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Books 2014

My goal for the year was to read 64 books, which would put me at 4 more than last year's 60. I only managed to read 62; I say "only" but that's more than I've read since I started keeping track in 2001. Heck, it's double what I used to read. Sometimes I was reading more than one book at a time but there were also times when I wasn't reading a book. I picked up and put down a bunch of books this year; I mostly chalk that up to the wrong book at the wrong time (one I put down on initial read is one this list). 11 of those 62 were non-fiction, which is probably my highest percentage ever. Regardless of the stats and goals, I found plenty of books to love this year...

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - I almost stopped reading this book because at its outset it seemed like yet another novel about the apocalypse and at the time, I just couldn't see myself reading another one of those. Luckily, I stuck with it. It's more a novel about what happens after the apocalypse but more importantly, it's filled with characters you come to care about. Maybe more importantly than that, the writing is beautiful. I am very thankful I spent almost a week with it this year.

2. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell - Here's the book I put down the first time around after about 60 pages. Happily, I picked it back up a couple weeks later and spent a week wrapped up in its story. Like many Mitchell novels, it does not follow one character in a linear fashion; instead, the plot wheels around Holly Sykes while telling stories of writers and journalists and immortals and the fate of humanity. It is a tour de force and reminded me of why I've loved previous Mitchell novels. In fact, just today I bought his previous novel, which I somehow hadn't gotten around to. I won't make that mistake with his work again.

3. Tigerman by Nick Harkaway - Speaking of writers I will always read, I don't think this novel got as much attention as it deserves. The isle of Mancreu is emptying out because a disaster is going to occur; in fact, there's already been some weirdness. Lester Ferris is a representative from the British government just maintaining a presence in the last days when some things happen and he decides to become a sort-of super-hero. It is great, a meditation of what it means to be a father, to serve your fellow man and your government at the same time, what it is to be in love. That's all wrapped up in weirdness and action and great writing.

4. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes - A serial killer is loose in Detroit and a cop and her kid get caught up in the weirdness. It has a page-turning plot with character depth and a whole lot of creepiness. It's realistic and fantastical and horrific. I definitely need to delve into her back catalogue.

5. The Martian by Andy Weir - Mark Watney is on a mission to Mars when something goes wrong on the surface and he is accidentally left behind by his crew. The book is the story of his attempt at survival, not only from his POV but from his fellow crew members and those at NASA back on Earth. It is full of hard science but is also very funny and full of humanity. It's currently being made into a movie and I suggest reading the book first.

6. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey - Yes, this is a zombie novel but it's not your typical zombie novel. It's told from the perspective of a child, Melanie, and her teacher, Helen Justineau. Things, however, are not quite what they seem. I don't want to say more than that because I hope that you give this book a try. It's quite good.

7. The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman - This is the final novel of Grossman's Magicians trilogy. I actually went back and reread the first two books in the series before this one comes out and I don't reread books very often anymore. I remember not liking the first book as much as the second but upon rereading, I understood Quentin Coldwater more. Naturally, this book wraps up the plot threads of the whole series and sees the return of many characters from the series, as well as introducing new ones. People have said this is Harry Potter for adults, which isn't an awful tag line. It certainly builds off of Harry Potter as well as the Narnia books but it stands completely on its own a series one should read. I urge you to go back and read all three books; I think you'll like them.

8. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link - That's right, one of the books on my list isn't even out until 2015! I happily won an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) via a contest on Goodreads and couldn't wait to dive in, as Link is one of my favorite short story writers. Once I started the collection, though, I slowed down and doled out a story every few days or even one a week because I didn't want to stop reading. There are stories about fairies, super-heroes, the crew of a spaceship on a long mission, movie stars, and more. These stories are alive and beautiful and Link proves yet again what a great writer she is.

9. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle - Darnielle is the main (and sometimes only) member of The Mountain Goats, a band I've loved for its fantastic lyrics, so it's not a surprised that I really liked this novel. It's the story of someone who was physically damaged in an accident (although maybe it wasn't quite an accident) told in a non-linear manner. It's about fandom and creation and depression and healing and it is not a story you've read before.

10. Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh - This is set in the near future in which New York City has been damaged by a dirty bomb. It stars a hitman who used to be a garbage man. He gets mixed up with the daughter of an evangelist in a plot that deals with virtual reality. It's great and the sequel is one of my most anticipated books of early 2015.


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