I read fiction like I'm breathing. That is to say, I read infinitely more fiction than non-fiction. Some of it is good and some (lots?) of it is fluff and some of it is "I cannot shut up about this amazing book." I'm presenting this last category to you today. These are the books I will badger my friends to read. Badger in love, of course.
It is strange to consider just how much fiction I read compared to the 10 worthy titles listed here. I feel fine about it.
I'm calling this a "favorite" list because many of the books didn't come out this year but it is when I happened to read them. I also didn't include any books that are part of series (I'm looking at you, Outlander and All Souls) because truly, you need to read the books leading up to those to appreciate them. I also didn't include any YA novels but if you're curious about the ones I like, you can look at my Pinterest board.
In no particular order:
Absolutely fascinating global POV, rich characters (and character development!), moving plot. An interesting element is how our main character becomes a blogger and some of her posts are sprinkled throughout the book. As a blogger myself, I loved seeing how this factored in to her life and how it helped her process various experiences. On the other hand, while the content was strong, most of the blog posts weren't strongly written enough to have the following she had, to the point of making her living as a full-time blogger.
Americanah raises many questions about race, class, gender, and worldview. It will be particularly eye-opening for American readers, especially those who haven't left the country or who are unaware of how Americans might be perceived in the rest of the world.
I wasn't a fan of Eat, Pray, Love but Gilbert is a great writer and I was curious about how her fiction would play out. I'm glad I took a chance on this one. We see Alma's life play out over several decades. It was refreshing to have an unmarried main character and see how she wrestles with her station and sexuality, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries. Gilbert's voice is that of a detached narrator, resulting in a book that's neither plot, nor character-driven, yet it remained compelling. I never expected to be interested in moss or botany and yet this field came alive to me because of Alma's interest and passion for it. The relationship between science and faith is an intriguing one and the characters we meet offer no easy solutions.
Inventive storytelling. I was hooked start to finish, wondering where it would lead and what our narrator would do next. The less you know about the story before reading it, the better the ride.
One of those interesting novels you think long and hard about while reading and after. It may have resonated with me because I'm still single and have dealt with dudebros like Nate before and likely will again. But it also offered compelling commentary on feminism, relationships in general, and the people we wish we were vs. who we actually are.
Pete Snow is a social worker caught up in his own pain and the rural setting only heaps more pain upon him. The healthiest social workers examine their inner demons, so as not to be the blind leading the blind or inflict great damage on clients. I don't know about the state of social workers in the late '70s and early '80s but it's clear Pete Snow didn't receive that same advice. He is isolated and dealing with systemic poverty and limited resources. It would be a hard job for anyone and it's not hard to see why Snow flouts normal conventions, ethics, and boundaries. (So many scenes made me cringe. That's not what a social worker is supposed to do!)
Because of this, his interactions with Cecil and the Pearls and how he deals with his runaway teen daughter become easier to understand- although this doesn't exonerate many of his actions. His heart may be in the best place but the choices he makes directly leads to the chaos at the end. The scope of this first-time novel is impressive and raises great questions about community, poverty, family, and agency. There are no neat tied-with-a-bow answers and this rings true to life. Henderson uses a question-and-answer plot device about every other chapter and I'm not sure if it best served the narrative but it did provide an interesting layer to the story. A thought-provoking read and definitely worth trying.
I enjoyed this one even more than Lovett's first novel- and that was a hard one to beat! Any book nerd will enjoy this look at Jane Austen's life intertwined with a present-day librarian trying to prove Austen didn't plagiarize Pride & Prejudice. I loved how the mystery unfolded and I especially loved learning more about the world of books and the many ways in which we love to read.
This may be a case of reading the right book at the right time but I adored this novel. I related to the main character in so many ways, in spite of never having attended an arts and craft camp. (Incidentally, I think she's an Enneagram type 4. Hence, all the relating.) The exploration of friendship from their teens to middle-age was enthralling. Why do some friendships endure and others don't? How do you navigate each other's successes and failures? It's also a fascinating look at what happens when your career aspirations don't pan out and life doesn't look the way you expected it would- especially when your friends have had good fortune along the way.
On par with my love for In the Woods and The Likeness, French is at her best here. While I could have done without some of the magical elements (didn't add to the story), the characters kept me guessing and I closed the final pages with satisfaction. It's not implausible for such a case to happen at a boarding school, which is eerie in and of itself. If you haven't read French yet, it's a good time to start.
Moriarty is in her element. This was nearly impossible to put down and I was kept guessing almost to the end. This is strong work with a satisfying resolution. Her exploration of a complicated relationship is to be commended.
I completely understand why so many people say this is their favorite novel. Stunning.
What are your favorite fiction reads of 2014?
Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.