My Favorite Books of 2014; A Dubious List

I’m going to be honest, this is really more like a list of books I disliked the least this year, and it makes me a little nervous because most of these books aren’t on any other best of lists and it stresses me out to recommend books that other people might hate.  But you know, we’re all different, that’s one of the fun things about books.  Some people have “Belzhar” as THEIR FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR, while I’m still thinking about standing next to it at the library and slowly shaking my head no at anyone who tries to check it out.

Here’s to next year, right?

1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

a j fikry

This was lovely. I thought it would be terrible, it was not. Sad and funny and beautifully plotted and great. Read it.

2. Lucky Us*

lucky us

This is one of those books that really sticks with you.  It wasn’t perfect, and it’s not super high on the feel good meter, but I still really liked it. Jennie Canzoneri, I predict you hate this and tell me it’s boring, so fair warning.

3. Fallout*

fall out

This was one of those very Britishy drama chick lit type of books.  I found it quite enjoyable. If you liked “One Day” I predict you would like this.

4. Off Course*

off course

This was a strange little quiet book, but I loved the vibe.  I’m trying to think what to compare it to. Something about it reminded me of “Wild”, but don’t go hating it when it doesn’t turn out to be “Wild 2”.

5. Thank You For Your Service

thank you

Heartbreaking, interesting, intense, really really great. Best non-fiction of the year.

6. How to Love

how to love

My favorite YAF book of the year. It reminds me of romantic comedies, how the difference between a great one and a terrible one seems so small but actually you’re talking about the difference between “When Harry Met Sally” and “The Vow” and it’s SO easy to really make a bad one and shockingly hard to make a really good one but when you do it WORKS so well and it’s great and becomes so much more than “just” a romantic comedy.  That’s how this book is. It’s not a comedy, but it’s an example of a cliched genre done really really well.

7. Young God

young god

This was my “holy shit that was hard to read but it’s not like anything else out there, that’s for sure” book of the year. I would love to read this for a book group because it’s the kind of thing I want to talk about afterwards with everyone I know. It was a hard book to read and it was DARK DARK DARK but it was not NOTHING, if that makes sense.

8. How to Build a Girl

how to build a girl

My favorite book of the year.  This passage? It still gives me thrills every time I read it.

“John, he was not a beautiful boy, nor a tall one.  He was round, like a barrel, in a shabby brown suit-and his hair was neither one color nor the other.  His face was slightly crushed, and his hands shook a lot for a man of twenty-four–although, as he put it later, “In dog years, my liver is sixty-eight.” But when the wind blew in on the street corner, you could see his heart beat under his shirt, and when the conversation accelerated, you could see his mind chime, like a clock.  He was bright bright bright, like the lantern above a pub door in November–he made you want to come in and never leave.”

People have said, in criticism, “oh, this isn’t a genuine voice for a teenage girl,blah blah blah.” Don’t care. Loved every word.

9. Althea & Oliver

althea and oliver

This was very nicely written. I enjoyed the voice of the author and the female main character and it was different from 99% of the other YAF I was subjected to this year. It felt very fresh and new.

10. Station Eleven

station eleven

Excellent. Probably my third favorite book of the year behind “How to Build a Girl” and “How to Love”. I wish it had been longer, for a change. This the best storytelling I read this year, a good quick creepy read.

*Had I read less utter poo this year, these three books would probably be on my runner up list. 

Books I Read In August, September, October, November, and December 2014

Well, this was either a bad year for books or else I no longer like books. Quite frankly I’d be astonished if I am actually able to come up with 10 favorites for my year end post. On the plus side I watched a lot of good TV, so you know. The circle of life! Except not really. (PS Who cares about books! Watch Peaky Blinders! Do it now!  #teamtommyshelby)

Anyway, here’s what I read:

64. The Vacationers by Emma Straub

the vacationers

I didn’t hate this, and it had some good moments, but several of these characters were of the “I’ll make these people interesting by making them incredibly awful” type of characters and I am well and truly done with that literary trope.

65. The Fever

the fever

This was legit terrible.

66. Station Eleven

station eleven

I loved this. It felt very spare and interesting and creepy.  Totally recommend. I told Erik to read it, which doesn’t happen very often. PS if you’re not into “almost all of us die of the flu” then maybe this isn’t for you.

67. This Dark Road to Mercy

this dark road to mercy

This was well written but it didn’t hold my attention. I kept having to make myself read it and then I’d fall asleep two pages later.

68. All the Light We Cannot See

all the light we cannot see

I wanted to love this, it was absolutely beautifully written, but it was FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY ONE PAGES LONG. I’m starting to think I just don’t enjoy any books that are that long. It’s just too fricking long.

69. The Children Act

the children act

The first half was fine, the second half ruined it.

70. The Book of Unknown Americans

the book of unknown americans

This was on a ton of “best of 2014 lists”  but to me it read like one giant ethnic cliche.

71. Belzhar

belzhar

This may be the worst book I read all year.  Holy goodnight did I hate this book. If it wasn’t a library book I would have lit it on fire in my front yard.

72. Barracuda

barracuda

This was well written, but the main character was just so awful I only made it 311 pages in before I gave up.  Again, 448 pages? No. Can’t do it. Sorry.

73. Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, Book #3)

blue lily blue lily

This series was originally supposed to be three books, she decided to make it four. I think you could tell in this book.  It was fine, but it felt like filler.

74. Althea & Oliver

althea and oliver

I liked this book. There’s a scene that gave the Goodreads reviewers fits of rage, but I didn’t have that issue with it. I really liked the character of Althea a lot, she felt like an original voice in a sea of crap.

75. How to Build A Girl

how to build a girl

This was my favorite book of the year. I loved it with every fiber of my being.  It was filthy and dirty and rude and at the same time so beautiful I took instagrams of my favorite passages.  I can’t wait to reread it.  I have heard it’s quite derivative of her memoir, but I haven’t read that, so I wouldn’t know. All I know is I loved it and I’m so glad I read it and if I ever wrote a book I would want it to be just like this.

76. Famous In Love

famous in love

This was your average mindless YAF. It was perfectly good for wasting an afternoon but I wouldn’t recommend it, probably. I did love the last line of the dedication, to Katie and Josh.  ALL THE FEELINGS I LOVE YOU PACEY WITTER.

77. Everything I Never Told You

everythink I never told you

This was beautiful and heartbreaking but these people were SO MISERABLE.  Ugh.

78. 100 Sideways Miles

100 sideways miles

Everyone loved this but me. I felt like it was beating me over the head with how cool it was at every turn. Quit trying to make fetch happen, book.

79. Fourth of July Creek

fourth of july creek

Dear god this WAS SO EFFING LONG. I think I liked this, but by page 415 I just wanted it all to end. I might make 2015 the year I just put the put the book back in the “DNR” pile if it’s over 350 pages long.  I’m over it.

Shit, I really need to read one more book! 80 is such a nice round number! I have five days! I can do it!

Best Books of 2014 post coming up sometime soon, promise. It might be two books long though, fair warning.