Making top book lists is always so hard for me. I read a lot, and it seems like almost every time I finish a book, I feel like it was the best book I’d read in a long time (not every time, just almost). But, these ten are the ones that stood out to me the most, the ones that stood up in my mind and yelled, “pick me” when I sat down to make my list. They weren’t all written in 2014, but that’s when I read them. So, anyway… Here goes the first five. I’ll post the last five tomorrow.
Note: The summaries contain some minor plot information about the stories but do not give away the endings or any major plot points. Still, if you’re the type who doesn’t even like to read the back of a book before you dive in, they might be considered spoilers.
My Top Ten Books of 2014 (Part One)
I will admit, I’m not the biggest Saturday Night Live fan out there. It’s not that I dislike it. It just isn’t my cup of tea, but I’d read several “top books of 2014” lists prior to even considering writing my own, and Yes Please was at the top of several of the lists. I figured there must be a reason, so I tried it out for myself. I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
I’ve read some truly snooze-inducing autobiographies in the past, but this book isn’t just 300+ pages of a narcissist’s musings. It’s actually fabulous for several different reasons. While you do get a chance to get to know things about Amy like what her childhood was like and exactly how the birth of her children went down, she also manages to turn her 352 pages into a journey of love, learning, and inspiration.
Mostly, she addresses body image and self-respect, but she also touches on living with anxiety. Without resorting to the didacticism of preaching cliche statements like “Love yourself,” “You’re beautiful,” and “We’re all unique,” she addresses the ugly truths behind the real self-esteem issues that lead to depression and even suicide in millions. She calls out the “demon” of self-hate and doubt that lives inside everyone, telling them they aren’t good enough or they’re fat and not pretty. By learning how she deals with her own demon and realizing that even someone as beautiful and successful as Amy Poehler has the same thoughts as all of us, she gets her point across very well.
And it’s impossible to forget the fact that Poehler is one of the most dynamic comedians of our generation. This makes her inspirational, honest, and righteous autobiography as entertaining as it is healing. I definitely recommend.
The Circle by Dave Eggers is a novel that grabs you by the lapels and demands attention. While it is considered somewhat of a utopian novel, there are several concerns raised within the pages of this captivating story.
Mae Holland lands a job with the super tech company, The Circle, and she feels like she’s on top of the world. The sprawling campus, complete with pools, tennis courts, movie theaters, concerts, fitness classes, dorms, and anything the employees could possibly need, seems like it might be too good to be true.
Mae is quickly overwhelmed with the social media obligations related to the job. Staying connected online 24 hours a day and attending functions in order to participate in the “community” leaves no time for Mae’s life outside of The Circle. With an ailing father and a personality that appreciates some occasional alone time, Mae finds herself faced with a decision. Walk away or completely immerse herself in the public life of The Circle.
Entertaining from cover to cover, The Circle begs the question, how much is too much? Where does the line between public and private lie? And are we treading on dangerous ground?
I have to admit, I am a die-hard Stephen King fan. I’ve read all his novels minus maybe two, and the minute a new one comes out, I snatch it up. Stephen King was actually the first author who got me into reading. My dad had a collection when I was younger, and Pet Sematary was my first full-novel read. That being said, I might be a little biased.
Mr. Mercedes was no where near my favorite Stephen King book. Actually, it’s a part of King’s crime series, and I prefer his more supernatural books. However, King is still and always will be the master of suspense and horror in my eyes.
The book starts off when a man drives a stolen Mercedes into a group of unemployed, down-on-their-luck people who have gathered and are waiting overnight to apply at a job fair. Ramming the crowd of people, backing up and plowing into them a second time, the maniac manages to kill eight people (including a baby) and injure fifteen. The killer gets away.
The novel is a race against time before the maniac with a taste for blood can strike again. A retired cop, still haunted by the crime, received a letter from the killer, and then begins the heart-stopping, bone-chilling race to stop him before more people end up dead.
King is a master of words and metaphor. His style is my secret love, and Mr. Mercedes doesn’t disappoint.
The Buddha in the Attic is the winner of the Pen Faulkner fiction award, which is no surprise at all. This novel is a chilling reminder of some of the darker days in America when equality only existed among the rich and the white.
Otsuka writes a novel about the “picture brides,” a group of Japanese women brought to San Fransisco nearly a century ago to be the brides of men whose identities were embellished more than just a bit. The story chronicles the women’s trip across the world, their new lives as wives to strangers, bearing children, burying children, and living in a world where they were looked down on and appreciated by few. The story of their journey is spellbindingly beautiful, capturing their loves, fears, loyalties, and the lengths they will go for one another. Keep a tissue handy.
I have this strange aversion to the books that everyone’s talking about. The more buzz it gets, the less interested I am. I’m not sure why I feel this way. Maybe it’s because I was disappointed so many times by Twilight, The Hunger Games, 50 Shades of Grey, etc. Not that those books were lacking in story… But being a literature junkie, I tend to appreciate the literary aspect of a work above the story. If I can’t find a sentence that makes me stop and think, “wow, that’s just amazing,” no matter what it’s referencing, I’m just not that interested. I’ll admit, 50 Shades entertained me, but it didn’t “wow” me.
That being said, I was a bit apprehensive about buying this book. I figured it’d just be a sappy, tearjerker about a kid with cancer with all of it’s value being in the emotional response. But, what can I say? I have no self-control. I always wonder “what if”… What if I’m missing something? What if it’s not that trite junk that I’m expecting it to be? Well, I’m truly glad I questioned myself about The Fault in Our Stars.
I can’t say the actual story was the greatest thing I’ve ever read. Yes it was engaging. Yes it was sad. Yes it was inspirational. Yes it was sweet. It also had many suspension of disbelief issues, some cliche characters, and a few parts thrown in simply for the value of sadness. BUT the writing.
The writing was genius. I absolutely loved it. If you read Part One of my 2014 book list, you’ll know of my habit of highlighting anything that I find clever, smart, and basically anything that makes me think, “Man, I wish I’d written that.” This book is almost completely pink and green. I’ve gone back several times since just to scan the highlighted parts. Green is a master of metaphor and manipulating the English language into something beautiful. For that, The Fault in Our Stars was simply amazing, and I look forward to reading his other books as well. If you have any recommendations, please comment and let me know.