Just in case there aren’t enough “best books of 2014” lists out there for you this time of year, I thought I’d gather just four of my favorites from a year of reading, as well. Because, well, EVERYONE wants to know what I’m reading, right? <sarcasm>
My brief list below is a little weird, though, (no comment necessary) because it contains not only two new books that came out this year, but also “old” ones I picked up again to reread. I think it says a ton if, out of all the books I read in a year, some of the best are ones I’ve read before. Oh, and the reason it’s only four books? Four words: Too busy to live.
Here you go:
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. This book came out in September, and I read it in October. Today, I still think of the main character and wonder what she’s up to. The publisher’s description says: “Imagine The Bell Jar — written by Rizzo from Grease.” I think that’s fairly spot on. The writing is lovely and poignant and provides so much to think about beneath the surface of the story. The storytelling is excellent; one of those rare instances where a character-driven novel, with no real driving plot, makes me can’t wait to turn the page. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young British girl, and I usually have issues with coming-of-age stories where the character’s voice feels far older than than the fictional age. But Moran makes this one work. And work oh so well. I laughed out loud repeatedly, which is always a good sign. (It should definitely have an “R” rating, though, so be ready for some shagging and fagging, as they say in the UK, and a rather overly descriptive scene involving a man named Big Al.)
Where Rivers Change Direction by Mark Spragg. This is one of those books — a memoir — that left me breathless about 12 years ago. Spragg’s stories beautifully capture a boyhood spent on a ranch in Wyoming and a deep, spiritual connection to animals and the land. Some people think the book is too slow. Too much focus on the landscape and not enough action. And I would agree it’s not a book that you’ll want to plow through. It’s one to be savored in hardcover or paperback. So you can dog-ear those pages and underline those sentences that speak some essential truth that you always knew was out there, but couldn’t put your finger on before. This book will change a small part of you, if you stick with it.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. My son and I have been reading this classic together, and I’m amazed at his young age, that he’s as into the story as I am. I think I didn’t read this novel for the first time until junior high school. Of course, he loves the idea of sneaking out of school to fish, of trading frogs for a slingshot, and tricking friends and adults on a daily basis. It’s also a great conversation-starter about race issues in America’s past and present. If you haven’t read this in a while, take another look. It’s free as an Amazon Kindle book. And for the record, we don’t say the “N” word out loud in this house, but we do read the original, unedited version.
Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones. This is poet Jones’ debut collection, and it’s moving and touching and oh-so-brilliant. The poems capture tenderness and harshness. They are fierce and hope-filled. The collection has such energy and such a story to tell about the connection between one’s history and one’s identity. Some of the poems are difficult to read, yes. But they hit you somewhere between your heart and your intellect, and that’s somewhere, as a reader, I want to be hit every now and then. This is probably one of the best poetry collections I’ve read in a long time. A sampling of why (from Postapocalyptic Heartbeat):
after shards of glass like misplaced stars,
after the black bite of frost: you are the after,
you are the first hour in a life without clocks; the name of whatever
falls from the clouds now is you (it is not rain),
a song in a dead language, an unlit earth, a coast broken–
how was I to know every word was your name?
What were your favorites of 2014? Please share in the comments below!