At the end of the year you may have noticed I did a ton of posts with “Best of Lists.” I dig them. One of my readers, and frequent commenters, is a bookstore manager so we had a long email back and forth about best books of 2014. I asked her to do a guest post on her top books of 2014. Without further ado, here is Georgette’s list and what books she is looking forward to in 2015, too. I have only read a few so I will add some comments where I can. I added a bunch of these to my Kindle already.
Georgette’s Top 14 Books of 2014
1. All The Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Marie-Laure, a young blind girl, grows up in Paris with her father, who tries to help her navigate life with her blindness. Then the Nazis occupy Paris, and Marie-Laure flees with her father. In another part of the world, Werner, a young brilliant radio operator, is recruited by Hitler to be in his private cabal of brilliant officers. He ends up in the same place as Marie-Laure, and their paths converge, in a crescendo of love, war, peace, and survival amidst the rubble of the war. The most beautiful novel I have read in years. [EF: Agree! LOVED this book. It was amazing.]
2. Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse – Brando Skyhorse did not have a normal upbringing by anyone’s means. He’s getting older and questioning who his biological father is. You’ve no doubt read books like that before…but this is no normal biography. Brando’s mom is crazier than a fox, and looser than a slippery slope- growing up, Brando has FIVE, yes, FIVE different stepfathers who figure prominently in his childhood and upbringing. They all shape his life in some point; some bring balance to it, others magnify the craziness that was his mom’s life, but they all bring him to a point where he decides it’s high time to find out who his real father is. This is one of the most unbelievable autobiographies I have read in a while. Brando is such a likable, funny guy whose inner struggle to understand why his mom was like that, and who his father was, is so palpable you hope that he finds out what he needs to know so he can get a better understanding of who he really is. Simply unbelievable.
3. Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart – Gary’s the author of several well known books, including The Russian Debutante’s Daughter and Super Sad True Love Story. This is his memoir of growing up as part of a tough Russian family who gambles and relocates to America (Brooklyn to be exact). The stark differences between his former and new life are brilliantly illustrated throughout the page with bluntness, fondness, and somewhat dark humor. The family isn’t incredibly generous with praise or affection (Little Failure is Gary’s nickname from his family, to give you an idea), but they do their best to encourage him in his adjustment to American life, and later on, his new found interest in writing. A sharply told, funny, and inspiring story of a young Russian kid trying to make it in the big city known as America. [EF: I read an essay that he wrote about this topic and am looking forward to this book!]
4. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum – Richard is a British artist who’s finally seeing the fruits of his hard-earned labor coming to fruition. His newest painting and exhibit is a smash; his marriage is now in shambles, after his wife Anne uncovers his affair with a snooty American heiress. Richard finally figures out the meaning of love in trying to woo back his wife (the mistress dumps his keister; she quickly tires of the affair) and convince their kid that he’s not a negligent dad. His decision to sell a painting that Anne inspired only drives home more of the realization that he really may have messed things up to the point they cannot be repaired. A funny, smart novel about the perils of love long languished and the art of rediscovering what once was. [EF: Downloaded and started.]
5. Magnificent Vibration by Rick Springfield -Bobby Cannon is having a hard time of things lately; and for reasons known only to him, he steals a book from a bookstore, titled “Magnificent Vibration: Discover Your True Purpose”. He finds a number scrawled on the inside of the book, and calls it, only to find that he has a direct line to God. Yes, THAT God. God has a mean sense of humor, and Bobby gets a taste of it when he meets Alice, a sexy and good-humored nun, who travels with him from America to Scotland and everywhere, trying to answer the important questions: “What is love”, “What is our purpose on this Earth”, “Does God send text messages?” , among others. (disclaimer: I originally read this because it was THE Rick Springfield, one of my long-time 1980’s crushes, and one of my favorite singers. I ended up laughing my butt off). It’s a highly original, rambunctious, hilarious, and yes, even thought provoking, novel.
