Year in Review :: Best of 2014

I love everyone’s year end “Best of” lists, so here’s mine – the three best reads from 2014.

Favorite contemporary fiction read from this year: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

This book had me from the start and would also qualify as the best book that took me by surprise. It is the story of a family and the terrible consequences when they lose one their members. The narrator is a young girl who lost her ‘twin’ one summer – the sister being a chimpanzee and her parents being among the handful of curious scientists in the 60’s and 70’s who wondered what would happen if a monkey were raised as a human child.

Short listed for The Man Booker prize, Fowler has written a creative, engaging story that forces her readers to consider what defines family – is it blood, shared history or shared secrets? It is a journey taken with Rosemary who is devastated and confused by the sudden disappearance of her sister, Fern, and who only later learns what really happens, trying to make sense of the very hard decision her parents had to make.

This would make an excellent book club discussion, and is well worth the read.

Favorite Non-Fiction read of the year: Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

I will start by saying – and perhaps this will be enough – the night I started this, my husband had to make me stop reading. Even after I put it down, I was still occasionally shaking the bed as I giggled just thinking about it. This is for anyone who has enjoyed David or Amy Sedaris (closer to David) or who has enjoyed a upbringing somewhat like Lawson’s – I happen to fit both categories.

Lawson was raised in rural Texas by parents who believed all furry or feathered animals were good for pets or dinner – and occasionally both. She started as a blogger, and I didn’t realize until the chapter in which she buys a 5 foot rooster that I was familiar with her writing. I think she’s hilarious (let me warn you about her language – it is not for the faint of heart). I love her, too, because I also had a father who came home frequently and said, “Come see what I’ve got in the back of the truck,” and we didn’t know if it would be dead, alive, dinner or our next pet, so I get her and the childhood she obviously experienced.

Check it out. It will make your life seem normal. Unless you also have a pet raccoon* who wears jams. And then you’re just as strange as she is.

Best Over-all Read of the Year: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I’ve already reviewed this one, so I won’t repeat it here. If you missed it, skip on over and read my earlier review. And then read The Bell Jar. Unless, unlike me, you actually did read it in college.

All of my 2014 Books 

To check out everything I read or listened to in 2014, view my reading list here. If you want to know what I thought of any given book, leave a comment on this post & I’ll respond.

Happy New Year! May 2015 be your best year ever!

*PS – I was telling my brothers about Lawson’s book, and in an attempt to widen the gap between her childhood and ours, I told the story about the pet raccoons (“At least we didn’t have raccoons as pets…”) when my father chimes in, “You know, raccoons are really smart!” It seems we may have just narrowly escaped that one. Whew.

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