Have I said enough times that I love year-end “best of” lists? Well, I do; if you do too, be sure to check out the blog Largehearted Boy’s annual compilation of lists (currently at 800+ lists and counting).
In the tradition of The Millions‘ “Year of Reading” feature, which asks readers to name the book (no matter when published) which made the biggest impression on them in 2014, we asked Winnipeg Public Library staff the same question. Here are their picks!
Fiction of all genres
Andrea chose Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy […is picking 3 books cheating? we’ll allow it] as her favorite dystopian work thus far, calling it “science fiction without the science.”
Meanwhile, Barbara loved Archetype by M.D. Waters because it was similar to Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, “only with wittier dialogue and better sex scenes.”
Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman is the story of grown up siblings, who have their own unique problems, dealing with their parents’s deaths. Betty says: “Terribly funny! And it even has a risqué scene that takes place at the Millennium Library.”
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland, the imagined backstory of the famous painting, gave Brenda a glimpse of Renoir’s conflicting feelings about the Impressionist movement, and his financial struggles to afford the supplies and models–and lunches for them!–to create the large work.
The Confabulist by Stephen Galloway is a tale about the legendary Harry Houdini and the man who may (or may not) have killed him twice. Brian says: “A great read; a fiction about fiction and the role fiction plays in many of our histories.”
Danielle enjoyed Alan Bradley’s The Dead in their Vaulted Arches for its preteen protagonist. “Flavia is certainly a force to be reckoned with! A delightful read.”
According to Elin, “it was an incredible experience to be in the literary presence of someone of such an intellectual caliber” when reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.
Jacquelien calls A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki “an inventive and moving story about the relationship between the reader and writer. It connects the concepts of quantum physics with Zen Buddhism, the passage of time and our shared histories and finding happiness in the here and now.”
Jane says Jane Gardam’s Old Filth should be read alongside its companion novel The Man in the Wooden Hat. “Both explore the naivete of youth, the complications of a long marriage and the reflections of old age.”
Kelly finally read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall this year and calls it “amazing!”
Lauren‘s choice was City of Thieves by David Benioff, set during the 1917 siege of Leningrad, which “balances the horrors of war with absurdities, not to mention a whole chapter dedicated to the most nerve-wracking game of chess ever played.”
Lindsay G. picked Red Rising by Pierce Brown because the futuristic world the author created was “beyond detailed and completely believable.”
Lindsay S. says The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling) is “a gripping and entertaining who-dunnit that kept me guessing the whole way through.” Lori picked the same title; she was skeptical whether Rowling could pull off a mystery novel but was “very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed both this book and the sequel, The Silkworm.”
Tony chose Dreaming for Freud by Sheila Kohler, a fictionalized version of Sigmund Freud’s analysis of a seventeen year old girl, Dora, whom Freud treated for hysteria through an interpretation of her dreams.
Non-fiction titles, from light-hearted to serious
Alan enjoyed What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe which takes absurd questions such as “What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?” and provides answers as entertaining as they are informative.
Barb “will never forget the powerful message of the importance of protecting and preserving our human rights, especially of children and those most vulnerable” conveyed in I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. Brittany says: “Dunham’s signature poke-fun-at-herself-storytelling makes you laugh while she shares the triumphs and (more often) embarrassments of her twenties.”
Chance found Adam Begley’s Updike fascinating as it follows the famous author’s trajectory “from small town boy and aspiring cartoonist to Harvard man, New Yorker writer, serial adulterer, and two-time Pulitzer-winner.”
Darlene chose My Struggle, Book 1 by Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgard which tells, in hypnotic detail, the story of his life and his relationships.
Elke‘s favourite, though at the same time “one of the most upsetting and disturbing books,” was Eternal Treblinka by Charles Patterson, which explores the industrialized slaughter of animals and people in modern times based on an attitude of supremacy that allows us to pacify our conscience.
Brazil’s Dance with the Devil by Dave Zirin looks at the drastic social changes forced on Brazilians because of the World Cup and upcoming Olympics. Kyle says “You don’t need to be a sports fan to enjoy this book.”
The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker surprised Larisa with its unexpected statistics about human violence “that make the reader believe in his analysis and feel that we are actually progressing in becoming humans in the real sense of the word.”
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: the Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé by Bob Stanley is a love song to pop music since the 1950s. Phil says “it often compelled me to revise impressions of my favourite and underappreciated pop music stars.”
Rémi calls Moonwalking with Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer “a fascinating read with an exciting narrative of the author’s journey to the U.S. Memory Championship, woven in with a well-researched look on the history and science of memory.”
For younger readers
Anne says The Vengekeep Prophecies and its sequel The Shadowhand Covenant by Brian Farrey are perfect for children 10 and up, with fabulous character development and intricate world building. “I can’t wait for the final book!”
In Red Wolf by Jennifer Dance, a 5 year old Anishinabe boy happens to howl back one night to the call of on orphaned wolf pup; in that moment they forge a lifetime bond. According to Colette, it “does a superb job of showcasing the similarities between animal and human culture that evokes the circle of life.”