As December draws to a close and 2014 is about to tick over into 2015, it’s time to reflect on a year’s worth of reading. Your Robbins librarians combed through the books we’ve read this year and came up with our favorites. Read on, and let us know what books you loved this year too!
I’m going to sneak in just one title from 2013, Tom McNeal’s fairy tale Far Far Away. You’ll find this in the children’s and teen sections of the library, but all ages can enjoy the goings-on in the town of Never Better, where Jacob Grimm’s ghost keeps watch. For the grown-ups – though dystopia-loving teens may enjoy it also – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a brilliant imagining of our world on the brink of disaster and afterward. The epidemic seems all too possible, the characters so fierce and real, and the story-within-a-story is almost magical. Speaking of magic, David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is a thought-provoking blend of realistic literary fiction and fantasy. In six chronological sections, psychic mortal Holly Sykes becomes part of the battle between the Horologists (those who are naturally reincarnated) and the Anthracites (those who have to steal others’ lives to maintain their own youth); fans of Cloud Atlas should be delighted.
The historical novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr has already gotten plenty of attention, but I can’t not mention it; if you think you are tired of WWII books, think again. The lives of blind French girl Marie-Laure and German orphan boy Werner are destined to intersect near the end of the war, but the story is that of their separate experiences. Doerr does a beautiful job that will elicit sympathy for both characters. Lastly, Rebecca Solnit’s essay collection, Men Explain Things to Me, had an impact that far outstripped its page count; it’s a direct examination of gender in our society.
Patron Saint of Lost Dogs by Nick Trout: Spun from the point of view of its struggling veterinarian protagonist, this book melds humor, animals, medicine, and rural Vermont. Author Nick Trout lends authenticity to this tale, as he is a practicing veterinarian at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki: In this genre-bending novel, a woman finds a diary washed up off the coast of British Columbia in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Written by a Japanese girl, Nao, the diary miraculously survives the ocean voyage intact. A stunningly woven coming-of-age story about Nao and the beachcombing Canadian woman, Ruth, who discovers the diary. Ruth attempts to unravel Nao’s dangerously disquieting, and as yet unfinished, life story. This suspenseful book transcends any sense of time and physical space.
Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa: If you like fantasy novels involving fairies, this series is inventive with awesome characters.
Blood Eden Series by Julie Kagawa: This series totally captures what it must feel l like to be a vampire.
Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo: Dystopian fantasy with an East European feel and colorful characters.
Colorless Tzukuru Tasaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami: Told from the point of view of a young Japanese man, Tasaki, who becomes part of an incredibly tight group of five friends during his high school years. Sometime during their second year of college, he is abruptly dropped from the group, for no discernible reason. An intriguing work of literary fiction.
We Won’t See Auschwitz by Jérémie Dres: Dres, a Jew from Paris, wrote and illustrated this black and white graphic novel after traveling to Poland in search of his Jewish roots. BUT unlike most Jews who journey here for similar reasons, he defies the status quo and does not visit Auschwitz. He does manage to uncover traces of the pre-WWII Jewish community. A universally appealing graphic novel offering encouragement for impossibly difficult ancestral searching.
It’s hard to remember back to the early part of the year, but I vividly recollect Thunderstruck and Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken. I don’t read short stories often, but I love her writing and it is beautifully showcased in this collection.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: and Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty is an unusual look inside the funeral industry and a thoughtful examination of how we view death. The details are graphic so it’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’re not bothered by that sort of things you’ll be rewarded by this fascinating look into a tightly-shrouded part of our world.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick was published in 2013, but I read it again this year and it remains one of my favorite young adult novels. Leonard is a very troubled teenage boy with plans to commit a horrible crime of violence, but not before he says goodbye to the four people who mean the most to him. Don’t be too put off by the promised violence; this story is much more about unlikely friendships and all the different ways in which we save each other.
Sisters’ Fate by Jessica Spotswood was a satisfying end to a young adult trilogy that I’ve enjoyed since the very beginning. This historical dystopia stars three sisters who are witches in old New England, but not the one we are familiar with. Ruled over by the Brotherhood, an oppressive group who seeks to persecute any women who don’t abide by strict societal norms, the sisters are terrified their magic powers will be discovered. At the same time they seem to be the center of a very ominous prophecy. Start with the first book, Born Wicked.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming: Fleming tells the exciting, tragic, and true story of the lives of Russia’s last royal family. She expertly interweaves stories about life for the average Russian citizen during the same time period, providing a stark contrast to the lavish life the Romanovs led. She does an excellent job of portraying the family’s different personalities and how they contributed to the political unrest Russia faced. Despite being non-fiction, it is as engaging and engrossing as any fiction title.
My Real Children by Jo Walton: My Real Children tells the story of Patricia Cowen at the end of her life. She somehow remembers living two different lives in two completely different worlds with two completely different families. The book explores both of these lives and the joys and challenges Patricia faces in each of them, while leaving the reader to decide which life is the life Patricia truly lived.
Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales edited by Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant: A collection of short stories by notable YA authors like Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brannan, Patrick Ness, and Holly Black. An overall strong collection, these stories will challenge traditional notions of what it means to be a monster.
The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman: A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to Grossman’s Magicians trilogy. This is a trilogy you definitely want to start from the beginning with The Magicians. The series follows the brilliant but self-destructive magician Quentin Coldwater through his life at the magical college Brakebills and through alternate worlds. A must-read for anyone who’s wished that Narnia, Hogwarts, or other magical lands were real.
I know I absolutely love a book when I can’t stop thinking about it months or years later. I read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart in May and it is still on my brain. I’m usually pretty good at predicting the storyline in books and movies, but I was completely shocked by the ending of We Were Liars. I don’t want to give away the ending, so all I will say is about a teen girl named Cadence who has amnesia and is desperate to remember the past, but her family is keeping it a secret, like many things in their lives. I knew that I would enjoy My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories – it features some of my favorite Young Adult authors – but I was not expecting to love it enough to purchase it for my personal collection. If you are a fan of love stories and aren’t picky about the genre, then this is the holiday collection for you. Two of my favorite realistic fiction titles this year were I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson and Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern. Both titles are popular with John Green fans. The Selection and Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogies wrapped up this year and they were wonderful! I highly recommend both series from start to finish, which is unusual for me. Rainbow Rowell had another winner this year with Landline, cementing her as a favorite author of mine. Rick Yancey’s follow-up to The 5th Wave, The Infinite Sea, continued to blow my mind and has me chomping at the bit for more! If you are looking for an audio book with a fairytale feel and a beautiful story, then check out The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Lesley Walton.
You’ll see that many of our choices are in tune with librarians across the country; check out the rest of the LibraryReads “favorites of favorites” of 2014. And tell us your favorite books of the year. Did you discover a new author or genre? Read the final book in a series? Let us know in the comments!