I read a lot. I am sure it’s not as much as some people, but I have read 35 books this year so far, and I wanted to share my favorites with you all. I selected 7, which I have decided is not an arbitrary number because it signifies the top 20% of everything I read (just go with me). Keep in mind that just because this is a “best of 2014” does NOT mean that all of my picks were published in 2014, it is just when I happened to discover them.
In no particular order:
1) Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin. This year I joined a book club that meets once a month, and this 2013 bestseller was my favorite book we read. It is a riveting, heartbreaking story of a teenage boy named Max who was born intersex and his struggles to truly come to terms with his identity after a horrifying event makes him question everything he thought he knew about himself. The story is told from several different perspectives: Max, his parents, his younger brother, his doctor, and a girl he befriends and develops feelings for. While it includes incredibly brutal, tough to read scenes, it is an incredibly well-written book that has stayed with me since finishing it.
2) The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I discovered this book, originally published in 1992, after reading Tartt’s newest offering, The Goldfinch. I ended up liking The Secret History better. It is about a group of eccentric students at a rural college in Vermont who become involved in a murder- actually, in two murders, and the effect this has on all of their lives. It is very suspenseful, and I actually think ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder has a striking number of similarities to it, so if you like that show you’ll probably love this book. Whereas The Goldfinch often meandered at over 700 pages, The Secret History is a more manageable and concise 546 pages.
3) Every Day by David Levithan. I read this 2012 book in one or two sittings because I simply could not put it down. While it is technically a young adult book, I feel that anyone could connect with the surprisingly deep questions it asks. The main character, known only as “A” (no relation to Pretty Little Liars), wakes up every morning in a different 16-year-old body. The usual occupant of the body returns the next day, often suspecting that something wasn’t quite right yesterday but never really dwelling on it. This has been happening as long as A can remember, and he thought he had come to terms with his strange and inexplicable existence- until he meets a girl he wishes to spend much longer than 24 hours with. That description may be confusing, but I truly cannot recommend this book enough.
4) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I have read and enjoyed all 4 of Ms. Rowell’s books over the past couple years (her others are Eleanor & Park, Attachments, and Landline) and struggled to pick a favorite for this list, but ultimately ended up here. Also a young adult book, the titular “fangirl” is Cath, an introverted college freshman who is a passionate fan of a book series that is clearly meant to be a fictionalized version of Harry Potter. She and her twin sister grew up writing very popular fanfiction about the series, but now that they have gone to college, Cath is dismayed when her sister wants to leave that world behind. Cath is forced to figure out her identity outside of her fangirl ways- if there even is such a thing. While that description may make the book sound silly, it actually explores some really deep themes about family and belonging and self-identity, and I think anyone who has ever been a passionate fan of something can relate to it.
5) Noggin by John Corey Whaley. This young adult sci-fi book, published in April 2014, was also selected by one of our book club members. Before dying of cancer as a teenager, the main character, Travis, chose to participate in an experimental treatment and have his head cryogenically frozen and stored until a time when science is able to reattach it to a new donor body. This time comes sooner than Travis and his family ever expected, after only 5 years, and Travis has to cope with not only having a brand new, foreign body, but interacting with his family, best friend, and ex-girlfriend, who have all aged and moved on while he has been literally frozen in time. It is a fascinating concept and an emotional read.
6) Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I already wrote about my love for this book in a previous post. If you’re a fan of Amy’s, don’t miss it. And if you’re not a fan, read it anyway, because you will be by the end.
7) Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris. 2014 was a great year for really fun memoirs by celebrities I adore. In typical NPH fashion, he did something completely unexpected with his first book and wrote it in a choose your own adventure format. At the end of each chapter, you are presented with different choices that lead you to different chapters in the book. Some lead you to further explore one facet of his career/life, switch to another entirely, or even die. Yes, there are fictional “endings” planted throughout the book where you die spectacularly as a result of your choices. I was definitely compelled to go back several times and make different choices so I could experience all of the wonderful anecdotes included in the book, which are about everything from Doogie Howser to theater to family to Dr. Horrible to magic.
I have some more end-of-the-year round-ups planned for this month, so stay tuned for my favorite movies, shows (both on screen and stage), and TV episodes of 2014!