My Favorite Books of 2014
I love books so much I want to marry them. I love books more than gin & tonics, Pringles, Bruce Springsteen concerts, karaoke, yoga, and modern art museums. And that’s saying something, because those things are pretty much sacred to me. For me, heaven will be a book store with comfy chairs, a soft lighting concept, and brilliant reading lamps atop end tables just big enough for my cup of Whatever. I am incapable of watching TV because I am too devoted to my silent reading time. I’m still not finished with Season 1 of Orange is the New Black, and I’m still trying to finish up Season 2 of Mad Men. That’s how bad my book addiction is. Because those shows are GOOD.
Of the books I read in 2014, there are 9 that I absolutely loved. I tried to think of a 10th, just to be cute about it, but only 9 made it to the top. You won't find any real plot descriptions with these reccos. I find that by putting the plot into words cheapens it, and makes every great book sound like a lot of blah blah blah. In fact, I ignored Signature of All Things for too long because of the plot description. So instead, I’m just going to share why each book resonated with me.
(And shout outs to my beloved book club The Interestings of St Chris… getting to know you ladies at the book level feels like we are blood sisters now.)
Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert. Everything about this book was lush and unexpected. I have a giant girl crush on Liz Gilbert, and this was icing on the cake. Her rendering of the life and misadventures of Alma Whittaker will make you decide once and for all that you will never write a novel as good as this. In fact, it may make you feel under qualified even to write a short blurb about it. At least that’s what happened to me.
What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty. Every few years or so, a book comes along that feels like it was written just for you. I felt that way about Cheryl Strayed’s brilliant book Wild, and I feel that way about this one. If you are a middle class, suburban woman with children, this book will take you right into the heart of the mystery of your own seemingly ordinary life. No matter that it’s written from Sydney, Australia. It turns out, those Aussie gals roll pretty much the same way we do here in the US of A. For better or worse.
Power of One, Bryce Courtenay. No, this is not a self help book. This was actually my second time reading it, because it’s just that good. It is a novel about a boy in South Africa, but it almost feels like a collection of amazing stories vs. a full story arc. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Try this little gem from Doc, the wise German mentor to the main character PeeKay…
“. . . God is too busy making the sun come up and go down and watching so the moon floats just right in the sky to be concerned with color . . . only man wants always God should be there to condemn this one and save that one. Always it is man who wants to make heaven and hell. God is too busy training the bees to make honey and every morning opening up all the new flowers for business.”
This book will make you glad to be alive.
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. I’m pretty sure I began 2014 with this book, and it damn near tore my heart out of my chest. The writing is magnificent and the story is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It ponders so many questions, but the one I carry with me is this: What if the heart wants what it wants? The more broken the heart, the more tragic the desires. And there’s not a lot to be done about it. And yet despite how heartbreaking it is, the final 20 pages are the most sublime I’ve ever read. Tartt’s Pulitzer for The Goldfinch was well deserved.
Where’d You Go Bernadette? Maria Semple This book scared me a little. The slightly off kilter Bernadette was someone I identified with a little too deeply. She is the woman I would be if I didn’t need to be liked so damn much. And I’m not talking about her artistic prowess in the novel, I’m talking about her inability to function in civil society. My fears were calmed a bit when I realized during our book club gathering that nearly half of the people who read it thought she was funny and endearing. So far, I am functioning in civil society at the moment, which means I can be friends with the other half of my book club too. Which is nice.
Dune, Frank Herbert. I have no idea what possessed me to tackle this now. Nor can I explain why, despite my love of sci-fi and fantasy, I had never read what most Fantasy/Sci Fi nerds consider to be the bible of the genre. Dune did not disappoint. I’m just now realizing that it might have been the Bene Gesserit training storyline that lead me to the meditation classes I’m now taking. Ha!
The Pines Trilogy, Blake Crouch. Holy shit, the Pines. This trilogy may be the most gripping, shocking tale I’ve ever heard. The plot is so insane, I cannot imagine how he came up with it, but I’m sure glad he did. I can’t tell you more than that because it’ll spoil the fun. Think Twin Peaks. And get ready to have your mind blown to smithereens. Do not read if you are currently on high blood pressure medication.
Sacred Contracts, Carolyn Myss. If you’ve ever wanted to explore Jungian archetypes, man, this book is good. I learned so much about myself, my tendencies and why I do the things I do, I can’t even tell you. It’s definitely New Age woo-woo stuff, but I love me some New Age woo-woo stuff.
Outrageous Openness, Tosha Silver I absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED this collection of insights on surrendering to all that life serves up to us. In fact, this book is sitting on my desk at all times, reminding me that All Is Well. If you believe in some form of the Divine, you will love this little book.
With that, I wish you a beautiful holiday and may your books be gripping and wondrous in 2015!