Dan recently compiled his top albums of 2014, so I’m flat-out copying him and doing a list of my Top Ten Books of 2014. It was the year in which I’ve read the most books ever within 365 days and there were some really great ones – as well as some not-so-great ones, which is bound to be the case.
As I’m looking over my list, I’m noticing that four out of my top ten books were written by Canadian authors, and nine out of ten of them were by female authors. That wasn’t a conscious thing as I was choosing them, so it will be interesting to see how this year’s reading compares. My list is a mix of new releases, as well as secondhand picks. I can’t even pick an absolute favourite, but I’m giving a shout-out to one of my all-time favourite authors, Miriam Toews, who I was lucky to meet not once, but two times this past year. And, yes, she’s just as awesome and down-to-earth in person as one would hope. And to everyone who knows me, yes, I’ll shut up about it now. I was also lucky enough to meet quite a few other very talented (and equally down-to-earth) Canadian writers in 2014: Greg Bechtel, Arjun Bassu, Stephen Dale, Terry Fallis, and Heather O’Neill.
And now, in no particular order, other than alphabetical by author…my top picks from 2014 with sample quotes from each book:
- Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
“I didn’t drink in the essence of the classroom. I didn’t take legible notes or dance all night. I thought I would marry my boyfriend and grow old and sick of him. I thought I would keep my friends, and we’d make different, new memories. None of that happened. Better things happened.”
- Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
“As far as I can remember, I have always wanted everything from life, everything it can possibly give me. This desire separates me from people who are willing to settle for less. I cannot even comprehend how people’s desires can be small, ambitions narrow and limited, when the possibilities are endless.”
- Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
“There are two things you should never do with your father: learn how to drive and learn how to kill a chicken.”
- The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
“Nobody would know me from my own description of myself; which is why, when called upon (rarely, I grant) to provide an account, I tailor it, I adapt, I try to provide an outline that can, in some way, correlate to the outline that people understand me to have — that, I suppose, I actually have, at this point. But who I am in my head, very few people really get to see that. Almost none. It’s the most precious gift I can give, to bring her out of hiding.”
- Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz
“If Sadhana’s a ghost, I haven’t seen her. I haven’t spotted any signs of her shading my footsteps or tracing my name across a rain-soaked window. In a way, though, I’m not surprised. I spent so many years watching her disappear, little by little, that it is impossible for me to believe that there could be any of her left over.”
- The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill
“You should beware of motherless children. They will eat you alive. You will never be loved by anyone the way that you will be loved by a motherless child.”
- On Beauty by Zadie Smith
“You don’t have favourites among your children, but you do have allies.”
- Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
“It takes strength to be proud of yourself and to accept yourself when you know that you have something out of the ordinary about you.”
- All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
“Dan wanted me to stay. I wanted Elf to stay. Everyone in the whole world was fighting with somebody to stay. When Richard Bach wrote “If you love someone, set them free” he can’t have been directing his advice at human beings.”
- This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
“At some point you lose sight of your actual parents; you just see a basketful of history and unresolved issues.”
Biggest disappointment: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. Huge points for writing a book in a completely unique way and a writing style that I’ve never come across before but, unfortunately, that’s also where it lost me. I found it completely confusing and hard to follow…but that’s what I love about books – everyone has their own taste and preferences. That, and the fact that there is always another one to read when the last chapter comes to an end.
What’s the best book you read in 2014?