Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in Books

While I certainly devote a lot of time to poring over glossy magazines, nothing beats the satisfaction of getting thoroughly engrossed in a good book. I thought I'd share my thoughts on the 14 books I read over the past year... and I'd love to hear yours, too! 

What were the best and the most disappointing books you read in 2014?! And have you read any of these? I love hearing other opinions!

                        {Also read but not pictured: Quiet by Susan Cain}

In no particular order, my favourite books I read this past year were:

  • A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
Gripping, terrifying, and totally page-turning -- I couldn't put it down. (Full review here). 

  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I don't tend to read many non-fiction books, but this one was fascinating. A must-read for both introverts and extroverts alike. (Full review here).

  • A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
A bittersweet love story set in Edwardian England and Florence, Italy. Forster's subtle way with words and keen observations on class made this novel a stand-out for me. (Full review here). 

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
So often, I start reading a book expecting to love it (it sounds like a good story, it's gotten rave reviews) only to find it disappointing. With Lolita, it was the opposite: I went into it expecting to not hugely like it but ended up really enjoying this controversial classic. Despite its dubious subject matter, I found it very cleverly written and witty -- of all the books I read this year, I found it the most humorous, bizarrely enough.

The two novels I found most disappointing were:

  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Just didn't do it for me. While I don't need a book to be heartwarming for me to enjoy/be moved by it, I just found this one far too bleak and self-indulgent.

  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
This book got rave reviews ("You'll laugh your pants off!"... "a comedic delight!"..."the most absorbing novel of the summer!"), so I was excited to start reading it, but wow, was it ever a letdown. I didn't find it remotely funny, and the plot -- told through a series of emails/letters/faxes -- was scattered and not terribly engrossing. 

And then there were the other eight novels I read that were good/goodish/average but not exactly stand-outs:

  • Room by Emma Donoghue
I actually liked the majority of this book (it is a fascinating premise, after all: a young woman, held captive for seven years along with the son fathered by her abductor plots their escape) but I found the ending a bit too neat and implausible. 

  • The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
While it was definitely dense in parts, on the whole I enjoyed this classic...but the ending (spoiler alert!) was just too heartbreaking for me to exactly love it. 

  • Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
If I had to pick a fifth favourite from the books I read this year, it would probably be Agnes Grey...it's basically Victorian chick-lit, really: middle-class girl on hard times hates her employers but falls in love and lives happily ever after. (Full review here). 

  • Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
I have a bit of a confession to make: I don't really love Alice Munro. I just don't get the hype over her writing, to be honest. I've read a few of her short story collections, and my reaction is always the same: I find them fairly dull to mildly enjoyable when reading them, and then can't for the life of me remember the details of any once I've finished. 

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison 
Definitely a haunting, moving book. I read it back in February around the time of Shirley Temple's death, which I found poignant (she's idolized by Pecola, the central character in the novel, whose greatest wish is to be a white girl with blue eyes). 

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I semi-enjoyed this book. For the most part, I found it fairly engaging and fast-paced but there was just something about it that held me back from completely loving it...maybe the fact that I wasn't rooting for either of the (pretty unlikeable) main characters? 
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
Not gonna lie: I found this book just a liiiiittle tedious in parts. But on the whole, as a story, I enjoyed it. (Full review here).

  • Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella
I've loved the Shopaholic series for over a decade, so I'm always excited when a new book is published. While this one wasn't as good as the first few books, in my opinion, it was definitely a fun, light read. (Full review here).

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading the bell jar in my teens and finding it a bit inward looking and self obsessed. But was glad I had read it nonetheless. A room with a view is a classic, it is so evocative of a time and place, I found it an absorbing read.