Thursday, February 5, 2015

2014 reading: fiction

despite my best intentions this blog has been pretty inactive - which is partly because my life has been pretty dull of late. i work. i go home. i watch tv. i see a movie once in a while. i read.

i read a lot.

all totaled, i read 45 books last year. since reading is what i spend the bulk of my free time doing, and people are constantly asking me for recommendations, i figured i'd share my reading list for last year along with comments on each book. i'm splitting it into a few posts. first up - fiction.  (young adult fiction will be a separate post)

1. Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

not as good as her previous book The Thirteenth Tale, but Diane Setterfield is a master of creating an atmosphere. eerie and compulsively readable. you'll never look at a black bird the same way again.
2. Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason
a murder mystery. i skimmed through the last 100+ pages because i was bored and didn’t like it. more vulgar and profane than it needed to be. (it's become apparent to me that i'm not really a person who enjoys murder/mystery novels.)
3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
brilliant. prophetic. i can’t believe i haven’t read it until now. on my must-read list. we are entertaining ourselves to mindlessness and Ray saw it coming a long time ago. i loved this so, so much.
4. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
this was a weird read for me. it’s one of those books that kind of has me thinking “is this it?” the whole time i’m reading it, but once i’m done i realize some serious questions and themes were explored. pretty solid. i would only recommend this to people who like “literature”.
5. The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin
i hated this book. so much.
6. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
sci-fi/fantasy genre fiction is the only adult genre fiction i enjoy. this is clear genre fiction and it was exactly what it was supposed to be. i enjoyed it enough to hand it off to a friend who also enjoys genre fiction and pick up the second book for myself.
7. The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley
it was alright. my least favorite of Kearsley’s books.
8. Ali and Nino: A Love Story by Kurban Said
this book was surprisingly epic for its short length and nothing i write about it could ever do it justice. i learned so much about the culture and history of an area of the world i’ve had no exposure to. i loved it so much. a little secret jewel.
9. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
the only word i can think of to describe this book is “interesting”. i enjoyed it very much. in a fortuitous turn of events i found myself reading this book shortly after i had studied the stories of jacob and joseph pretty intensely in preparation for teaching them at church; so to come to the story from a fictional but researched female point of view was really interesting. i think in exploring another point of view of such a well-known story the author exposed the humanness of the characters, making them all more relate-able and offered new lessons to be learned.
10. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
this book is intense. Atwood is a WRITER. meaning - every words that she puts on a page has real purpose. this book may be a little much for some people, but i loved it. it was absolutely terrifying because you want to think it’s just a fictional world that isn’t possible, but the fact is women all over the world live in repressive systems akin to the one she creates here, and it makes you realize how vulnerable you are. it absolutely could happen to anyone. it also explores how “progress” in one person’s movement radicalizes people on the other side of the movement.
11. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
SO GOOD! my head almost exploded when i read this book. it’s not enjoyable, per se, but it makes you look at your world and life and ask big questions about what you’re buying into, what you value, what direction everything is headed in. entire pages are highlighted.
12. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
i appreciated the central character's journey, and that the ending was happy(ish) but realistic. one of the best things about reading to me is that it can expose me to lifestyles and mentalities that are completely incomprehensible to me. several times when i was reading this book i kept thinking, “how could she do that?! what is she thinking?! who in their right mind would think that is okay?!” books like this help me recognize how fortunate i have been through my whole life, and help me have greater compassion and patience with others.
13. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
this book was a huge disappointment for me. it jumped back and forth between an ongoing story in the present and little vignettes in the past. i didn't care for the characters in the modern story, and their actions and development were unbelievable and unrealistic. the parts of the book that delved into history were interesting insofar as the historical background was concerned, but i often found the characters within those stories as tedious as the ones in the modern story. major letdown.  
14.What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman
this book was hit and miss for me. there are two stories within the book, one modern and one taking place starting in the early twentieth century. the modern story is trite and i really could have done without it entirely. the other story is more compelling, but it’s the fact that the experiences of the character are based on real stories that gripped me. i probably would rather have read the source material than the novel given the chance, but maybe that’s the history major in me talking.