Here is a list of my favorite first-time reads in 2014, in no particular order:

A Working Theory of LoveA Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve never read a book like this before. What do I mean by that? Well, for one, this book is honest about the messiness of relationships, and all of the questions and self-doubt that occurs for most of us. Hutchins sprinkles hilarity throughout to lighten the seriousness of Neill’s journey through relationships. I laughed, hard. I shed a few tears. Many times, I came across a sentence or paragraph that caused me to stop and think for a while. This is the type of book that causes the reader to drift off into self-reflection.

I imagine the book particularly resonated with me because of the setting. I worked as an engineer in Silicon Valley for eight years. I also lost my father suddenly two years ago, and appreciated Hutchins’ exploration of Neill’s relationship with his father. The use of an AI to explore how relationships change over time is nothing short of brilliant.

I think that in order to fully appreciate this book, the reader has to have lived and loved for a while, and/or lost a parent.

I want to read more books like this, so if you know of any, tell me.

I noted some of the passages that had particular impact on me as I was reading. The one below didn’t fit in the update box.

“When you spend significant amounts of time with someone they offer constant feedback, becoming part of the patterning of your brain. In other words, part of you. But I take your point–constant feedback is not always deep feedback. A good measure of how much of you they’ve become is your level of distress when they’re gone. If they form a large part of your patterning, then you’ll experience a major culling of the self. That’s what’s known as grief.” –Henry Livorno, speaking to the protagonist, Neill.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That HappenedHyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love how honest Brosh is. The dog chapters are hilarious. The chapters on depression and self-image combine ugly, raw truths with really funny pictures, softening the blow. I felt contemplative while reading this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone, particularly if you have dogs.

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2)Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED this book. The Way of Kings set my expectations high. WORDS OF RADIANCE did not disappoint. I very much look forward to the rest of the series. I love the characters, the worldbuilding, the plot, everything. Read this series. Read it now.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the CrematorySmoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hilarious and thought-provoking, with excellent job details. I read this because I’m considering a mortician character, and I got more out of it than I could have ever hoped for. A real eye-opener into the current state of the death industry. The author is witty and thoughtful, and her background in medieval studies enhances her narrative.

I book I recommend to anyone and everyone.

The Drowning GirlThe Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is unlike anything I have ever read before. It could be the most fascinating book I’ve ever read. You should give it a try.

Reading it, for me, is an exercise in self-exploration, to a degree. The book is written as a memoir, in the style of a journal, almost, by a schizophrenic character who is exploring herself, searching for the truth, and the facts, exorcising the ghosts of her past. It is thoroughly inspiring. I’m not sure how, exactly, yet, but I just know that it is–to me as an author, and also, I think, to me as a person. It references a bunch of different mythologies that I find very interesting, some I already knew about and some new to me. I find it particularly interesting because I’m interested in writing urban fantasy that incorporates different mythologies.

Deathless (Deathless, #1)Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is excellent. If you like historical fantasy, and you like the real, gritty fairytales, you will love this book.

If that’s not enough, here are my status updates:

A quote from Baba Yaga: “Better married than rendered into girl-broth and maiden-cutlets.” 🙂

Baba Yaga is one of the most awesome characters I’ve ever read. “The littlest fly on a lump of goat shit interests me more than what you want.”

The Slow Regard of Silent ThingsThe Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is a wonderful, touching innocence to Auri’s childlike whimsy. Rothfuss’s diction is impeccable, Auri’s voice crystal clear, a poetic rhythm to his writing; a beautiful thing. The painful darkness that surrounds her is heartrending. The joy she finds in little things is magical; the distress she finds in them is gut wrenching. An unobtrusive, bright intelligence shines through her simple facade.

I should note: don’t read this until you’ve read the first two books in the Kingkiller Chronicles. And don’t read it if you aren’t intrigued by Auri’s character. If you’ve read the other books, and Auri has stolen a piece of your heart, you’ll love this slice of her life story.

View all my reviews

Cindy Vaskova is hosting a list of #BestReads2014 over on her blog. Check out what books other people loved last year! What were some of your favorites?

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4 thoughts on “#BestReads2014”

  1. I’ve read Words of Radiance and The Slow Regard of Silent Things! They were so good.

    The Drowning Girl is on my TBR list! But I will get to it at some point.

    I haven’t heard of any others though.

  2. Ahhhh, the Hyperbole and a Half book is out, finally! I loved the blog posts she wrote about her dog. And I’ve been watching the Ask a Mortician videos for a while, so it was good to read about what the book is like.

    Thanks for these!

  3. You’re making me glad I picked up Deathless! So many people seem to love Valente, and that theme sounds so interesting.

    And I’m glad somebody finally picked up Drowning Girl! Did I manage to sway you into trying it after Best Reads last year, or is this a coincidence?

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