Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Top Ten (Or So): Books Read in 2014

2014 was a bit of a tough reading year for me. Tough year in general, actually. There were a lot of personal things going on, and I didn't get a lot of time to read, or mental space to remember my reading. Because of this, you might notice, most of my favourite books were from the beginning of the year. And I only have seven/eight in my top ten list (really taking advantage of the "Or So" part of the title).

So here, in sort-of approximate order from least to most favourite, are some of the best books I read in 2014:

--The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Catechism by John Zmirak. Hilarious, truth-telling, and full of fascinating asides into history, politics, etc. I think it set out to be more for non-Catholics or not well informed Catholics, but as a practising and pretty well informed Catholic, I still felt like I learned lots of interesting things. And who couldn't like a book with a cover of happy, playing nuns?

--Silence and Touch by Michelle Sagara. There are a lot of elements I like about these books. It won Favourite Ensemble and the Favourite Romance awards on my RED Book Awards this year. It reminded me a bit of some of the things I liked about Buffy the Vampire Slayer (shown below because: excuse to have pictures of Buffy on my blog!). Perhaps not as well written, but with a great cast of teenage awesome people, cool supernatural elements, witty banter, and great heart. (Note: I'm treating these as one, since they are in the same series and the things I like about them are the same.)

--A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. A fascinating story about how ideas live throughout history. Catholic science fiction at its best.

--A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. A beautiful book. And tragic. And extremely inspiring. This is one of those books that made an impact on my life, that to a certain extent has changed some of the way I look at the world, and given me new ideas to ponder and act upon. That doesn't happen so explicitly very often. It wasn't perfect, but it was very, very good.

--Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold. Mark, Mark, Mark. This book is all about Miles's clone-brother Mark Vorkosigan, who is just as brilliant, but way more messed up. It's slightly lower down on the list than it might have been (it might have been necessary to group it with Memory) except that I didn't find the first section as interesting as everything after Mark got to Barrayar. But after that... things get really good.

And I think these last two are tied. They are so different, and yet so good in their individual ways, I can not possibly choose between them:

--To Be Or Not To Be by Ryan North. SO FUN. I just loved this book. It's perfectly made for me. The illustrations were awesome (and many of the illustrators I recognized from my internet travels). The writing was so funny, and filled with awesome references to awesome things. It was only the second book I read this year, and yet I remember it better than some books I read only a few weeks ago. (One of the many awesome illustrations is shown left. And believe me, there are way better ones in the book itself.)

--Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold. Much more introspective than the normal Vorkosigan book, but brilliant despite this. Also because of this. This is a really, really good series in general (despite the fact that I didn't much care for the most recent I read). And unlike Mirror Dance, listed above, I loved this book from the beginning. It had a coherence over the whole story that delights me when I find it in books. And the characters... ah, I do so love the Vorkosigan books that focus on Barrayar. Miles, Cordelia, Ivan, Gregor... And the fact that Simon Illyan got so much focus was awesome. Amazing book--I loved everything about it and I look forward to being able to re-read it.

Runners Up (In No Order Whatsoever and Possibly Missing Some Good Ones Because I'm Really, Really Bad at Making Up My Mind)
--Musicophilia. Fascinating facts, insights, and experiences related to music and the brain.
--The Leap. Short and fairly simple, but wonderfully creepy and very gripping.
--Brother Odd. Monks, Monsters, Murders, and a young fry-cook to save the day.
--The Last Guardian of Everness. High fantasy chock full with symbolism and vivid imagery.
--Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. Fun, exciting, sweet, plus it's all about Ivan!
--Cuckoo Song. Creepy, and really well written.
--The Whispering Skull. Great characters and exciting adventure, plus really funny and creepy.
--Warchild. Intense, emotional, gripping. Also spaceships.

P.S. See also the Top Ten (Or So) lists from previous years: 2012, 2013.

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