Happy Friday and Boxing Day, my friends! I’m linking up again with Courtney from Eat, Pray, Run DC, Mar from Mar on the Run, and Cynthia from You Signed up for What?! for their Friday Five Link-Up. Today’s subject is open so I’ve decided to share my favorite books from 2014.
5. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
I’ve been meaning to read Cloud Atlas, Mitchell’s most famous novel, for a couple of years now. I never got around to it but the opportunity to read his newest novel came when I received a recent Indiespensable shipment from Powell’s Books.
This extremely original and at times perplexing book tells to story of — and her lifelong alliances and battles with otherworldly people/forces. If my description is confusing or a little hard to track, that’s because the narrative was a challenge for me at points. However, it’s an extremely rewarding and fascinating book.
4. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
This novel is based on the true stories of Sarah Grimke and Angelina Grimke, sisters who were raised in wealth in antebellum Charleston and grew to become abolitionists, and Hetty, Sarah’s childhood slave. The author tells the story from the points of view of Sarah and Hetty, which enriched the novel. When I started reading it, I was somewhat wary that Hetty’s voice would ring false (like the protagonist in The House Girl), but Monk Kidd did a respectable and convincing job of portraying life through Hetty’s eyes, so much so that Hetty’s portions were my favorite parts of the novel. The Invention of Wings captivated and surprised me.
3. Life after Life, Kate Atkinson
What if you could have another chance at life? And another? And another? That’s the premise behind this fantastical novel that follows the lives of Ursula Todd, born in the early 20th century in England. Ursula is unlucky in life–extremely unlucky–but has the good fortune to relive her life over and over again. Even though I knew the idea behind the book, the narrative still confused me at the start. Once I had the hang of it (and Atkinson’s matter-of-fact, dour humor), I was hooked.
2. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, Cheryl Strayed
I picked up this book of advice letters in a bookstore in Corvallis, Oregon, as we passed through town on our way home from Newport. I expected little. I read the first page and it caught me, so much that on impulse I bought the book, but only because the bookstore was closing, and I had to make an immediate choice to put it down or get it. I knew if I put it down I’d probably forget about it and never read it. I’m so glad that bookseller was impatient and trying to push me out of the store, because that was the impetus to buy Tiny Beautiful Things. It was kismet.
Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, wrote an advice column as Sugar, the bruised, world-weary-yet-hopeful voice of reason, and some of those letters are included in this book. (The rest are on the website The Rumpus.) Sugar’s advice is so raw and true that it hurts while it helps, and it’s universally useful. I love this book and have told most of my friends to read it. So–in that vein–if you haven’t read it, you should.
1. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
I like Donna Tartt. I loved her debut novel, A Secret History, when I read it as a young pup coming up in the world. I skipped over The Little Friend due to mediocre reviews. But when year after year passed with nary a word from Tartt, I wondered what had happened. The answer? She had been working on a novel many years in the making.
The Goldfinch shows those 12 years of work, and it was well worth the wait. This epic novel tells the story of Theo, orphaned in the same place (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) where he finds his future. In the rubble of a terrorist attack, he recovers a painting that accompanies him across the country and world, and from the company of the effete to the underworld.
Tartt’s writing is luscious and incredibly detailed. Her characterization of complicated Theo is skillful, although she struggles making other characters as multidimensional. While I don’t believe the tone and weight of the book’s ending is consistent with the balance, The Goldfinch is still a fantastic piece of fiction. Theo and his plight continue to haunt me.
Have you read any of my favorites and, if so, what’s your take? What was your favorite book of 2014?