Remarkable Books I Read in 2014

Now that the year is coming to a close, I look back fondly–almost nostalgically–on the books I’ve read in the past few months, when my reading craze really began.

I have to thank Rory Gilmore for the start of the Reading Craze. On October 1, I joined many American women nostalgic for watching Gilmore Girls in syndication on ABC Family and started streaming on Netflix. I watched Gilmore Girls at the gym, in the mornings with breakfast, as my reward for doing homework. Rory read, and I watched Rory read. I used to be like Rory in high school, I thought. I had time to read. Poor Elena, in college, no time to read novels.

And yet I had time for Gilmore Girls. How did that make sense? If I kept the blocks of time available but read instead of watched TV, well then, I could read a lot. And so instead of watching Rory read, I became Rory. I brought my books everywhere and was subsumed by stories.

It was like recovering a lost part of myself. In high school, I didn’t go anywhere without my novel. Hell, I even brought an extra bag to high school for a few weeks so I could carry Gone With the Wind with me all day and read before class started. Now that’s neurotic. And yet I find great joy in letting myself be absorbed into a story. It’s a childlike joy–losing yourself so fully in something. I’m grateful that I’ve reaffirmed that I’m able to fit in this joy with my daily life. I’m happiest when I’m reading a good book.

So, without further ado, here are the books that have been keeping me occupied and happy since the spring as they come to me, with no regard to chronology and ranking.

Jumped into this one right after rereading Middlesex, masterpiece that it is.

Jumped into this one right after rereading Middlesex, masterpiece that it is.

  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, along with the rest of America. I’m happy I read it, and am happy that there’s one novel that I can have a conversation with so many people about, whether or not they were also exhausted by the ending like I was.
  • Cat’s Eye by the ever-amazing Margaret Atwood
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Love. I read this in its entirety during my 24-hour journey to Greece (layovers, etc) and it got me through!
  • Ghostwritten by David Mitchell. I might have enjoyed it even more–or as much as–Cloud Atlas.
  • Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. An amazing glance into a very interesting time and place in American history: New York in the beginning of the 20th century. This is my kind of historical fiction.
  • My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl. I’m continuously surprised that he could write these nasty and hilarious books along with the books of my childhood, but I probably shouldn’t be so surprised. There’s more overlap than one would think.
  • If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino–see post
  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño–see post
  • The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter. Also a great exercise in metafiction, and a beautiful book.
  • Skios by Michael Frayn, a fantastically fun romp on a fictional Greek island
  • The Hours by Michael Cunningham. A masterpiece, really beautiful especially if you like Mrs. Dalloway
  • The Interestings by Meg Woltizer. 600 pages has never gone by so fast. Love, love, love.
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. It was like he peered into my college-aged mind and wrote Madeleine. Eugenides is a superb story-teller.
  • Charming Billy by Alice McDermott. I am so happy to have discovered McDermott. She is a beautiful, beautiful writer, and crafts relatable and exquisite stories out of seemingly ordinary people and events.
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. This one deserves its own post. I haven’t been that affected by a book in a long, long time.
  • Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie. Absolutely delightful, and I haven’t stopped thinking about Lurie’s characters.
  • Myra Breckingridge by Gore Vidal. It’s just….oh my. Read Duluth, too.
  • The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adele Waldman. She’s a great writer. I just hated Nathaniel. How couldn’t I?
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane. A terrifically fun book, and I especially loved it because it’s about books! Bookstores, intrigue, secret societies, San Francisco–it doesn’t get much better. I love books about books.
  • Coral Glynn by Peter Cameron
  • The Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn. Everyone should read these. If you have the stomach for it, that is.
  • At Last by Edward St. Aubyn. This conclusion to the Patrick Melrose novels (which everyone should read) is stunning. It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend, someone you know who might not be able to take care of himself, and you really hope he’s okay when you’re not around to check up on him anymore.
  • All the David Sedaris essays, which made me laugh and cry and then laugh more.
  • Duluth by Gore Vidal. One of the funniest books I’ve ever encountered. I found it in a half-off pile of books in a bookstore in Cyprus. And that’s why print is better.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Lovely, lovely little book.
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Soaring.
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Okay…I think that sums it up. I know there are others, but I don’t remember them. I don’t know what I read at the beginning of the year, unfortunately, but maybe they’ll come to me. It’s been quite a good year for books!!

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