I grew up on a farm, out in the country with very few neighbors. Since our TV only got one station, my sisters and I read. We read before school and while riding the school bus. We read before supper and during supper and after supper. We read in the bathtub and while we were supposed to be sleeping at night.
I read voraciously, hungrily. Right before sleep I’d think of all the books I hadn’t yet read and I’d become anxious: What if I never had the chance to read them?
I still read, of course, I still have multiple books going at once, I still stay up half the night because I’m unable to put a book down. And I still sometimes worry about what books I would read or re-read if I only had a year left to live.
I decided to list my favorite books from this year. Many of them are re-reads; I tend to read my most loved books over and over until they become as familiar and worn as friends. I even tuck them beneath my pillow, the edges brushing my face and neck as I move about in my sleep, pieces of that story mixing with my dreams.
Best memoir: I love memoirs, the more honest and raw, the better. And this year I discovered one so beautifully written that it almost hurt to read: The Still Point of the Turning World, by Emily Rapp. I can’t recommend this enough. Read it. Now.
Most inspiring memoir: Hands down it has to be the running memoir that was about so much more than running, that crosses the boundary between sport and addiction recovery. Running Ransom Road by Caleb Daniloff.
Memoir I wanted to like but couldn’t: I tried, folks, I really did. But I just couldn’t like I’m Not Saint: A Nasty Little Memoir of Love and Leaving by Elizabeth Hyat. There’s nothing wrong with the book or the writing, it’s just that I couldn’t warm up to Hyat’s narrative. I couldn’t warm up to her, which was a shame since this could have been a compelling read if the Hyat had added a little depth and vulnerability to her prose.
Best short story collection: Oh, this one was so good, so rich and funny and ironic and well written and oddly wonderful that as soon as I finished the last story, I immediately turned to the beginning and started all over again. Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain by Lucia Perillo.
Best Novel: This was published years ago but I reread it again this past spring, once again marveling at the humor and grace. Women and Horses by Aussie author Candida Baker.
Best Fiction: The writing in this little gem is like no other, lyrical and poetical, each word lingering in my mouth. I read, and I savored. Ru by Kim Thuy.
Best Light Novel: Sometimes I want to read something light but still filling, something not quite chick-lit but not so deep as to cause me to ponder or wonder each time I set it down. The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café by Mary Simses was warm, filling and loaded with heart.
Best Indie Book: I don’t normally read indie books or at least I didn’t until this year. And while many lack editing and writing skills, many others are surprisingly top-notch. Which brings me to Yesterday Road by Kevin Brennan. The writing is literary quality, the characters lovable and memorable, the prose laugh-out-loud funny in places. What I loved most, however, is that the characters aren’t one-dimensional. These are flawed and scarred people, which makes them all the more real, and all the more endearing.
Did I miss anything? Let me know if there’s a book you think I simply must read for 2014. I’d love to hear your suggestions.