You have no idea how hard it was to write this post. I read 245 books last year, and an awful lot of them were STELLAR.
I started this by listing every book I would gleefully bring to a signing, and my browser crashed. Then I listed every book that cheers me up to know exists, and I was over thirty. Last time I wrote a list with that many books, it took me three months to finish and post it. So here we are, down to books which have moved into my heart, which strike me dumb and make me somewhat angry at their existence. (First of all, how dare you. I was USING those emotions and you just wrecked them. And with such skill! How dare you. Please continue.)
[Note: Many of these were not published in 2014, as I was a.) catching up on things I missed, b.) reading for the Hugos. Also, these are personal favourites. They may not hit you in the same way, and for that I pity you.]
In no particular order, my faves. Read ’em and weep. Or laugh, as the case may be.
Two Serpents Rise, by Max Gladstone
Economics! Magic! Faith! Necromancy! Murdered gods and the commodification of faith! Paying for water with soul-stuff! Eco-terrorism in the form of some one tearing out the heart of a god!
This series made me deal with the a fact about me— I really like books where economics is a plot point/part of world building. I like it so much. Whew. And when you combine it with a discussion of faith, and how it impacts your life? What it gives you, what it demands from you? *ecstatic jazz hands*
This book edges out its co-conspiriater Three Parts Dead for the list because the faith it’s focusing on is Aztec, and it made me see the side of the people tearing out hearts. Not saying I AGREE with you (and neither does our main character), but I see your point.
Journey, by Aaron Becker
This is a wordless picture book. And it is so, so beautiful. A girl discovers magical chalk which lets her into a land of castles, imprisoned creatures, airships, cities, and perhaps a new friend?
I am bad at following art-stories. I tend to miss subtle things communicated through art, as I focus on the words to the detriment of everything else. But even to my unobservant eyes, I “got” the story, and man oh man was it amazing. It brought me back to being little and enraptured with pictures. I don’t even know for sure if that ever happened! But this book made me feel like I was tiny and seeing a magical land.
It’s so good.
The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere, by John Chu
The problem with putting together a list of things you LOVE is that it’s hard to explain why. This is a short story about water falling from the sky when you lie? And what impact that has on society. It’s also one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of how to pay out worldbuilding and character as the story demands. Back in the day, I saw an interview with a band talking about songwriting. They say that you have to know what the song needs and only give it that, no ten minute guitar solos (even if it’s a really AWESOME guitar solo). This story only does what it needs to do, with no wasted space. UGH fine I’ll just give you the first paragraph.
“The water that falls on you from nowhere when you lie is perfectly ordinary, but perfectly pure. True fact. I tested it myself when the water started falling a few weeks ago. Everyone on Earth did. Everyone with any sense of lab safety anyway. Never assume any liquid is just water. When you say “I always document my experiments as I go along,” enough water falls to test, but not so much that you have to mop up the lab.”
The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Ah yes, a book published in 2000 has made it to my best of 2014 list. I am SO on trend. But sometimes I have to get caught up on things which have shaped the genre, and thus enrich my life. I read this one when I was in the process of breaking down on my school trip. It was so good it held me together for another two weeks. (It was so good I can’t even get mad at it for being good. It’s on an entirely different level. It’s in low earth orbit, and I’m still in a cherrypicker truck. Oh man.)
The plot is thus. A disgraced, broken knight wishes only to have a quiet retirement until he dies, but is pulled into court machinations involving faith, curses, murder, war, and the destruction of the kingdom when he is tasked to protect the heir to the realm. It uses a plot around miracles, curses and faith to discuss heroism and duty. Does Caz (the mc) go above and beyond the call of duty, or does he do only what is required of him? He’d say the latter, but is that part of what makes him a hero?
Black Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven Thread, by Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto
I decided to only put up one volume of comics on this list, because I read a whole bunch of fantastic. Honourable mentions go to Captain Marvel (of course), Hawkeye (duh), Young Avengers (clearly), Ms. Marvel (I’m not BLIND okay), Rat Queens (heheheh), Saga (no one is surprised), and that graphic novelization of the Vorkosigan saga I dreamed, (cause that was fantastic). But this one wins the tiny competition among my favourites.
Nathan Edmondson has written an understated depiction of Natasha Romanoff as an assassin trying to do good. The story flips between her past and her present, with all the messy knots inherent in her backstory. And the art is some of the most beautiful stuff I have ever seen. Along with the writing, it’s understated, anatomically correct (the art version of adhering to the physiological impact of one’s backstory), and coloured so that even a blind bat like myself can see the emotional arcs. (Maybe this is just the year I finally started noticing art? Perhaps.)
JUST READ IT.
Ah, see, I’m not breaking my rule about only one comic, cause this is a graphic novel. A series of graphic novels which make up one story. Ah-huh. #loopholes.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know the basic plot— Scott Pilgrim falls in love with Ramona Flowers, but to date her he has to first defeat her seven evil exes— but the book form has room for so much more. When you read the book, amid the video game references and unabashed canadiana, there is a story about friendships, and getting a sucky job, and dealing with your teenage stupidity.
When your read the whole thing, it becomes about being in your early 20s. When you’re not quite sure where your life is going, and to make it move you have to take responsibility for yourself, mistakes, brilliant ideas and all, and shamble forward through more mistakes, brilliant ideas and all. Also, iconic jokes.
It’s a book where nothing happens, and I love it.
I don’t know either. I don’t understand Lit Fic. (But this one was amazing.)
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
When the Emperor of the Elflands and his three sons die in an airship crash, his ignored and despised youngest son inherits the crown. Maiä has spent the last ten years exiled to a hunting lodge in a bog and finds himself in terrifyingly over his head. He knows nothing about how to rule, has no friends, and now it appears his father’s death was not an accident. He’s determined to be a good king, but he may not even live that long.
Political intrigue! Amazing world-building! Language! Court machinations! Maiä, oh my heart.
I brought my copy with me on my travels so I could hold it and have a friend when I felt lost (which happened a lot). I want a sequel so badly it hurts (though I know it took the author five years to write this one and she’s said it’s a stand-alone, so, don’t get my hopes up). This is an exemplary book. I am nominating it for all the awards
Chimes at Midnight, by Seanan McGuire
I read the last four books in this series in five days, in a delighted folklore-binge. (It wouldn’t have taken me so long, but I had to work for most of those days.) I am so delighted by the series that I am absolutely not an objective reader. THEY ARE SO GOOD TOBEY I LOVE YOU PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM ME.
I love them for the folklore, and for the character development, and the long-term plotting, and the characters in general, and the snark, and for the fact that I can dissect them endlessly with my flatmate Bekki. And I love this book in particular because it contains an evil pie.
I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen
I visited Kendra at her work, and she gave me a bunch of picture books she helped to pick out as texts for the Early Childhood Education program. This was one of them. It’s about a bear who loses his hat. He almost gives up on it, before he realizes an important fact.
I laughed so loudly she had to give me the evil eye and shush me.