I had every intention of putting this list up a few weeks ago, to aid those of you doing last-minute holiday shopping. However, the list purist in me wonders whether a "Best of 2014" list really counts if it doesn't include every possible last day of 2014? (Also I'm kind of lazy. There is that.)
In any case, I had a Most Excellent Reading Year this year, and I can't quite put my finger on why. I read a LOT...but not much more than I usually do. And I read widely...but I never really read narrowly. And I read some really excellent books...but there are always excellent books. And yet, on the last day of 2014, I find myself in the position of being happily satisfied with my literary intake over the course of the year.
Without further ado, I present, in no particular order, some of the best books I read in 2014. (Caveat: I have left off the list those books which have not yet been published. This list is limited to books that you can get RIGHT NOW at your local independent bookstore.)
Virginia Wolf, by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Initially recommended to me by my excellent friend Mackenzi Lee, this picture book is a gorgeous exploration of family and sadness, perfect and perfectly accessible to an inquisitive child.
Three Bears in a Boat, by David Soman. It's a simple story: three young bears accidentally break their mother's favorite seashell and embark on a quest to find a replacement. Gorgeous illustrations and several literary call-backs make this picture book a truly heart-warming adventure.
The Princess in Black, by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. This early chapter book features Princess Magnolia, a very proper dressed-in-pink princess...with a secret identity as a superhero! What I love about this book is that it interrogates and rejects the idea that to be a girl means liking (or disliking) pink (or black) on principle.
We Were Liars, by e. lockhart. Some books are very difficult to pitch without giving everything (or at least a lot) away. We Were Liars is one. This young adult book was pretty divisive - some people I know adored it, while other good friends hated it. When I picked it up, I was sucked in by the prose style and spat out by the climax (both of which have been loved and hated, depending on the reader). An exceptional reading experience, to say the least.
As You Wish, by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden. Did I mention the time I met Cary Elwes? I probably should have. (This may come up during a later post. If you're lucky.) In any case, Elwes recently penned a memoir about the making of the movie The Princess Bride. The perfect description of the book is as follows: Imagine that the whole cast got together at a bar, had a few drinks, and started shooting the breeze about their favorite memories from the set. That's pretty much what this book is, and it is fantastic. Highly recommended for fans of the movie.
Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie. HOLYYYYYY MOTHER OF BOOKWORMS, YOU GUYS. Ancillary Justice is Leckie's debut novel, and swept the science fiction awards of 2013: the Hugo, the Nebula, the Arthur C. Clark, the Locus, and the BSFA, not to mention the others for which it was nominated. It is also AMAZING. Artificial intelligence. Questionable ethics. A galaxy-wide quest for revenge. And tea. What else could you ask for? (The sequel, Ancillary Sword, is also excellent. A third book, Ancillary Mercy, is due out next fall.)
Other excellent books read in 2014, again, in no particular order:
The Search for Delicious, by Natalie Babbitt
Journey, by Aaron Becker
Little Elliot, Big City, by Mike Curato
Paul Meets Bernadette, by Rosy Lamb
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson
For Real, by Alison Cherry
Pointe, by Brandy Colbert
The Islands of Chaldea, by Diana Wynne Jones
Everything Leads to You and Hold Still, by Nina LaCour
Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers
Say What You Will, by Cammi McGovern
Starglass, by Phoebe North
My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins
Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Far From You, by Tess Sharpe
Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork
Lies We Tell Ourselves, by Robin Talley
On the Road to Find Out, by Rachel Toor
The Rules of Survival, by Nancy Werlin
The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang
I am the Mission, by Allen Zadoff
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Tell the Wolves I'm Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt
Fledgling, by Octavia Butler
The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun, by N. K. Jemisin
The Suffragette Scandal, by Courtney Milan
The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
In the Heart of the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick
Vicious, by V. E. Schwab
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, by Genevieve Valentine
What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton
The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
Naked Economics, by Charles Wheelan