The Compulsive Reader: Favorite Books of 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Favorite Books of 2014

There once was a time when I was very particular about curating an end of the year list of books that I read and loved. It seemed vitally important to me that you, my dear blog readers, knew exactly which books I loved and thought best. It was a hard job, but I HAD to narrow it down to 10 books. (An arbitrary number, I know.)

Then I got older and wiser (or lazier, you choose), and realized that the end of the year list of best books was stupid. Because my best books might not be your best books. So I changed it to my favorite books of the year, and I let myself choose 12 books.

Well this year, I am throwing all sense to the wind! No limits! No order! This is just going to me a modge podge of things I read and loved in 2014 (so not necessarily books that came out in 2014--another one of those stupid limitations I gave myself). That's the only limit. Here we go.

In the category of YA fiction, because this is technically a YA blog, although those lines are getting squishy...

Shadows by Robin McKinley

When it comes to McKinley, I like Sunshine much more than say, Beauty. And Shadows is much more in the vein of Sunshine (which needs a sequel in my humble opinion). The thing about McKinley's writing is that it is neither brief nor sparse. I mean, she can go on and on and on and it's all beautifully written but you're like, "Okay, get to the good story parts!" even though you're laughing at the years of descriptions, until suddenly things start moving again and when they move! They move. So the frustration is all part of the appeal. And the fun. And also, we need a sequel to Shadows. Though I might die before we get it.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

This is a companion novel to Code Name Verity, which made an appearance on a stricter version of this list in a previous year. I don't know what to say except for that it's beautiful in all of the horror of WWII that it documents. I cried a lot. The poetry--phenomenal. Seriously. If Rose Justice were a real person, I have a feeling I would have studied her in my Modern American Literature class in college.

Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

Loved this one so much that I wrote it into my thesis. Also, it has spectacular banter. Pretty much an all around perfect, fun, fantastic YA contemporary novel. I recommend it to people who loved Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell because the humor and the coming of age stories have similar vibes.

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

There are many things I love about this book--the mythology, the characters, the setting, the fact that it's a standalone...but the writing is outstanding. I mean, take a deep breath, push the technology aside, grip the book tighter, and smile sort of outstanding. It's one of the most unique fantasies I've ever read.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Sure, we can talk about the many ways that this book is groundbreaking--we have a lesbian protagonist and a love story that's not about coming out or how hard it is to be gay. We just have a love story. And what a love story it is. I loved the LA setting, the fact that the characters worked in the industry, but weren't consumed by the Hollywood glare and glamour. The whole story was just so genuine and interesting, and it had stakes that felt important to the characters and the reader. I loved it.

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan

I don't know what it is about this book that just speaks to me--perhaps Nic, and her tendency to read people, read into them, imagine their entire life story. I get that, and her story is told with such a light touch, written so well, so true. It's an older book, but it needs to stick around!

Saving Francesca and Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

This year could be dubbed the Year of Melina Marchetta. I read some of her first novels, and adored them. Marches writes stories about family and searching for identity so well. I am completely enthralled by her talent. I wrote Francesca into my thesis as well.

In the middle grade category, slightly shorter but most certainly no less important...

Harriet the Spy by Louise FitHugh

Can you believe I'd never read this book before this year? It's true. And when I did, I fell in love with Harriet, FitzHigh's writing, the subversive nature of the entire book. It's one that I know I would have loved as a kid and I think it holds up years later.

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles

I liked this one so much, I read it twice this year. (Seriously.) Knowles writes about a loving, dysfunctional family dealing and not dealing with disappointment, heartache, tragedy, and joy. I cannot recommend it enough!

Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera

Star is the protagonist, and she stole my heart. Really. The writing is lovely, full of questions and observations and hope. And I really enjoyed how Herrera gave Star a rich family life, full of complications and love. This is one of my go-to books that I recommend in MG at work.

In the category of graphic novels, which I'm only beginning to read but love nonetheless...
This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

The Tamaki cousins make a formidable team. Their graphic novels are so powerful--beautiful and elegant, and full of rich subtext. This One Summer is just the sort of graphic novel that I want to hand young readers for the awkward transition between middle grade and young adult.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

These stories are dark, compelling, and full of clever twists. I don't know how she does it, but Carroll makes her stories feel like timeless fairy tales, with an appealing modern bent. And the art is chillingly beautiful! It's a fantastic book.

In the category of "adult" fiction, aka books not written for kids or teens...

I continued my love for Tana French by making In the Woods my first book of 2014. I read The Likeness this past summer on my break between semesters, and I devoured The Secret Place the week it came out this fall. French's characters are complex and real, and she has this talent for making the smallest details endless fascinating. Now I'm looking for mysteries that will satisfy my Tana French void.

The From Aways by C.J. Hauser has a deceptively chick lit-esque cover that I kind of despise, but the book is so good. This book, about two young women who each arrive in a small Maine town searching for something, is so enthralling. I loved the characters, I empathized with them and their struggles, and I was in awe of the elegant and insanely readable writing. Since I read it this summer, it's quickly become my favorite go-to book when hand selling adult fiction.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyemi caught my eye in BookPage this spring, and it was a total impulse buy when I was at Literati Bookstore (a fantastic and oh-so-lovely indie bookstore in downtown Ann Arbor, you should go visit them if you're in the area!), partly because it was so pretty, partly because the premise so intrigued me. It's wonderfully written, of course, and it's a re-telling of Snow White set in the 1950's that deals with race, passing, gender, and sexuality in very interesting ways. I highly recommend it.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I finally read it! It's been on my to-read list for years. I went into it expecting a charming, lovely read and was surprised (and frankly, equally heartbroken and thrilled) to find it more bittersweet than happily charming. This book has imprinted itself on my subconscious in the way Rebecca settled into my head when I was 13. I can't imagine never heaving read it. Also, TOPAZ.

In the category of nonfiction, which I should definitely read more of...

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Because Roxane Gay is awesome. And she speaks the truth. And she is so wise. I loved every single one of these essays, and I have a lot of respect for Gay. Also, follow her on Twitter because she is just the best and calls the world out on its shit.

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

I started out the year not having a Netflix account, so when everyone was FREAKING OUT about Orange is the New Black the TV show, I picked up the memoir. I am so glad I did, and one thought stands out at the end of the year (after having binge watched the two seasons of the show)--I wish everyone who has seen the TV show would read this memoir. It's very well-written, thoughtful, challenging, and not at all selfish or begging for sympathy. I have an immense amount of respect for Piper Kerman, and it's almost disheartening that her TV character comes off so wishy washy when the real Piper is such a strong and levelheaded person.

In the category of 2015 releases I read advanced copies of and think you need to pre-order RIGHT THIS MINUTE...

Unmade by Amy Rose Capetta

This is the second (and final!) book in the Entangled duet and it's even better than Capetta's first book! Stakes and danger and action and love abound! This is perhaps the most heart-stompingly romantic action book I've ever, and the romance never detracts from the action. There are two romantic couple you will love to root for in this book (*coughtherearelesbiansinspacecough*) and the ending is well worth the wait! But not for long, because it's out January 13th!

Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy

Four words: HOT FIGHTER JET PILOTS. This book has everything you could want--danger, real stakes, complicated emotions, funny comebacks, snappy dialogue, romance, and fast jets. It's one hell of a book. It's out March 3rd.

WHEW. Okay, what were some of your favorites in 2014?

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