Some of my favorite evenings are spent reading. My book stacks keep growing like small ant piles on my nightstand and office. The words on the pages transport and I believe with a particular intensity that if traveling isn’t an opportunity that is available to you, reading a book offers an ability to peer into another world and gain insight into your life.
Here are the 10 books that I adored in 2014:
1. This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett: This collection of essays blend the lyrical world of fiction into memoir. Patchett examines what we deem important in the context of our relationships, as well as our work. My favorite line from this collection: “Sometimes love does not have the most honorable beginnings, and the endings, the endings will break you in half. It’s everything in between we live for.”
2. Still Writing by Dani Shapiro: There are several books that delve into the craft of writing, but Dani Shapiro’s meditations in Still Writing resonated with me in a way I cannot wholly describe. This year I had the pleasure of meeting her in person and loved that she read the following passage from her book: “The writer’s life requires courage, patience, empathy, openness. It requires the ability to be alone with oneself. Gentle with oneself. To be disciplined, and at the same time, take risks.”
3. Wonder by RJ Palacio: This year I decided to rediscover the young adult fiction world. Wonder and its characters made me think, laugh and reflect. The main character, August, stays with you long after you are finished reading. I sobbed at parts of this book, but ultimately the premise of this read ended on an uplifting note.
4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green: When this book hit the shelves, I avoided reading it because I did not want to spend my time reading about cancer and its reach. After hearing several recommendations from writers and readers I trust, I decided to read about the lives of Hazel and Augustus and their various interactions. It is a sad and devastating read that will push you to hug your children and those you love with a fervent intensity. One of my favorite lines from this read:“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.” Oh, how I know this to be true.
5. The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield: When I am in a lull with my writing, it causes some frustration. I will always consult Pressfield’s words on the theory of resistance and how we put off those tasks that scare us the most. Resistance is a powerful force and we underestimate its influence. The War of Art offers practical and a solid perspective on those who struggle in the creative sphere. I’ve referred to it several times this year for creative guidance.
6. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast: I love graphic novels and Chast’s brilliant memoir on aging, death and how a child becomes a caretaker for her parents presents humbling lessons for all. Poignant and comical, her words offer comfort and insight on how an ordinary crisis offers teaching lessons.
7. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: Fiction must possess the ability to transport the reader into a world that is completely different from their own. In her settings and excavation of her characters, Wolitizer unravels happiness that is connected with ambition and success. My favorite line from this book: “You didn’t always need to be the dazzler, the firecracker, the one who cracked everyone up, or made everyone want to sleep with you, or be the one who wrote and starred in the play that got the standing ovation. You could cease to be obsessed with the idea of being interesting.”
8. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper: Funny and insightful, I admire Tropper’s prose and intellect. His sentences in this book carry each scene forward. I laughed out loud in parts, reflected in others and loved how he wove several different story lines in the context of a religious ceremony to commemorate his Dad’s passing. This book illustrates perfection in several areas: prose, themes, characters and a narrative that is filled with relatable elements.
9. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: I don’t necessarily seek out love stories to read, but Me Before You is just that, a love story that involves unlikely people falling for one another. When I finished this book, tears strolled down my face for at least 15 minutes. This read possesses the ability to evoke strong emotions and offered a real connection to the main characters in ways that might surprise the reader.
10. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay: Personal essays are one of my favorite genres to read. Gay does not disappoint. Powerful opinions are presented in prose that is intelligent and insightful. Gay presents her perspective in a way that the reader is continuously nodding his or head. Raw and poignant, these essays will not only educate you, but resonate in a way that is unforgettable.
What books made your list in 2014? Would love to hear your recommendations.
Image: “Book Club” Ella Phillips via Flickr.