Thursday, January 8, 2015

Best of: Books I read in 2014

So this post won't be as long or encompassing as last year's roundup, mostly because the first quarter of my year was spent on one entry alone (the Song of Ice and Fire series). Nothing that I read last year rocketed to My Favorite Books of All Time status quite like Kushiel's Dart or Lies of Locke Lamora, but I did discover a new favorite author and continue a beloved graphic novel series. So without further ado, my favorite reads from 2014:

The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
Yes, I am late to the gate on this one. This was my first Atwood. I know. I know. I can't believe I waited this long. Girlfriend is incredible, and Alias Grace, Handmaid's Tale, and Oryx & Crake are already calling to me as I struggle to finish the books I'm currently reading. I can't wait to read more of her. But if you, like I once was, are Without Atwood In Your Life, then Blind Assassin is a great introduction to her effortlessly beautiful but totally accessible and entertaining prose. The book weaves four rather different stories together, culminating at the point where they meet: the apparent suicide of protag Iris's sister Laura. From Iris, we hear the account of the complicated youth and troubled marriage of an industry heiress in post-WWI Canada. We also hear about her freer--but much less glamorous--days as an elderly woman putzing the sidewalks and eating donuts in the town that her family used to own. Interspersed throughout her narratives are chapters of a fiction within a fiction, and a fiction within that fiction: the story of two lovers meeting again and again, continuously building a pulp sci-fi plot together after their lovemaking sessions. It becomes clear that these chapters are pulled from a book very important to Iris: but who wrote it?

A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R. R. Martin.
Endlessly entertaining family drama (and trauma). Excellent fantasy world building, zero flowery fantasy prose. But you've already heard that from every reader in your life. The hype is real. Just read it.

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark And The Spending of a Great American Fortune, Bill Dedman
This book examines the long, isolated, totally off-the-wall life of a 20th century heiress with limitless financial resources, courtesy of her father, one W.A. Clark, an American empire builder who can claim the decision to buy the land that Las Vegas sits on to build a maintenance stop for his railroad system (Ever heard of Clark County, NV?) as one of his minor financial moves. Moving on: Huguette was old enough when the Titanic sank to remember it, and died during the beginning of Obama's presidency. THINK ABOUT THAT. And she was unimaginably rich and able-bodied the whole time. So what did she do with her 115 years of lavish wealth and good health? Totes bought a lot of art, got married for like five minutes, commissioned lots and lots of very detailed Japanese dollhouses, donated to her father's charities, hung out with her bff/mom, corresponded with a married Frenchman, lived as a total recluse, and inexplicably spent the last 20 years of her life in a hospital room despite being in great health, giving money to people right and left. Fascinating profile of a one-of-a-kind boss lady. All hail.

Saga: Volume 3, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
In which I return to one of my favorite series! Seriously, if you love graphic novels--or if you like the idea of graphic novels but don't know where to dive in--get on this shit. The artwork is breathtaking and you cannot go wrong with the storytelling. No trite hero struggling between the weight of saving the world and maintaining a personal life, no undead overtaking the earth, no butt-kicking femme fatales (unless you count armless spider lady and all-around perfect being The Stalk). It's just a small family trying to survive on the run in a war-torn galaxy, with a cast of compelling characters on their heels at every turn. And Volume 3 is the best of the bunch so far! So far. I just bought Volume 4 and I am dying to get to it! UPDATE: Volume 4 was superb.

That wraps it up, folks. Enjoy! And for further reference:
Best of: Books I read in 2013
5 Books I found essential in 2010
....Crap. I thought I'd done more of these roundups. Maybe they're mislabeled somewhere on this site. Oh well. Mental note to post more of my untimely book reviews, check.


  1. That Brian K. Vaughan guy is one I've actually heard of. He worked on the show Lost, plus he's has some super successful comics. There's one about this guy who's the last man left on Earth after all the other men died, although the title escapes me. And I believe he worked on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book, which continues from when the television show ended. He's also worked on a comic series called The Runaways, which I've actually heard quite a bit about but haven't experienced myself. He also turned Stephen King's Under the Dome into the miniseries.

    Just fyi. I've not read any of these though, maybe I'll check them out!

  2. "Y: The Last Man" is what you're thinking about! I've heard nothing but good things about it. :)