“People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink and paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.”
–The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield
We’re one quarter of the way through 2015, can you even believe it? My book list stands with 17 titles so far, which means it’s more than time for an update. The list is in the order I read them. I refuse to rank things, partially on principal but mostly because I can’t. I recommend almost all of them because, let’s face it, I’m wimpy and I don’t finish books I don’t like. These are the ones I actually finished.
1. Percy Jackson and the Olypians: The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
I started reading these because my daughter and her friends are completely into them, and I wanted to check them out. I’m an adult, but that hasn’t stopped me from liking a lot on this genre. These books are a great pick for kids, but I found that I didn’t get into them myself. Still, my 9-year-old daughter is racing through the millions of books by Rick Riordan and loving every one of them, and I can see the appeal. Lots of action. Lots of quips. And a bonus, you learn about Greek and Roman mythology. Not quite meaty enough for the adult audience. Sigh. Too bad.
2. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
3. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
I honestly don’t go in much for essay collections, but this came highly recommended and I loved it. It mostly deals with aging, so if you’re over 35, it’s relevant. Some chapters didn’t resonate with me as much as others, but her chapter on motherhood shone, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
4. Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg – This barely counts, as it’s mostly like reading a really long internet page, but it makes for a fun quick hour of laughing. If you aren’t familiar with characters from famous classic novels, this won’t make any sense to you.
5. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder – So cool. This is the adult version of her life story, which Wilder wrote first before adapting it for children. It’s a really interesting historical read. My husband bought me the annotated version, which has so many fascinating historical notes, but like a first grader, I skipped them all at first and just raced through the story. Lots of similarities to the books you know and love, but the differences are interesting.
6. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt – Can you believe I had never read this? It’s a classic, and it’s pretty wonderful. I’d recommend it for adults or children, though kids might find it a little slow. If you read it yourself, it will only take you a couple of hours and you won’t regret it at all.
7. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Hepperman – A collection of poems with modern takes on fairy tales. This is written for teens and focuses a lot on body image and the pressure to be beautiful. The opening poem was lovely, but the rest honestly left me kind of flat. This is an important topic, but these poems added nothing to the conversation.
8. 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith – Very offbeat coming of age kind of tale about a California boy. Is that a vague summary? Yes. But anything else I say about it would misrepresent. This is a pretty raw look at a teenage boy’s brain, which means I don’t even want to think about my kids reading it (just because I can’t even go there on them being real hormonal teenagers) but it was honestly beautiful even in its vulgarity. His writing is tight and clean and has just a hint of magic to it. I really enjoyed the book.
9. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson – This is the sequel to Steelheart, which I read last year. You can read more about the series on the book recommendation list. It was solid, entertaining, clever without being brilliant, and I think early teens would get into it.
10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
You guys. Read this book, please. I heard of it a couple of years ago and was intrigued. A year back a friend recommended it, and I took note of that. But for some reason (the title, maybe?) I just never hunted it down. Then I found a copy at Goodwill for a quarter. And then I read the whole thing in two days. It’s so beautiful. It’s a really heart-breaking piece of history, but this book is not sad. I mean, it is in places, but it’s so warm and full of sunlight. Just trust me. Read it.
11. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – Sequel to The Paper Magician, which I read last year. This was free borrow from Amazon, and since most of those are awful and I actually read all of this and enjoyed it, I would recommend it. It’s an interesting little world the author has created, and though there isn’t anything compelling here, it’s a fun read.
12. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
I got lost in this one, like the way you get lost in the fog. If you love Jane Eyre you have to read this book. It has that sort of gothic feel to it, but it isn’t maudlin. It is old-fashioned though set in a more modern age. It’s beautiful in a very specific way (a mist on the moors way, a roomful of dusty books way). And it’s about stories, so I’m keeping a copy of it on my shelf for always.
13. Enchantment by Orson Scott Card – I found this used at a little bookstore we love. I didn’t even know it existed. We’re big fans of the Ender series, and this is Card’s foray into fantasy, taking the tale of sleeping beauty and drawing it into a modern context, so of course I had to buy it. I read it in one weekend. As a tale it is only moderately interesting, but Card is the master of showing the interactions of cultures and people’s reactions to encountering foreign cultures, and this book is no exception. That’s a topic near to my heart, so this one is a keeper for me.
14. The Young Elites by Marie Lu – We absolutely loved the Legend series, so I was excited to find Lu’s newest work. Unfortunately, it didn’t do it for me. The characters weren’t nearly as resonant and the whole thing had a darkness to it that I could never get comfortable with. This is a book of antiheroes, and though I salute her bravery in that, I just can’t get behind it as a reader.
15. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Several people recommended this book as the best book they had read in 2014. I can see why. This is a book about the end of the world and the post-apocalyptic world that follows, but it isn’t about that at all. It’s about a group of people whose lives touched only on the fringes on both sides of the catastrophe, but it’s not about that at all either. It’s about home. I’m pretty sure it’s really about home. This book is excellently well written. It jumps back and forth through time, weaving the story masterfully, without worrying too much about the story itself. Am I confusing you? Just read it. Really. It’s wonderful.
16. The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
A friend put me onto these, and I couldn’t put them down. For pure page-turning dystopian teen lit, this is the clear winner of the year. It’s not quite as profound as it pretends to be, but it’s a really fun read. Hunger Games fans, this is the next one you should pick up.
17. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey – The sequel. One more comes out soon. Kind of can’t wait.
So there it is. Sometimes I think about all the good books out there to be read and I just feel so happy…
So far, this year’s list is pretty wide-ranging. If you’re looking for a new read, there ought to be something in there to your taste. Unless you want non-fiction. I really can’t help you there.
“My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don’t expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.”
–The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield