Thursday, January 1, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014

My Goodreads account tells me that I finished 62 books this year. Not bad, since I'd been averaging about 50 books a year for the two years prior. This number includes a handful of plays, some challenging non-fiction, and plenty of YA or contemporary novels. So now that 2014 is officially over (and since I finished book #62 on the 31st), it's time for a Top 5 of 2014 post! In no particular order, here are the 5 books that proved to be a real highlight after a year of reading.

1) The Martian, by Andy Weir
Words cannot express how much I adored this book. It's a futuristic adventure novel set in outer space, and the character's voice is hilarious, distinct, and utterly captivating. The main character has accidentally been stranded alone on Mars, and he has to Macgyver a way to survive while hoping he will be rescued. It's smart, hilarious, and utterly un-putdown-able. I can't recommend this one enough, and was hands down my favorite novel of the year. 

2) Mambo in Chinatown, by Jean Kwok
This is probably my favorite novel of the second half of the year, and it can't be more different than The Martian. It reads like an intelligent romantic comedy, taking place in New York City today. I'm just waiting to hear that it's been optioned for a film - it's just that sweet and charming! A young, first-generation Asian American woman finds herself a job at an elite dance studio, and slowly begins to start a new life for herself. It's got dancing, romancing, and the challenges and struggles of balancing American versus traditional Chinese cultures. But mostly it's charming, smart, and entertaining. Read it if you're in the mood for a smart, light female-centric story.

3) Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
My favorite YA novel of the year. It's not a new concept: boy and girl are best friends, best friends are secretly in love, can best friends ever get together? What makes this book so fun is the alternating POV's between the two main characters, which is well-written and entertaining. They are realistically written, with flaws and quirks that bring them to life. Each chapter also begins with a series of texts between the two, which I thought was a fun way to structure the book.

4) Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
Now for something completely different. A self-help business book isn't usually my cup of tea, but Sandberg brought up a lot of interesting ideas about women in the workplace. Many of the ideas don't apply to me now, either because I'm relatively early in my career or because I work almost exclusively in female-lead professions, but a lot of the ideas are great things I've been mulling over since reading the book. I plan to reread it again soon and keep pulling ideas out to ponder and use.

5) The History of the Jews: a Graphic History, by Stan Mack
During my 10-day trip to Israel I realized I barely knew anything about the history of the Jews or of Israel. What I knew primarily came from musicals: Prince of Egypt, Children of Eden, etc. This book was a hilarious way to start getting acquainted with the history of the Jewish people.  It was easy, quick, and had lots of jokes on every page. Do I feel like I now know everything about the history of the Jews?  Not even close! But it's a good starting point, and it was fun to read too.