2014 has come to a close, but what a magnificent year it was in literature! We had the honor of having wonderful authors grace us with magnificent interviews, books, and insightful ideas. Here at TCJWW, we decided to compile a small list of our contributors’ favorite books of 2014. In honor of the great literature written and read this year, here is a list celebrating some our favorites:
My favorite book of 2014 was definitely A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel. I usually view short story collections as good reads while traveling, but Ausubel found a way to perfectly weave all of her short stories together so well that I was just as engrossed as if it were a full novel. I ended up finishing the book in roughly two days while sitting in a car, riding a train, and staying up all night. I could go on, but I already wrote a whole review about the book! Needless to say, I cannot wait for Ausubel to publish her next one.
Nidia K. Flores
My Favorite book of 2014 was Hyperbole and A Half by Allie Brosh. Being a big fan of Internet memes and replying to text messages with pictures instead of words, I felt like Brosh’s graphic novel perfectly captures and explains quirky moments you can’t always explain logically. She also manages to embed this quirky humor into topics that are not meant to be joked about; she does not necessarily joke about these topics, but instead finds a healthy humor in them.
For my Best of TCJWW 2014 pick, I am going to go with the first book I reviewed for TCJWW, Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Published in 2012 to critical acclaim, it hilariously satirizes Seattle’s Microsoft elite while exploring family relationships, mental health challenges, and the redemptive value of travel. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a laugh-out-loud, endearing novel that manages to take on tough issues with a tongue placed firmly in cheek, making the novel one definitely worth reading and Semple an author worth keeping an eye (or both) on.
For me, this was a book for the ages, and it is now one of my favorite stories of all time and has acquired some prime space on my bookshelves. It has all of my favorite features about a story: a historical setting, magic, darkness, romance, and a magnetic realism despite all of these things. It’s a book that makes you feel like magic is real and I am constantly on the hunt for the type of book that makes you think fireflies are fairies, ghosts exist, vampires are real, and magic is the answer to all mystical, beautiful, and unbelievable things. I’m anxiously awaiting more output from Morgenstern!
Shelley Puhak’s Guinevere in Baltimore is a collection of dramatic monologues told in the contemporary voices of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere. The collection uses the conceit of a play by giving us a cast of characters and titling each poem with stage directions. This method establishes a tone and also grounds us in the narrative, as in “Arthur, Screwing with Lancelot in the Starbucks Line.” This is a book of instability, and to counterbalance that insecurity, Guinevere in Baltimore includes a few formal poems, demonstrating Puhak’s talent. She is a master of voice and tone. One of my favorite poems is “Snow White and the Seven Satellites,” a monologue in which Snow White confesses her vulnerabilities: “Everybody wants a piece of me. Mr. Disney/ insists on my heart in a box.” This past year, I became very interested in the re-telling of familiar stories as poems. A successful re-telling takes that same speaker and makes her freshly human and somehow surprises us in her familiarity. Puhak succeeds at this writing in her collection, making it one of the best books I was lucky enough to read in 2014.
Ruth Ozeki’s critically-acclaimed novel, A Tale For The Time Being, not only won over my heart this year, but also my time. Instead of casting aside this novel to the confines of my bookshelf after finishing it, the book remained a ethane the fixture on my nightstand for weeks afterwards. My fascination with time and parallel universes grew and I sought to explore the mystical explanations that happen to us everyday, and which show up in only the most normal of superpowers. A modern-day novelist searching for a long-forgotten teenage girl, weaving the gaps in her story together through pieces of dreams and realizations, merging past and present in a time warp that leaves you contemplating the potential of reality… it’s no wonder you can’t put a book like this down.