Like many of us, I am a devoted reader. Mysteries and thrillers are my favorite, but I dabble in almost anything. Nonfiction is generally consumed via audiobooks. Biographies are my favorite nonfiction, although I just realized I haven't read nor listened to any of those for several years. I liked science fiction in my teens and early twenties and have read several in that genre this year. Since the early 2000s I have kept a list of the books I read and the books I didn't finish; that last list gets longer every year — so many books, so little time.
My Ten Favorite Books of 2014 in Reverse Chronological Order.
- Blackout and All Clear / Connie Willis. Sci-fi/alternative history. The author started out to write one book, but it got so long the publisher divided it into two (which clocked in at 491 and 641 pages, respectively; good decision, publisher). Willis has several other books based on this same premise: in 2060-ish Oxford, post-grad historians are required to time travel back to their particular period of specialization. These two books feature historians going back to the London Blitz, 1940. Lots of good characterization and action and history. I don't generally care for historical fiction, who knows why, nor conventional sci-fi, too much effort involved in understanding the world the author has created, but I enjoyed these two tremendously.
- Still Alice / Lisa Genova. My pick for book club. A novel written by a neuroscientist about a woman, a 50-yo Harvard professor, with early-onset Alzheimer's. The book was uncanny in the way it put the reader inside the head of the title character; every time I had to put it down — to visit the bathroom, to make dinner, to check my email — I felt for the first few seconds as though I had Alzheimer's. This author has a couple other novels dealing with brain disfunction that I want to read.
- Sparrow / Mary Doria Russell. Huh, another sort-of sci-fi, sort-of time travel book. As I said, I have been dipping back into this genre in 2014. This one is a little heavy on the spiritual for me — several of the main characters are priests — but still it was a gripping story.
- Wave / Sonali Deraniyagala. Nonfiction. The author, a economist, and her family — husband (also an economist), two children, parents — were vacationing on the southern beaches of Sri Lanka at Christmas, 2004, when the tsunami hit. She lost everyone she loved. The book follows her through the aftermath of grieving — shock, age, shame, depression, and eventual resolution. The book is short but powerful.
- The Children Act / Ian McEwan. McEwan is one of the few authors that I will read everything they write. (Jane Smiley, John Sandford, Tana French, and Kate Atkinson are the others.) A female London judge must rule on a case where a 17-yo boy, backed by his family, refuse a life-saving blood transfusion for religious reasons. Rich characters, disturbing choices.
- Lock In / John Scalzi. Oh, jeeze, another sci-fi? Yep, I really did get into that genre in 2014. The audiobook was narrated by Wil Wheaton. Note: I follow Scalzi and Wheaton on Twitter; they are both intelligent and funny and self-deprecating and entertaining.
- Flash Boys : A Wall Street Revolt / Michael Lewis. Nonfiction. Lewis is another author I like. He writes mostly about the disgusting things that go on on Wall Street and in the financial community at large. Because of my background in brokerage and tax accounting, I find this wildly interesting. YMMV.
- Until Tuesday : A Wounded Warrior and the Dog Who Saved Him / Luis Montalban. Nonfiction; memoir. I originally read this book because it was about a dog, but it turned out to be at least as much about dealing with the VA and the aftermath of war injuries, both mental and physical. I gave Smokey my library copy to read because I knew both subjects would be of great interest to him, but eventually I had to return it unread. I found a used copy online, and he took it with him to the hospital to read during his stay. But circumstances intervened and he didn't read it until recently. He was enjoying it so much that I went on Amazon and found a second book by that author about his and his dog's adventures, intending to give it to Smokey for Christmas. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I opened the Amazon box and found that it was a children's book. "Age: 4 – 8; Grade level: Kindergarten – 3." Still, I gave it to him and we had a chuckle over my tendency not to read the fine print. (He still enjoyed the book.)
- The House of God : The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital/ Samuel Shem. Elder Son was reading this when he came home for Christmas last year, his last year of medical school. Apparently, this is a book that every med student and intern and resident reads at some time because it is an irreverent and largely authentic novel about residency and the lunacy that [we can hope that only] sometimes prevails. He thought I would find it appalling; in fact, I loved it.
- The Man in the Window / Jon Cohen. This novel was recommended by none less than Nancy Pearl, the legendary Seattle librarian. Simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and warmly humorous, it was a completely enjoyable read.
I haven’t read any of these books but I am putting Still Alice on my TBR list….
Ohhh great list. I may have to add a few to my new year of reads.!!!
Or share with my reader pals
I feel exactly the same way about Still Alice. It’s one of my absolute, all-time favorites. Wave and The Children Act are two more of my favorites this year. That was my first McEwan book, so I have a question for you as a long-time reader of his. I read On Chesil Beach immediately after The Children Act and was mildly appalled; I could hardly believe that the same author had written both books. Did I miss something in On Chesil Beach? It seemed the characters took some pretty strong actions based on no more than lack of communication and misunderstanding. I think I may have to try House of God and Man in the Window this year. Sorry for the extra-long comment and thanks for a great list!
Oops, hit SEND on that other email inadvertently.
The first thing I read by McEwan was Atonement, and I loved it. When my book group read if there were mixed reviews. Saturday Night (I think that was the title) was good too. There was another one, something about black dogs. I didn't are for The Hours or Amsterdam. I guess
I’m not a big fan of science fiction but I loved The Sparrow, it’s probably one of my favorite books ever. The Man in the Window was very good – I read it early in the year and also because of Nancy Pearl – and it stuck with me. I just added Still Alice to my goodreads queue.
Just wanted to pop in and wish you a Happy New Year.
I tend to read Fantasy and certain other authors like Nora Roberts/J D Robb, Jayne Ann Krentz. For Fantasy, I read Eileen Wilkes, Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews.
I love Connie Willis, and immediately ordered Blackout from the library. Not sure if I’m brave enough for Still Alice.
My favorites by Connie Willis were Bellwether (it's about sheep) and The Domesday Book, about a historian who goes back to the time of the Black Death in England.
I read Wave, too – unspeakable horror packed into such a small volume.
Wishing you the best in 2015!
“Wave” was magnificent. And, as I’ve said lots of times, “Until Tuesday” changed my life.