Here are my top ten of 2014 – I can’t wait for the new reading year to begin!
The Goldfinch by Donna Tart: I loved this coming-of-age epic novel about Theodore, who, after his mother dies in a bombing at an art museum in New York, moves around and in and out of people’s lives, grieving for his mother and trying to figure out what to do with his life. A stolen 17th Century Dutch painting, New York City, Las Vegas and some very loving and very shady characters play roles. I can highly recommend the audiobook as I began with it but soon had to get the book so that I could immerse myself as often as possible.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I gravitate towards novels set during the World Wars – hoping they’ll enlighten me or maybe it’s just that it’s so hard to imagine living during such times. Anyway, Doerr’s work is a beautifully written look at the lives of two young people who are growing up during World War II, one in France, the other Germany, and how their lives converge. Magical.
Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast. Chast’s graphic novel about dealing with her parents as they are growing older and becoming unable to care for themselves is funny, matter-of-fact and heartbreaking.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Back and forth between the present, where a flu virus has destroyed most of civilization and the past, just before the end of the world, six peoples’ lives intertwine, from an actress with a travelling band of entertainers, to a mysterious and menacing prophet. Unusual and moving, this is a beautiful novel.
The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer: These three books, Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance, were all released in 2014. They are weird, frustrating, and menacing works about the mysterious Area X, an isolated coastal area where something otherworldly has happened. Let’s just say that no one is reliable, there are lies and more lies and weird creatures and very few names and…I’m still trying to figure it all out!
Euphoria by Lily King: Oh to sit around in a tent in the South Pacific chatting with the likes of Margaret Mead! This novel is based on Mead’s research and the love triangle between herself and her second and third husbands. Youth, brilliance, and sensuality permeate this lovely novel.
The Remedy for Love: a Novel by Bill Roorbach: This novel is about a highly unlikely relationship that develops under extreme circumstances. A small town lawyer ends up stuck in a cabin in the woods with a woman who has lost everything during a freak snowstorm. It was funny, insightful and a little bit edge-of-your-seat thrilling.
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris: A misanthropic, highly successful dentist has a phobia for technology and a fascination with religion – and then someone steals his web identity and tells him he’s a descendent of an ancient religious sect. Ferris’ descriptive writing is spot on and often hilarious. You may not love Dr. O’Rourke – he can be super caustic, but you’ll want to travel with him on this journey. Oh and now I floss a lot more – it’ll add seven years to your life!
The Secret Place by Tana French: French is a great writer of mystery suspense – she really captures a place and gives depth to her characters. This one is set in a wealthy all-girls school after the murder of a male student at a nearby school and captures the secrets and lies that permeate the air.
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld: Australian Wyld has created a fascinating character in Jake Whyte, a woman living on her own on raising sheep, which someone or something is trying to kill off. The structure of the book is unique – as we move forward in Jake’s quest to uncover the culprit, we also move backward as we discover why Jake has isolated herself. This book is ominous and claustrophobic – but Jake is a tough cookie and you root for her in a big way.
Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart: Shteyngart is known for fiction, but his life so far makes for a mesmerizing memoir. Early memories of the Soviet Union, his immigration to the U.S., his relationship with his parents and his fragile health are fuel for this both laugh-out loud funny and touchingly poignant book.