Of the 105 books I read in 2014, I was completely blown away by nine of them. In no particular order, here they are.
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay - I still haven't written a review for this. I read it while sitting on the beach in Jamaica last August. It was definitely not a beach read, but I couldn't put it down. Parts of it were so brutal that I really did need to down a few pina coladas to make it through without crying. It's amazing and brilliant and if you haven't read it yet, you must.
Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill - Look for a review on this soon. It was a late season listen. At 15 1/2 hours, I thought I'd be listening to it for weeks since I tend to only listen while I'm driving (and I have a short commute) or when things are slow at work. This saga of a black Canadian family had me mesmerized. Told with a healthy dose of humor by a present-day screwed up family member, it traces the family's roots back to slavery in the U.S. As I said, totally and completely mesmerizing.
Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May - "After fourteen years in prison, Gerald “Stew Pot” Reeves, age thirty-one, returns home to live with his mom in Parkland, a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side." I didn't expect to get drawn in to Bedrock Faith as much as I did, but once I got started, I could not put it down.
Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton - There's no review I could write that would do this book justice. The author/photographer takes pictures of people around New York. What initially started as just posting pictures on social media blossomed into this book that's sure to put a smile on your face. I look forward to his posts with daily reminders that everyone has a story to tell and you never know what's hiding behind the face of a perfect stranger.
Long Division by Kiese Laymon - It's rare these days that I read a book twice, but when I tell you this is one book that deserves it, it truly does. I first listened to it in February, but could tell that I had missed out on a lot. Listening to it while I worked didn't give me time to fully appreciate just how magnificent it was. So I went back in June and actually read it and wow! Kiese Laymon put his whole foot in it. It's time travel meets race relations meets identity crisis and it is everything.
Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile - I love books with kick ass heroines and Charley Bordelon is just that. If someone told me that I'd inherited an 800 acre sugarcane farm in Louisiana, I'd ask how much I could sell it for, because I surely wouldn't carry my Midwestern butt down to the heat, humidity and sexism of Louisiana farm land. Charley does and Baszile gives her a great family dynamic that adds even more to the story. Fans of Attica Locke's The Cutting Season will love this.
The Language of Silence by Peggy Webb - If there's one book that I think didn't get enough or any love in 2014, it was this book. It's kind of your typical "woman leaves abusive husband" story, but then it becomes so much more. There's the suspension of disbelief that you're used to if you've read Erin Morganstern's The Night Circus or Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. It's such an amazing and heartwarming story. If I could put a copy in the hands of everyone that comes across this blog, I would.
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi - I'm always on the hunt for books that teach me, it's part of the reason why I started the "Books: Passports to the World" challenge a few years ago. Prior to reading The Pearl, I was completely unaware of bacha posh and then it seemed like it was being discussed everywhere. Hashimi breaks it down for readers in very real and relatable ways. The back and forth story lines of women separated by generations is fascinating. If you're like me, you'll tear through this one in one sitting.
Things I Should Have Told My Daughter by Pearl Cleage - The only author I've read that has had more occupations than I initially knew about was Maya Angelou until I read the latest from Mother Pearl. She's got some words of wisdom that she so generously shares with readers. I appreciate that, but what I loved even more was finding out that she's like the aunt that you think is all prim and proper and then you see her cutting up on a Saturday night and realize she's wilder than you ever imagined.
Books that rocked my socks just a little less, though I still loved them:
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
China Dolls by Lisa See
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow (review coming)
Into the Go-Slow by Bridgett M. Davis
Invisible Ellen by Shari Shattuck
Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henrique
The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob (review coming)
The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
See you in these lit streets soon!