Best Books of 2014

The end of 2014 is approaching! That means its time for lists of the best stuff of the year. Not top ten lists, but lists of indeterminate length. Yay! I’ll be spending this week going over my list of best books, best concerts, best theater shows, and a really short one on movies of 2014.

Today let’s talk about the top nine books of the year. These are not books that have been published in 2014; they are books that I have in 2014. I rarely read books that come out in the same year. I’m allergic to hardbacks. Well, my back is.
In no particular order:
1. Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This is the story of Achilles told through the eyes of Patroclus. It’s fantastic to see the Trojan War from another perspective. It’s engrossing, beautiful, and haunting. It makes Achilles into a sympathetic character.
2. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
This is a Victorian comic novel written in 1889. Three adult friends decided to take a holiday by floating down the Thames on a boat. Humor doesn’t always translate in time but this book had me laughing aloud. It’s silly and delightful. It’s also the book that Connie Willis references in To Say Nothing of the Dog. There is a sequel to the Victorian novel but I’d give it a pass.
3. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
This is a story about two hired assassins who are brothers in Oregon and Washington in 1851. They are brutal men who rarely show mercy to their victims or anyone. It’s an interesting character study that is very engrossing especially for someone who doesn’t lean towards the cowboy genre.
4. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
This book blew me away. It’s told from the perspective of three women who all have been befriended and betrayed by the illusive and dangerous Zenia. It’s a wonderful example of point of view narration.
5. Invisible Beasts by Sharona Muir
This is a series of short vignettes linked together by the narrator who has the gift of seeing invisible animals. She writes the book in order to catalog them before they go extinct. Each story centers around a different animal but also focuses on a facet of her life, like a white lie or a one night stand. Well written and delightful.
6. Havana Real by Yoani Sanchez
Yoani Sanchez is the heart of the blog Generation Y about her experiences living in today’s Cuba. She writes about how she is going to do something illegal: she’s going to be a citizen. She talks about the day to day difficulties of living in Cuba and the ways that she and other Cubans try to get by. Havana Real is a selection of her blogs from the late 2000s. Some of her blogs are simply chilling. For instance, when she visits a friend in the hospital, she brings her surgical thread to ensure her friend has it for her surgery.
7. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwick
This is a strange travelogue of a man who goes Patagonia to find dinosaur remains. He ends up hitchhiking and traveling all across Patagonia, meeting all the communities throughout. There are colonies of Welsh folks, Boers, Germans and more that still speak their native languages. It’s not the most politically correct work; he’s not terribly sympathetic to non-European Argentines but it’s a interesting work well worth a read.
8. Red Shirts by John Scalzi
This is for people familiar with Star Trek. Several new recruits, “Red Shirts”, are assigned a space ship and discover a unnatural rate of death for the recruits. It’s delightful and fun look at fate.
9. Pastoralia by George Saunders
I don’t know if I love this book but it haunts me. It’s a series of short stories starting with a story about a theme park where they recreate historical scenes (or imagined historical scenes). The narrator is a man playing a caveman whose fellow cavewoman is deteriorating. The stories seem to be about people with failed dreams who either raise themselves out of the muck by thoroughly compromising themselves or falling deeper into the void.
That’s all for now!

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