I originally come from the island of Newfoundland but right now I’m coming to you from the island of my sofa. I have the flu and, due to my husband’s medical history and resulting weakened immune system (detailed in Olympic Hope), I have placed myself here, in solitary confinement, with only tea, books, and tablet as companions. A good place from which to comment on my favorite reads of 2014.
Here are the books that I found inspiring, compelling, challenging, or truly entertaining this past year:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Set in Nazi Germany with Death as narrator. A young girl, through the theft of books and with the aid of her foster father, develops a passion for reading which sustains her through the reign of Hitler. This novel is classified as YA but its power and eloquence defy such limitation. Searing. Grim. Indelible.
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
This memoir contains a collection of previously published articles (NY Times, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s) about love, friendship, work, art. Clean, clear language. Honest. From the soul. Inspirational.
Larry’s Party by Carol Shields
Set from 1977-1997. A fumbling man discovers his love of mazes and finds his way to self through his labyrinth of a life. Quiet. Arresting. Realistic.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by MaryAnn Shaffer & Annie Barrows
This epistolary novel is set on the Channel Islands during WWII. A tribute to book lovers, it details the journey of a cast of courageous book club members whose island is occupied by the Nazi regime. Nostalgic. Enchanting. Inspiring.
419 by Will Ferguson (2012 Giller Prize Winner)
A literary thriller set in Canada and Nigeria, this is a woman’s crusade to find the man she deems responsible for the downfall and death of her father. (The term 419 is a code for Nigerian email scams.) Taut. Intriguing. Educational.
After This by Alice McDermott
An apt portrayal of the reality of life in an Irish Catholic American family. Lyrical. Engaging. Poignant.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Set in France during WWII, this novel has two surprising protagonists, one a blind girl, one a Nazi soldier. The beauty in this lies in the author’s ability to create sympathy for the young soldier and to help the reader see through use of sound. (A must read for any writer seeking to improve sense of sound in writing.) Ambitious. Authentic. Riveting.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
Atkinson’s first novel, this exquisitely-written piece details , from conception onward, the life of Ruby who takes us into the world of her quirky British family. Complex. Funny. Heartbreaking.
My favorite book of the year? I must cite two from the above list: 419 for the education I received (until I read this, I would have assumed 419 to be an area code, no more) and The Book Thief for its innovation, power, and simplicity. (In case you noticed… yes, I am currently reading a lot of WWII fiction: my work-in-progress, Book II of a trilogy, is set during that era.)
And now… I’m looking for some good reads while I remain quarantined on the couch, Kindle at the ready. Any suggestions?
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My best to you,