Book Round-Up for 2014

I liked every book I read this year! So the last book in the list is still a good book. But that means number one is a truly great book! I have no sorting of fiction or nonfiction or comedy or horror, so I'll include the genre after the title. They're all together because they're just the books I happened to read in 2014.

The Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson historical fiction
      There were times, reading the Cryptonomicon, when I felt like blogging about it and just quoting five pages at once to show all of you how great it was. But then I realized that would require that I pause in my reading and do something else, so that never happened. I could not stop reading this book. I read this through a strange combination of listening via audio book while I did farm chores and reading at night from a real book. That worked. Real people like Alan Turing are characters in this book, but the main characters are all made up. And what characters! Fascinating people. It's about people who crack codes and the drama around wars and such. And it's about so much more. I loved loved loved this book.
The Cryptonomicon is the the best book I read this year.

Going Green by Christina McMullen parody zombie fiction
    I feel a little bit funny putting this one at number two, because Christina McMullen reads this blog and it feels almost like an inside deal, but seriously, this book is at least number two for me. I read it three times in 2014. It's a quick read. The thing I love about it is that it's the only feasible zombie apocalypse story I've ever read (or seen in film). There's an actual legitimate explanation. And the characters are funny and real. The style in which it is written is actually a lot like Where'd You Go, Bernadette? but where Semple fails to make outlandish situations seem completely plausible, McMullen delivers (which feels really funny to write, because Semple is a Hollywood writer and McMullen is an indie author, but there you go). The text alone would put this towards the top of my list, but then McMullen went and had a special illustrated version with bonus material printed, and the artist for the illustrated version? Ben Boyce. So that just nailed it for me. The bonus material includes things to do in the event of the zombie apocalypse. Color your own zombie, for instance. This is the kind of thing I've never really seen done well before. But there you have it.
Ben Boyce illustrated Going Green by Christina McMullen,
my second favorite book of 2014. 

Futility Closet: An Idler's Miscellany of Compendious Amusements 
by Greg Ross nonfiction trivia and thought puzzles
   Another independently published book, this time a book of facts, oddities, puzzles, and really interesting things that you never knew. Each tidbit takes about five minutes of your time. This is a book you can put down and pick up again many times, and always feel entertained. I had to resist the urge to go around reading stories from it out loud to everyone I knew. I mean this in the best possible way: a good bathroom book. 
Animals doing the jobs of humans is but one category
of interesting stories in the Futility Closet: An Idler's Miscellany of Compendious Amusements,
my third favorite book of 2014.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro psychological horror fiction
    This comes off as a boring story for the first half, maybe, until you realize what is really going on. And then the second half is... disturbing. It's one of those books where you are left with more questions than you got answered, but at the same time, Ishiguro is a master at making you grab for that extra... something. I liked how he messed with my head. He knew what he was doing.

Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living by Doug Fine nonfiction comedy
    This Doug Fine guy was someone I could really relate to. Enjoyable read all-round. I believe I wrote a review already of this one.
The Alienist by Caleb Carr historical fiction mystery
    This is something that really took me by surprise. It's a Sherlock Holmes-esque story that takes place in early twentieth century New York City, and the case involves a serial killer who kills young male prostitutes. Very strange! And interesting. Teddy Roosevelt is a character in it. It's a highly entertaining read. The only thing I didn't buy was the female detective in it.

Bossypants by Tina Fey nonfiction autobiography
    I guess I'm not that with it, but before I read this, I didn't know who Tina Fey was. It was still a good read. My friends who read it said it was "hilarious," but I honestly didn't laugh as much. I just thought she had a great story to tell.

Hyperion 1, 2, 3... 4(?) by Dan Simmons science fiction fantasy
    This was a huge time investment. It was one of those things where I got so invested in this alternate reality that I had to know what was going to happen next! Did I enjoy the time spent reading all of these books? Yes. And they put me right to sleep at night for two months straight.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple fiction comedy
    I believe Maria Semple has, among other things, written for television. It shows. She has a good ear for dialogue. Her characters are hilarious. The only reason she is this far down the list is that I just couldn't wrap my head around the ending. I didn't buy it. But the book is laugh out loud funny at times. I would still recommend reading it. For example, Bernadette and her daughter like to observe the "smiling angry people" which is people who, the angrier they get, the more they smile? Or something like that. I could totally relate. She had me at "smiling angry people," but she lost me at... um... the ending. (no spoilers)

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline Science Fiction Fantasy
     This is great for people who enjoy eighties memorabilia, movies, and I don't know... video games, of course. Light-hearted fun. It takes place in a future where life is so awful that everyone lives in a virtual reality and just plays video games. What I couldn't understand was how, in this dystopian future where people don't have fuel or anything to eat, how could you power all of this elaborate infrastructure for the interactive video games? It's still a good read, though.

The Terror by Dan Simmons horror fiction
     I came to this book with overly high hopes because I love Dan Simmons in general, I love real-life arctic adventure stories, and because I thought I heard my cousin Corey say once that this was his favorite book of all time. It was, indeed, a great book, but by great, I mean the archaic definition, "big". This book is too long for a horror book. Or... something. I did the audio book and the real book at night, but it turned out that I got the abridged audio book, so some things didn't make sense. Even the abridged version was excessively long, though. I don't know. It was too long to hang out in hell, basically. I enjoyed the conclusion, though, and I loved the characters. I feel like one of my old middle school students, saying a book was too long, but it is! To love this book, you just need lots of time and a love for macabre fantasy in the arctic. (I do recommend reading Drude first, if you have never read Dan Simmons. Thanks to Zgjenyue for turning me on to him.)

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt  fiction
    This book was entertaining. It's about these psychopathic brothers who go around killing people and make their way down to San Francisco during the gold rush and get into some trouble. Someone they're mixed up with invented a chemical to make gold magically come out of the ground. What could possibly go wrong? They have a weird relationship with each other and with their mother, who tells them to masturbate when their tempers get out of hand. It's a page turner, but I think some of the historical facts aren't real and that bugged me. I like my historical fiction to be really based on history and not just fictional historical fiction, which is just some weird alternate reality fantasy pretending to be historical fiction or... well, anyway, it was still a compelling tale, and still a good book, just a few little issues bothered me. Also, it was difficult to relate to psychopathic hit men in the 1850s. Still, a lovely read. Luke warm recommendation.


  1. My inner 12 year old is honored to be #2 :)
    Seriously though, I'm blushing. Thank you.

  2. Re: Stephenson - don't miss his Baroque Cycle trilogy. Absolutely incredible!! Cryptonomicon is sort of a sequel/prequel to it.

  3. Well deserved, Christina!

    Oroboros: I think you were the one who said I should read the Cyptonomicon! Thanks for the recommendation.