Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Nine Best Reads of 2014

As I've mentioned elsewhere: Some people do a top ten list, others do a top eleven, yet others may only do five. My list is 9 books long. Why? Partly to be a little bit different and partly because I want the tenth spot on my list to be reserved for that really great book which I simply did not get the chance to read during 2014. That really great book may also be something I have only heard whispers about and I may not discover for several more years. Whatever that tenth great book is, I’m holding a spot for it on my list.

Unlike my list of the top books published in 2014, this list is for the top books I read in 2014, no matter when the book was published. I'm also going to cheat a little and where a book overlaps with the previous list, I'm going to use most of the same text.  Because I'm lazy.

1. Ancillary Justice / Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie: Ancillary Justice won pretty much all the awards it could possibly win, and after all that, still managed to live up to the massive hype it inspired.  Ancillary Sword was a sequel that couldn't possibly live up to the first novel, yet, it did.  This is top notch science fiction and was, collectively, my favorite reads of 2014.  Bring on Ancillary Mercy!!

2. The Eternal Sky, by Elizabeth Bear: The Eternal Sky is comprised of Range of Ghosts, The Shattered Pillars, and Steles of the Sky.  It is epic fantasy that we don't see every day, with a very middle eastern and eastern flavor, but don't read this because it's good for you.  Read this because it's just friggin good.  Elizabeth Bear doesn't write bad books, and this is Bear at the top of her game. 

3. The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker: A beautiful and moving debut in turn of the century New York City, where the city feels almost as much of a character as the immigrant experience and the varied titular creatures also attempting to find both themselves and their way in a world very foreign from what they knew.  I'm not sure I can adequately capture just how good this book is.  It demands to be read.

4. Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer: The Southern Reach trilogy as a whole is strong, but Annihilation's introduction to Area X was what unnerved me the most and set the table for a meal I simply had to come back for. 

5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot: The powerful and moving true story of a woman whose genetic information and her cells taken without her understanding did the world a lot of good, but Skloot explores the intersection of scientific advancement and personal consent by tracking the story of Henrietta Lacks.

6. The Mirror Empire, by Kameron Hurley: Alternate "mirror" worlds, blood magic, and just insane worldbuilding.  The Mirror Empire is a kick in the balls of epic fantasy and it's friggin outstanding.  Easily one of my favorite reads of the year and one which has me damn near salivating at the thought of reading the second book next year. 

7. Hild, by Nicola Griffith: Griffith takes what little is known of the early life of St Hilda of Whitby and extrapolates one possible story of how a young "heathen" girl could become an abbess and adviser to bishops and kings.  Spectacular.

8. Sheepfarmer's Daughter, by Elizabeth Moon: I briefly considered having this spot be for the full Deed of Pasksenarrion trilogy, but I'm only 40 some pages into Oath of Gold and I don't see myself making sufficient enough progress in that third book to feel confident enough that it will live up to my expectations.  I think it will, but here Sheepfarmer's Daughter will do.  It is the opening novel in the trilogy and is very much the story of a young soldier just beginning her career - and how her being a young woman plays into it.  This is top notch fantasy, and easily worth discovering if you have not already done so.

9. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison: My only complaint about this book is that it is a standalone novel, which is something that I both appreciate and am frustrated by, because I very much want more of it.  On the other hand, a quality standalone fantasy novel is worth the price of admission.

Previous Best Reads

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