While my reading tally this year didn’t quite stack up to the 52 books I read in 2013, Intellectual Dachshund and I still managed to get through some 30-odd titles.
This proved to be a much more manageable number, and one which actually allowed me to leave my apartment once in a while (whether I liked it or not.)
Also, can I just say that 2014 was officially the year of the female author? 7 out of 10 of these titles were written by unbelievably talented, smart, funny women.
K I’m done now. On to my top 10 books!
1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
That is the question posed by Kate Atkinson in her wildly inventive novel Life After Life. Like a slightly heavier Groundhog Day, the book follows Ursula Todd as she lives- and re-lives- the events of the 20th century. From the opening paragraph, this book had me captivated and completely hooked. I had no idea what turn would come next, which kept me turning pages wee into the morning hours. More addictive than a Chopped marathon on the Food Network, I would highly recommend this for an exciting read.
2. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
In this funny, ambitious novel, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe, best friends and 12-year business partners, must save their beloved used vinyl shop Brokeland Records from the new “Dogpile Thang” music megastore opening two blocks away. It’s like a High Fidelity and Empire Records mash-up, with the end result becoming something new and original entirely.
3. The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
Way back in 2008, before Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize, she wrote The Rehearsal- a gripping little story (about 1/8 the length of the Illuminaries– a major reason why I chose to read it instead) set in the aftermath of a local scandal involving a young female student’s affair with her music teacher. Told from several different viewpoints in a non-linear plotline, I found this book inventive, captivatingly dark, and twisted. Definitely worth a read if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path.
4. Us by David Nicholls
In Us, well-intentioned-yet oblivious scientist Douglas Petersen attempts to win back the hearts of Connie, his artist wife of 20 years, and the affection of his brooding, 17-year old son Albie, all against the backdrop of a family European vacation.
I’m a big fan of David Nicholls, and loved his previous books Starter For Ten and One Day. I had high hopes for this one as well- but after reading several books this year about middle-aged marriages in crisis (see: The Vacationers, I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You), I worried the theme might be a bit played out. Happily, this book differentiated itself for me with its clever plot twists and laugh-out-loud humor. I expect this one to be adapted into a screenplay any day now. I’d cast Colin Firth as Douglas, Rachel Weisz as Connie, and Ansel Elgort as Albie.
See, don’t they look good together? I’m really in the wrong line of work.
5. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill
19-year-old twins Nicholas and Nouschka Tremblay, offspring of Quebec folk singer, and notorious playboy, Etienne Tremblay, spent their childhood in the public eye. Now they are grown up and making their own mistakes on the streets of referendum-era Montreal – all of which ending up in the French Canadian tabloid Allo Police. It’s a slightly-offbeat coming-of-age tale with a hefty dose of family drama, and a side dish of Canadian politics.
6. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman
I have a special place in my heart for this book, even though it is responsible for the one and only sunburn I received in 2014. (Seriously I’ve gotten much better on the tanning front since winning the nonexistent Miss Hawaiian Tropic competition in 2008). I could feel my shoulders getting redder in the mid-July sun, but my heart just wouldn’t let me put the damn book down. I didn’t want to stop reading about Nathaniel, the self-absorbed future literary star, with a similar penchant for breaking hearts. This is also maybe one of the best books I’ve ever read told from a reverse gender perspective. I found it amazing the way Adelle Waldman really got into the mind of a man and wrote Nathaniel so convincingly. Seriously worth a read. (And if you don’t believe me- according to her Instagram, Kate Hudson liked it too.)
7. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
Part memoir, part coming-of-age story, part love letter to New York City, My Salinger Year tells the story of Joanna Rakoff as a starry-eyed twenty-three-year-old who moves to New York with the dream of becoming a writer. Instead, she winds up in a crappy Williamsburg apartment with a crappy boyfriend and a crappy job as assistant to the literary agent for J.D. Salinger. Her task? To answer Salinger’s endless pile of fan-mail with a stock response. At first mind-numbingly boring, she soon becomes engrossed by the letters, inspired to craft her own replies. As they say in the publishing world- it’s a “small story” , but it’s got a lot of heart, and is a great, light, entertaining read.
8. Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler
Fed up with the way his life has been portrayed by others, and in the media, thrice-married, aging TV producer Barney Panofsky decides to set the record straight by writing his own memoirs. Rich in themes- including life, love, family, friendship and aging- I thought it was excellent. Romantic, captivating, hilarious, and uniquely Canadian, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great read.
9. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Confession: I kind of want to be best friends with Amy Poehler. And if you don’t already, you will too after reading her hilarious book Yes Please. A hodge – podge of personal essays, life advice, Bossypants-esque memoirs from her time on SNL and Parts and Recreation and straight-up randomness, it will both endear you to her, and leave you laughing uncontrollably. Do yourself a favor and read this one.
10. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
This short story collection by indie darling Miranda July (she also wrote and starred in a movie Roger Ebert cited as one of the best films of the decade) is weird, captivating, and slightly disturbing. Any summary I would give wouldn’t do it justice- so check it out if you’re in for a very different read.
Other Books I read in 2014 (In no particular order):
- Office Girl -Joe Meno
- The Goldfinch – Donna Tart
- Fangirl– Rainbow Rowell
- Listen to the Sqwaking Chicken– Elaine Lui
- Transatlantic– Collum McCann
- One more thing – BJ Novak
- Run Rabbit– John Updike
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man- James Joyce
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil- John Berendt
- Not That Kind of Girl -Lena Dunham
- The Vacationers – Emma Straub
- I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You – Courtney Maum
- American Pastoral- Phillip Roth
- No Relation -Terry Fallis
- Dear Leaves: I Miss You All – Sarah Heinonen
- Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations With Today’s Top Comedy Writers– Mike Sacks