At this time of year, I feel like there's a new "best of" list every time I turn around. While almost every best of article on books feature books that came out in the past year, my best of list features the best books I read this year, regardless of when they were actually published.
In no particular order, here is my list of the best books I read this year.
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
This is one of those novels that called to me from the shelves. I hadn't heard anyone talking about it, yet there it was intriguing me. And, boy, am I happy I picked it up!
I read this in the early days of 2014, yet the story is so emotionally gripping I still think about it. I'm a sucker for unique settings in books and the novel's setting is the lighthouse on the isolated Janus Rock, Australia--something I'd definitely never seen before. You fall into the swing of things with the characters immediately and find yourself torn as they face a most emotionally harrowing and morally ambiguous dilemma.
I still get chills just thinking about it. I couldn't put this book down and when I finished it I wanted to start it again.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I know you've probably heard of books that make you cry, but that's honestly never been a thing for me. I'm pretty good at keeping my readerly emotions in check. And you've probably heard of book nerds who lie about having plans so they can stay home and read instead of going out with friends. But I've never really done that either. I've always figured the book would be there when I got back.
Well, ladies and gentleman, this book made me do BOTH. I remember the night I started reading The Time Traveler's Wife. I started reading it around 8:30 or 9:00 at night while lying in bed (I often read myself to sleep) and at 5:30 in the morning I was halfway through the novel and had to make myself put it down so I could get some sleep before work. And I wasn't even tired all through the next day because I couldn't wait to get off work and read more.
Two days later it's Friday night and I'm invited out with friends. But I turned them down to finish the book (of course I didn't tell them that) and spent the last 40 pages sobbing. No, not crying--sobbing. Like, uncontrollably and ugly crying to the extreme type of sobbing.
And I loved every minute of it. It took me ages to read the book because of all the hype, but if you've been avoiding it like I did for so long, don't torture yourself any longer.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
I listened to this as an audiobook. All 14 hours of it. And I must say, I've never looked for so many reasons to run down my gas gage as I did while listening to The Thirteenth Tale. I experienced the audio version of not being able to put this book down.
The story includes all the classic elements of a good story: secrets, scandal, a big house, a child of uncertain parentage, money problems, and more. The language includes an above average vocabulary, which is woven into a most perfect narrative: each descriptor is vibrant and purposeful. Though wordy, nothing is superfluous.
It's a long read, but every word is worth it. And if you're into audiobooks, the readers are engaging and there's no threat of falling asleep at the wheel.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
It's apparent to me that I love a book when I start it in the middle of having a super crazy grad school schedule and job hunting and I still find time to stay on top of the story. Ann Patchett's writing is just so clean and her stories are always unexpected.
I wouldn't normally find myself--a very humanities-minded person--reading about pharmacologists in the Amazon, but the story was rendered in such a way that even the very technical details and medical jargon interested me. There's adventure, confounding love, confounding variables, ethics, anthropology, and the conflict that comes with meeting your hero and reconciling your past all rolled into one irresistible story.
Saga, Volume 1 (and 2, and 3, and 4) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Say what you want about comics, but Saga is one of the best stories I've ever read. EVER.
It has the intermingling complex story lines a la Game of Thrones with space opera adventures a la Star Wars and the stab-you-right-in-the-heart romance a la Romeo and Juliet. There are so many things I love about this series... The beautiful art, the riveting story, the commentary on race and politics in a smart way, the characters you love and love to hate...
Although the elements are those of classic storytelling, it's told in a way that feels completely unique, spellbindingly original, and utterly unputdownable. I binged on all four volumes and definitely plan on re-reading them all again in the very near future.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Sure, it sounds dour and depressing, but I've rarely laughed out loud so many times as when I was reading this book. Stiff is hilarious in the literal laugh out loud way, but also entertainingly informative.
I feel like human cadavers and organ donation are things that people wonder about, but often don't research or talk about for fear of being thought morbid or frightening. Turns out, it's not all weird after all. Or not so weird that you wouldn't want to read about it. I enjoyed this book in a thoroughly weird and totally enjoyable way.