The Best of the Rest of 2014

I’ve said here before that when I read a really great book, I am so excited to share it with people that I immediately write a blog review. Hence, my short list of the best things I read this year would be The Goldfinch, The Signature of All Things, Love, Nina, and Americanah. (I was looking at the list of the books I read this year and wondering why it was so much shorter than last year–I read about 45 books this year, rather than my typical 80-100. Maybe it’s because I spent half the year reading giant doorstop literary novels that took forever? At least most of them were good; let’s just not talk about The Luminaries.)
But  I did read a few other things in 2014 that I loved but that never made an appearance here. So before this year runs away from us entirely, let me put in my vote for a few more things:

1) Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

I have a love for the first Bridget Jones book that I cannot explain. I just think it’s brilliant and is working on about four different levels and I still reread it once a year. Even Helen Fielding would probably admit that the second one went off the rails a bit, but I really, really enjoyed this third Bridget installment. Rather than picking up where things left off, the book ages Bridget and puts her in an entirely different situation. Bridget is still recognizable, but she’s gown up a little, and as predictable as the book was, I found it charming and surprisingly touching.

2) Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

I am kind of obsessed with the Soviet Union, but I find it really difficult to find things to read about it. Nonfiction books tend to be incredibly dense, academic tomes along the lines of “and then that other diplomat issued a statement that countered the previous statement  . . . ” And fiction tends to be unbearably dark, which is understandable but difficult to read (Child 44, you still give me nightmares). This memoir uses food–from pre-revolutionary excess to the siege of Leningrad to Soviet institutional cafeterias–to show how the Soviet state affected the everyday life of it’s citizens. And it shows how one family rebelled against that state, at least partly through food. Really charming, although I’m not likely to cook any of the recipes provided.

If you are not already reading the website Bitches Gotta Eat, you should go do so immediately, because it is one of the funniest things on the Internet (assuming you’re over 18–if you’re not, please go look in our YA tag for something more appropriate, because this sure isn’t). Meaty is a collection of essays by Samantha Irby, who writes the site, and it is equally funny. However, I should warn you that she uses the essay format to also tell some less funny stories about her life, including one about her mother that was so sad it made me put the book away in a drawer for several months so I could recover. But the funny stories are really funny, the sad stories are stunning, and Irby definitely deserves a bigger outlet than she’s gotten so far.

2 comments on “The Best of the Rest of 2014

  1. Anna says:

    Oh, man, I bought Meaty and started it last night, and that story about her mom just about did me in. Beautifully written, of course, though, which makes it so much more devastating. I wanted to run over to Chicago and hold Sam Irby and never let her go, but that is some crazy stalker talk, so I put that out of my mind. (I adore her blog, though, and have been reading excerpts of it to Rebecca.)

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