10 Best Books I Read in 2014, PART 2

Squarespace is gonna fight me on my numbered list, because this starts with #6 AND WHO AM I TO ARGUE WITH THE SQUARESPACE AI -- so here is the rest of my list with correct numbers and substandard formatting:

6. The Parallel Apartments by Bill Cotter
It’s kooky, quirky, and hysterically funny.  At least a little bit brilliant.  And happens to be written by an author who lives in Austin.  

7. All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
Just because of the topic, this book will not be for everyone.  But maybe it ought to be.  I’m so impressed by how easy it is to know this narrator, Yoli — to really feel immersed in her skin, in her thoughts.  But it was emotionally draining for me to read.

8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My sole feel-good read of the year, which was actually published in 2011 and has been sitting on my shelf since then, unread until a few months ago.  This was so much fun for me, and has been elevated to top-10 status because it’s the only book that my husband, 11-year-old son, and I all read (separately) and enjoyed.  We were able to talk about it, muse over it, debate plot points in it, and basically create family time discussing it.  Hope there’s a movie coming out of this one.

9. We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride
Although the prose is a touch melodramatic, and the plot can feel contrived as can any story with a large, multi-character ensemble, there is so much truth embedded in this book.  Plus, the story is set in Las Vegas and much of that is painfully and wonderfully familiar.  I feel like this is similar in some ways to We Are Not Ourselves (and I’m not talking about similarity in the titles), but way better.  Would have liked to have seen We Are Called to Rise on more of the well-known top 10 lists for the year.

10. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I had a hard time picking my favorite 10 titles, which means I’ll work on an “Honorable Mentions” list soon.  Yes Please is a book that came at the right time, with the right messages, for me.  Having hit a milestone birthday in 2014, so much about my world, and my place in it, felt clearer, and in some way that’s due to Amy Poehler sharing her experiences, challenging the way I see things, and giving voice to some of my own latent thoughts and ideas.  Although I can’t say this was even close to the best-written book I read last year, it has influenced me to action more than any other.  Maybe Ms. Poehler can start a Smart Women offshoot of her successful Smart Girls initiative…

Honorable mentions to come.

10 Best Books I Read in 2014, Part 1

Happy New Year!  One focus for 2015 is getting back to blogging, so even though this post may have been better timed as a year-end post, it's my first post of the new year.  I read A LOT of books last year -- 96 total, probably an all-time high I'm not likely to come close to again -- and the best of those were really, really great.  Here's Part 1 of my Top 10 books I read in 2014, in order (click on the title for my full Goodreads review):

  1. Wool by Hugh Howey
    The best book I read in 2014 was published in 2012, but it was so exceptional in pretty much every way.  (I wish I could say the same for the second and third books in the series, but I can’t, and I won't.)  So I’ll heap lots of deserved praise on this one, which has got it all:  memorable and sympathetic characters, a unique setting, and a plot that unfolds masterfully.  
  2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
    Give in to the hype.  You can almost feel yourself in this beautiful, futuristic setting, with these other survivors all around you, getting to know your tribe by hearing their stories.  Post-apocalyptic without being even a little bit sci-fi.
  3. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
    This is the only non-fiction, non-memoir in my top 10 this year, either because the fiction was just so stellar or because I have become an unabashed fiction lover, but this is the only book I read in 2014 that I recommend to everyone, everywhere.  Yes.  EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK.  And then read it again.  And everyone should then talk about it, and decide what to do next.  It’s that kind of book.
  4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
    This has shown up on several top 10 lists I’ve seen this year, and I knew from the first few pages it would be on mine.  This novel just glows, so brightly that not even 500 printed pages can obscure the glow.  It made me warm from the inside out, and seemed to do so effortlessly.  It was fun reading a recent interview with Mr. Doerr, in which he talked about how all those little details that came across so effortlessly had often perplexed him when he was sorting out how to put it all together.
  5. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
    The liquid prose and flawless plot momentum serve as perfect foils to the complete stagnation we experience alongside our resident social worker hero, Pete Snow.  This is one of a couple books this year in which the story unfolded with the requisite tension of a good mystery.  Hooked me.

The rest of my top 10, plus honorable mentions, are coming soon (tomorrow?) to a blog near you (this one).