6. Wanderlush by David Robert – David Robert is convinced he’s dying of cancer (PS- He’s a hypochondriac. Be warned!) and decides he wants to go on a travel tour of Europe with the most important person in his family- his mom. Before you go and grab your tissues, consider his mom- she’s a Chardonnay swilling, Xanax popping, bundle of unpredictability, who is prone to causing great scenes of dramatic license, over absolutely nothing. She’s also a rule breaker and the life of the party. What happens when they travel together? Unbelievable adventures! Seriously, this book is also capable of producing bouts of uncontrolled urination. My side was killing me, I was crying from laughing so hard, and I had to pee a river. It is that funny! [EF: Downloaded]
7. To Rise Again At A Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris – Paul O’Rourke is a Manhattan dentist, seriously disillusioned with life, people, religion, and having to use modern technology to communicate. Imagine his horror when someone creates a phony profile online with his identity. He finds out it’s a group called the Ulms, followers of a figure from the New Testament, who are trying to create a definition of the dimensions of religious skepticism. Paul is a deeply unhappy character, but a dark comedic one. You feel sympathy for him, because his tangents are legendary ones. Ferris writes a free-wheeling look at religion, skepticism, modern technology, how much allure the social media holds for the masses in today’s society, a ton of different topics are addressed. With the unfolding of the story comes great thought processes and a new appreciation for the way things used to be, not what they’ve evolved into.
8. The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn – John Lago is brought from a miserable childhood into the hands of Human Resources, Inc, and is trained as an assassin. HRI infiltrate offices by having their assassins (like John) pose as interns within the company to plot doing away with the highest ranking executives (disclaimer: They’re usually pond scum, so it’s intended to be for the good of all). Mandatory retirement in HRI is at the age of 25, and John’s last job is going to be the hardest of all. John’s distracted by the lovely Alice, another intern who’s a “new associate”, and may or may not be working with or against him. I would describe this as “Grosse Point Blank” meets “The Office”. Hilarious, unpredictable, and a boatload of oddities make it a “can’t miss” read.
9. Jackaby by William Ritter – My lone young adult entry into the top of the year list. I read a lot of young adult books last year, but a lot of them were full of angst, repressed longing, terminal illnesses, cliques, substance abuse, bullying, and environmental issues. In other words, your 10pm newscast. I wanted something fun, and it took until September’s release of this title for me to find that. This harkens back to the times of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, but with noticeable differences. Abagail Rook arrives in a sleepy New England town from across the ocean, and in dire need of a job and lodging (she got bored at home with her parents, so she hopped a ship to America for a new adventure. I kid not.). She makes the acquaintance of R.F. Jackaby, a strange private investigator who’s known as an eccentric among the town folk. Abagail finds herself in the middle of a serial killer case, and Jackaby reluctantly takes her on as an assistant. This is no ordinary case, and Abagail finds herself in danger and flummoxed on a daily basis by the oddness that is Jackaby, bringing the reader into a fun and yet macabre turn, as they work to convince the police and townspeople that it’s a non-human who’s doing the killing. A lot of fun and a lot of questions throughout, but a great start to a new series for the teens, and not the usual fare as far as teen literature goes.
10. Fairyland by Alysia Abbott – Alysia has written a beautiful and vibrant story about growing up motherless in the 1960’s and 1970’s with her father, an openly gay man. As any father-daughter relationship, they have their similarities and differences, but it all gets put into perspective when her father discovers he has AIDS and is dying from it. This is a incredibly moving, sensitive and wonderful retelling of a complex father-daughter relationship.
11. One More Thing by BJ Novak- BJ Novak has a lot to say (that he didn’t say on “The Office)”. This collection of short stories run the gamut of emotions from hopelessness to loneliness to adulation to regret. The stories are very short, but Novak has a penchant for getting to the heart of the matter, the morale of the story, in a quick and simple fashion. There is no shortage of things that will make you think. A simple, effective collection of humanity at its worst and at its best. [EF: I heard an interview about this and I am so happy you mentioned it! I forgot all about it. Downloaded!]
