And here are the top 5* books I read in 2014. I enthusiastically recommend them:
5. The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
Young Adult Fiction
This is book 2 of Yancey’s “Monstrumologist” series. Unaware of that, I purchased it before reading the first. I was able to follow it without trouble, and while I later in the year went back to read the first book, I ended up preferring this one. The Monstrumologist series follows the life and times of Will Henry, young apprentice to Pellinore Warthrop, world-famous “monstrumologist” (a man steeped in the science and study of monsters). In this book, they’re hot on the trail of a wendigo, a monster that eats human flesh. It’s full of foul language, gore, and distressing amounts of life-threatening danger for Will Henry. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
4. Hidden America by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Journalist Laskas travelled the country to interview people involved in a variety of jobs that most Americans give little thought to, from coal miners to waste management technicians to ranch hands to pro football cheerleaders. The results are mixed. Some chapters are only so-so, a bit boring to be honest, but most of them are really interesting, chock full of odd tidbits and new-to-me information. It was a unique way to look at the melting pot that is America.
3. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, journalist Seierstad spent some time living with a bookseller and his family in Kabul. This book discusses what that time was like. As a Westerner, I found this book incredibly difficult to read. This family’s way of life was completely foreign to me, and I couldn’t help but to feel bad for these people, who had virtually no freedom compared to me and the people I know. However, it was really fascinating. I felt like I learned a lot about Afghan culture and history. A truly interesting read.
2. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
This book is Egan’s exploration of the Dust Bowl, America’s greatest ecological disaster. I liked it because it's about the people who stayed during the Dust Bowl (rather than the ones who fled). It had a lot of interesting information about how the disaster came about, its effects, and how humans ultimately prevailed. It also included first-hand accounts. Although it could be a little repetitious, I read the whole thing completely spell-bound, amazed that I spent my whole life knowing so little about this devastating piece of American history. It was also a great reminder that previous generations were a lot more bad-ass than my own.
1. Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
This is the tale of Prince Honorious Jorg, a foul-mouthed 14-year-old who’s spent the last 4 years of his life raping, pillaging, and killing his way across the land in order to exact revenge for the death of his mother and lay a claim on the throne. The brilliant thing about Lawrence’s novel, other than some innovative plot twists that injected life into what could have been a tired plot, is that Jorg is the king of anti-heroes. In fact, I spent the first few chapters of the book wondering why I kept reading it, why I hadn’t put it down in disgust. By the end of the book, Lawrence had managed to make Jorg sympathetic, and I found myself rooting for him to win. I thought it was a brilliant piece of writing, and I can’t wait to read the sequels.
*Honorable Mention 6th place goes to The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, an intricate and lovely tale.