Last week I posted a Visual of My Reading Habits for 2014. If you are looking for my top ten books of the year, well it's not as simple as that for me. I tried to compile such a list, but despite the fact that I believe most books written are a 3.5 (Hey Goodreads, can we please use half-star ratings?), I was fortunate to read a good deal of what I consider to be 4s and 5s. Here in no particular order I give you my lists and rewards for books consumed in 2014.
Favorite New Author: Rainbow Rowell
I decided to give Rainbow Rowell her own category, because I could not choose which book to include in my top list - though if you bend my arm it would either be Fangirl or Landline (which I discussed in my December series: Books to Read Over the Holidays). I recommend any of her books, not only Landline (2014), but Attachments (2011), Eleanor & Park (2013) and Fangirl (2013) and hope you will take the time to spend with her wonderful and strong (meaning well rounded) character this year.
Favorite Non-Fiction / Autobiographical - because reading, like life, gets real
Two of these books were released in 2014 and two of them have been on my "to-read" list for a while. There is definitely something here for everyone and they each get my stamp of approval: Alison Bechdel's autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic will touch your life in a way you might not expect. Amy Poehler will have you laughing and wishing you could chase the moon with her as you read Yes Please. Chronicle of Youth: The War Diary, 1913-1917 is Vera Brittain's (Testament of Youth) diary entries from before and during the first part of World War I - which allows you to get to know the author, her story, and her loss. And as you know I made Pretty in Ink by Trina Robbins one of my to-read over the holiday books. All the information about it can be found here.
What did I just read? - I want more!
You know sometimes you read a book and it is amazing, but there is the caveat - this book is not for everything. These are the top four books that fall into that category. Katherine Dunn's Geek Love and John Waters' Carsick have already had a little bit of love on Cardigans and Cravats (click on the links for more information). The other two books are part of new graphic novel series by Image Comics. First up Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos' Pretty Deadly. How to sum it up - well, it's a magical western with strong female leads. Then you have Matt Fraction's Sex Criminals - where it turns out a select group of individuals have the ability to stop time, but only through having sex. See not for everyone, but if you like odd, weird, quirky, outside the box books, then I highly recommend you check one of the four out and see if they have you asking for more.
Get It Together Series - You are losing / or lost me / maybe its time
There was something about each of these series upon a time that had me clamoring for more, yet I've hit a wall. Something has to give or stop. I am not sure yet - but here is hoping to some clarity in 2015.
My (new to me and continues to be) top favorite series I just have to get my hands on ASAP.
Now this was a tough category to narrow down to four - but I forced myself. That is the point of lists, right? Three of the four I have read multiple volumes and the other, I am counting down the days until volume 2 is released. That book is Bandette, Vol 2: Stealers Keepers!. I fell head over heels for the title character in the first volume Presto! by husband & wife team: Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover! You can read all about that here. Then there is Chew. You think after eight volumes the theme of banned chicken and supernatural powers based around food / taste would be stale (pardon the pun), but the humor of John Layman and Rob Guillory keeps this series fresh. Saga just came out with its fourth volume and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are still killing it. The characters are not perfect, they make mistakes, they fumble when they need to keep it together and the backdrop of war ties everything together. This probably belongs in the not for everyone category based on the violence and sex, but it is one of my favorites right now and I want everyone to read it. Lastly, there is Hawkeye. Yes... another Matt Fraction! And I think his unique perspective is why I keep coming back to series. It takes a special writer / illustrator to get me to regularly visit superhero comics (I am more of an offbeat graphic novel girl). Hawkeye's balance of backstory and humor makes it tops in my book, plus the illustrations are wonderful.
Anglophile Represent - Favorite novels by Brits
What you need to understand about me: I love British murder mysteries, 1920s novels, and fantasy, and the Brits, they treat me so right. Anthony Powell's Afternoon Men and Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate captured life in England after World War I. If you are familiar with Evelyn Waugh's works then I think you should give both of these books a chance. Quick reads that will transfer you to parties filled with slang and cocktails (more than Downton Abbey ever will). I read both of Robert Galbraiths (aka JK Rowling)'s Cormoran Strike detective novels (The Cuckoo's Calling, The Silkworm) this year and I am clamoring for the next installment. With The Silkworm you have established characters and relationships you start to want more from, not just to discover who done it?. Then, there is Neverwhere by Neil Gaimain, which has sat on my bookshelf for years asking to be read and getting passed over for current library books. Then it was finally time to sit down and tumble down to London below and find myself wishing (like I do with all Gaiman books) that these worlds really did exist.
Favorite Graphic Novels: Standalones
My favorite category. There were so many to choose from, and again, I found it hard to narrow down to four. But these four I have found I have been recommending. There are many of graphic novels that focus on the aftermath of World War II, The Property is part of that canon. However's Rutu Modan's work finds its own path focusing on returning to a place, love, loss, and property. This one is not a tear jerker, but one that will comfort your heart. Now, if you want a tear jerker - may I recommend The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek Tiwary. Breathtaking illustrations and a story that many people do not know and if you do know it - the way it is unfolded is just perfection. The kind of perfection you find in all Jeff Lemire work (my favorite writer/illustration) - so its no surprise that on this list is Trillium. Lemire brings his water color illustration style to this unique story spanning both time and space (and anybody who can pair the 1920s and the future gets my stamp of approval). Lastly - Seconds. I met Bryan Lee O'Malley and picked up a special print for this book at San Diego Comic Con in 2012. It has been hanging on my "wall of geek" (a huge curated wall of framed art) for two years. So you can imagine I was very excited to finally get my hands on this book and it did not disappoint. Everyone always wants to go back in time and fix a mistake, but what we learn from Katie - there is always a catch. Just read it. Read all of them. Let them hug you, because books can totally hug you.
Bonus: Four More Books to read.... Because.
To end the list, let me give you four more book recommendations. First off - Love and Capes by Thomas F. Zahler. This is a completed series or it would have gone on the list above. It is a comic with beats like a sitcom and the perfect blend of charm and humor with superheros of course. Just read it. No arguments. No debates. Read it. I did and it is a five star series. If you are looking over the book covers, your eyebrows are up--a Veronica Mars book? Oh yes, my friends: Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line. It picks up at the end of the movie and it completely honors the tone of the show and the film. The next book, Mr. Kiss and Tell, is set to come out next week (January 20, 2015) and I loved the first so much I pre-ordered the second one. A girl has to get her murder mystery fix and what's better than one paired with Veronica and Logan?
The last two on the list are two stand-alone graphic novels. Ever worked in a place filled with quirky characters and customers? Not to mention all the drama and hilarity that comes with it? Mimi Pond captures her experience in a diner circa 1970s in Over Easy and I am sure it will delight you as much as me. Lastly, Shoplifter by Michael Cho. Personally this book won me with its two-tone illustrations. Just wonderful, but the story is very of the times as well. The main character isn't happy with her personal life, etc and she finds herself shoplifting for a thrill. As a debut novel - I think it definitely puts Cho on my radar.
There you have it. My lists for the books I read in 2014. For 2015 I have set up goals of how many books to read from my personal collection, how many novels, etc. I look forward to seeing how these goals are fulfilled as the world is filled with wonderful books and I have just scratched the surface.