I read 259 books in 2014 (all of which can be found here). So I didn’t want to rush into my best books of the year. But now I’ve been sitting with it a while, and I picked 10. And then some runners up just in case. But then I restrained myself.
In no particular order, here are what I consider the best books I read in 2014:
1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
“There was nothing I could do. Except listen to his pain. I could do that.”
Published all the way back in 2012 this book has gotten lots of industry buzz, but for some reason I had never got around to reading it. Shame on me. I’m not going to say too much about this, because if you haven’t read it I don’t want to ruin it. Just know it’s a great coming-of-age tale of an angry young boy and his best friend. It also features one of the most awesome YA families I’ve read.
2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
“Hell is the absence of people you long for”
This book has been everywhere this year. And for good reason. I picked this up because I thought it was going to be about a cult-leader in a post-apocolypic setting. It ended up being so much more.
3. The Martian by Andy Weir
“It’s true you know. In space, no one can hear you scream like a little girl.”
Hatchet. In space. With more sarcasm. And poop.
4. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
“I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.”
This book of essays a beautiful, on-point essays that challenged how I think about the world, and operate within it. But throughout all Gay makes it palatable with numerous references pop culture references, and the reminder that we’re all “bad feminists” sometimes.
5. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
“When one consorts with assassins, one must expect to dance along the edge of a knife once or twice.”
Historical fiction with a supernatural twist. Political intrigue. Assassin nuns. Romance. And all with a feminist twist. This book isn’t necessarily perfect. But it’s a whole heck of a lot of fun. Why was I so late to this party?
6. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Záfon
“People tend to complicate their own lives, as if living weren’t already complicated enough.”
A modern gothic novel set in Barcelona amidst some absolutely beautiful prose.
7. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
“Happiness wasn’t a mystical place to be reached or won–some bright terrain beyond the boundary of misery, a paradise waiting for them to find it–but something to carry doggedly with you through everything, as humble and ordinary as your gear and supplies.”
This was by far my favorite YA series finale of the year.
8. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
“Faith is believing in something even without proof, because you know it in your heart to be true.”
A tale about the turn of the century immigrant experience through the eyes of two culturally-specfic mythical creatures. This novel started out somewhat slow and unassuming, and then I was just caught.
9. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”
Another immigrant tale, but this one a modern take. What doesn’t this novel cover? The only thing that could have made this book better would have been an appendix filled with even more of Ifemelu’s blog posts.
10. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
“I closed my eyes, hoping both to fly and to fall, and equally terrified of both options.”
A beautiful tale of magical realism that leads the reader through three generations of women.
100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl
If you are in any way involved in theatre, or interested in theatre. This short book of essays is a great way to recalibrate the way you think about the craft. I know it was exactly what I needed before diving into another round of script reading. Her essay on dramaturgs is everything I aspire to be for a playwright.
Other awesome books (’cause I’m a cheater):
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Never Judge a Lady by her Cover by Sarah McLean
Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg
And So Many More