12. The Quick by Lauren Owen – In 1892, James Norbury, a shy, quiet poet takes up lodging with a young, vivacious aristocrat. Through their unlikely friendship, he becomes acquainted with the parlors and back rooms of Victorian London and the seedy underbelly of those who shun sunlight. Then Norbury disappears, to the utter horror and concern of his sister Charlotte, a straight laced authoritarian. She heads to London to try to unravel the mystery of her brother and find out what happened to him. What she uncovers is shocking and terrifying, and lies behind the facade of a secretive mens’ club that James had somehow gotten involved with. What the reader uncovers is a winding road full of dark and hidden history, the secrets grow and explode in a thrilling crescendo of want, need, power, and privelege. I have not read a novel of this scope since Elizabeth Kostrova’s “The Historian.” It is quite an undertaking at 600 pages, but totally worth the ride.
13. The Future For Curious People by Gregory Sherl – Ever wonder if you’re going to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right? This is a comic and often frustrating look into the behind-the-scenes search for everlasting love, courtesy of one Godfrey Burkes. He has just proposed to his longtime girlfriend Madge, but she defers by asking Godfrey to see an envisionist. What the hell is an envisionist, you ask? A “doctor” (that’s in quotes for a reason, folks) that is able to show someone what their future is like with one specific person. Godfrey meets a cute girl named Evelyn in the waiting room. Evelyn has just broke up with her boyfriend, and it’s pretty obvious that she and Godfrey are going to be more than just friends at some later date. However, the road to that path is riddled with domineering ex-fiancees, their own shoddy self-esteems, their parents’ histories, and their own fears. Can these two unlikely people make it past their own romantic pitfalls to fall in love, stay in love, and find out what true love and happiness are? This is a funny, self-deprecating novel about the realities of love when doubt threatens to derail common sense. Quirky and fun.
14. The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker – Marcus Goldman is a one-time author struggling to get his second highly anticipated novel finished. He hopes that his mentor, the world famous author Harry Quebert, is able to help him dislodge his writer’s block. Upon days of arriving at Harry’s home, all hell breaks loose when the remains of a long-missing young lady are discovered on his property. Turns out that the remains are Nola, who was Harry’s secret and forbidden girlfriend at the time. The truth begins to come out, and Harry is incarcerated and charged with her murder. However, the trail of lies, deceit, and suspects in the sleepy town where the murder occur is neverending. Marcus feels compelled to save his old friend’s life, so he takes on the case and tries to figure out who did it. He’s also contracted to tell the story of the entire case for his second novel, which ticks off Harry and alienates him even more from Marcus. Does this thing get solved? Was it Harry or was it someone else? I have to tell you, this book is one twist after another. There were no end to the suspects, and more seemed to appear as more clues were unearthed and more of the puzzle pieces fell into place. It ties up at the end in a way that I didn’t see coming. Truly a Hitchcockian sort of story. Think Twin Peaks meets Alfred Hitchcock and you have a pretty good idea of how this one plays out.
What books is Georgette looking forward to in 2015? She gave me the following as a partial list from memory:
- The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
- The new Dianne Dixon (date of release as well as book title forthcoming).
- Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn
- I Regret Nothing: A Memoir by Jen Lancaster
- The new Jenny Lawson (date of release as well as book title forthcoming)
- 18 & Life on Skid Row- Sebastian Bach
- The Poser- Jacob Rubin
Who is Georgette? She says:
“I’m currently working at my third bookstore job. This year will be my 15th in books! I am single and ready to mingle. I have never been married, nor have kids, but I do have an overweight 8-year old tuxedo cat named Sasha, who is the equivalent of a child at times! I am full-time caregiver for my elderly father who lives with me. I also have 9 different blogs that I currently write or contribute to; anything from wine to Duran Duran to reviewing products to vinyl collecting to..well, nothing.
Favorite past-times are reading, writing, following blogs, entering giveaways, watching movies, cooking, trying new wines, watching Castle, and playing air guitar to Duran Duran.
My resolution for 2015: Continue to eat healthy, exercise, and encourage friends of mine who are having hard times to do the same. Getting in shape and staying in shape is a happier you! Also to finish one of the four different books I am writing.”
Thank you, Georgette! I can’t wait to report back on all of these and get some additional recommendations throughout the year – maybe one of them will be her own.
What were your top books of 2014 and what books are you looking forward to this year?