Hypergraffiti

Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Best Books of 2014

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This a cross-post from Compulsive Overreader, my book-review blog. If you want all my reviews, follow that blog!

Some years I do something fancy like make a year-end book review video or do some kind of quiz where you can win free books if you guess my top ten book list.Last year I did both. This year … meh, I’m not so creative. It’s been a good year for reading, though. My top ten list was hard to construct, because there were eight books that were definite, gotta-make-the-list favourites, and then another six or so, any of which could have taken those last two Top Ten spots. As always, the ordering is a bit arbitrary, though I do feel pretty solid about the #1 book.

I read and reviewed 77 books this year, which is a little on the low side for me. I put this down to the fact that I actually read more than 77 — I was a judge for a local literary contest which involved reading every work of fiction published in Newfoundland in 2012 and 2013, and out of those, I mostly only posted reviews of the ones I really loved. I figured trashing the ones I didn’t like as much would be an abuse of my judgely position, and in some cases, once I got halfway through a book and knew it wasn’t going onto my shortlist, I skimmed the last half.

Interestingly, even though I really loved some of the books I read for that contest, none of them made my Top Ten of the Year list, though one book by a local author (published later than the cutoff for this contest) is definitely on there.

My 77 books broke down to 57 fiction and 20 non-fiction. 54 books were written by women and 23 by men. Those proportions are a little more skewed than usual; I usually read a little more non-fiction and a few more books by men than I did this year.

My Top Ten list contains three books by Canadian writers, two by British writers, and five by American writers. I suspect if I went back and checked, that would be representative of the books I read as a whole, if you discount the skew caused by contest judging.

I didn’t do a specific count on e-books versus paper but I do know that the VAST majority — probably about 60 of the 77 books? — were e-books as opposed to traditional paper books.

And now, without further ado … the list!

10. Between Gods, by Alison Pick. As I said, there were a lot of good books that could have gone in this slot, but I picked this one because I usually read a lot of great memoirs, and this year, this was the one memoir that really stood out and lingered with me long after I read it. Read my full review here.

9. Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle. Out of the many excellent novels that could have grabbed the ninth-place spot, I picked this one because I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read it. A very thought-provoking read from a writer who, until now, has mainly penned unforgettable song lyrics. Read my full review here.

8. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. I’ve loved Neil Gaiman as a cultural icon for years but this is the first book of his that I can honestly say I was entranced by. A fairytale about childhood, for grownups. Read my full review here.

7. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. For me, Fangirl was this year’s The Fault in Our Stars: a smart, funny, articulate, insightful young-adult romance. But with less cancer and more fanfiction. Read my full review here.

6. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters. Simply fabulous, evocative, powerful historical fiction set in post-WWI London. Read my full review here.

5. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart. A great, gripping, twisty, gut-wrenching young adult novel. If you start to feel like the narrator might be a little unreliable, remember, you’re the one who opened a book clearly titled We Were Liars. Read my full review here.

4. Fool’s Assassin, by Robin Hobb. Wonderful start to a new trilogy by one of my favourite fantasy authors. Would I rather have beloved characters from the previous trilogies left to grow old in peace, or see them immersed in scary new adventures? Read my full review here.

3. Lila, by Marilynne Robison. Once again, Robinson takes us back to the small-town world she explored so deeply in Gilead and Home, now seen through the eyes of a different character. Wonderfully written and deeply thought-provoking. Read my full review here.

2. Sweetland, by Michael Crummey. Absorbing, powerful, breathtaking — there aren’t enough adjectives to praise Crummey’s masterful epic about the last man on a Newfoundland island abandoned by the modern world. Read my full review here.

1. Frog Music, by Emma Donoghue. I always love Donoghue, but not since Slammerkin has she produced a masterpiece like this madcap journey through the underside of late nineteenth-century San Francisco. This novel, based on accounts of a real-life crime, is the kind of historical fiction that’s as close as you’ll ever get to time travel. Read my full review here.

I would love to know what your favourite books of 2014 were. Share some in the comments!!

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