes obsessed with books, even in the middle of book burning Nazi Germany. There are moments in the novel when I felt like I'd never breathe again but ultimately, it's a beautiful story about how awesome people can be even in the darkest lamest most horrible of times.

10) Revival by Stephen King
I know, I know. A Stephen King book on my list, SHOCKER. I love all of his books but there was something about this one that stayed with me for weeks after I finished it. I read it on a spa retreat weekend while I was staying BY MYSELF in a place with no tv or wifi so I only had this book to keep me company. I inhaled it in a day and a half and after, felt like I needed to detox from my detox weekend. I don't even think I should tell you what this is about because I feel like I'll ruin it for you. Just read it. Geez.

Honorable Mentions: (They didn't make the list but I recommend them wholeheartedly.) Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, Kalix the Werewolf by Martin Miller, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Most of Nora Ephron (I just recommend ANY Nora Ephron. I mean, seriously.)

My 2015 reading goals are as follows: (Hold me to these, you guys!) Reread Dracula by Bram Stoker and Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. Read On The Road by Jack Keroac, The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (because it's my mom's favorite).

Hope you found some new titles to check out. Have a great 2015 full of good books and good times, y'all! Cheers!

xo,
K