I figured I might as well post this list now so that anyone seeking gift ideas for their beloved bookworms might find it useful. Below are the best things I read this year, divvied up by category:
LITERARY: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
This is possibly the best debut I’ve ever read. The writing was so incredibly good, the story so sharp and perfect. I couldn’t (and still can’t) stop thinking about the characters and their family dynamics. It made me sad in that way that doesn’t bring out tears but makes everything ache in your chest. Everyone needs to read this book.
NONFICTION: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
I’ve been a Dresden Dolls and Amanda Palmer fan for years, so of course I screamed with excitement when she announced she was writing a book. It came out November 11th, and though I had preordered it at the earliest possible opportunity…I couldn’t bring myself to read it right away. The reason was fear: I love Amanda Palmer so much (though really, there’s no such thing), and I was terribly worried that the book was going to disappoint me.
It was beautiful. It was perfect. I laughed and I cried and I read parts of it aloud to whoever was around me. I already talked a bit about this book a couple posts ago, so I’ll stop here. Just go out and buy a copy already. But don’t do what I did; read it immediately.
FANTASY: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
This doesn’t actually come out until February 2015, but it was my favorite fantasy novel I read this year so I of course I had to include it. This is V.E. Schwab’s second adult fantasy book; I love pretty much everything she’s written. Fans of Vicious (god that book was so good), you’ll like this too. It’s very different, but in a good way. I would say so much more but I’m trying to keep from spoiling anything here, so just preorder a copy and see for yourself.
YOUNG ADULT: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Okay so the third one in the trilogy, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, is the book that actually came out this year. But I read all three of them for the first time back to back, so I just had to throw the whole set on this list. I haven’t felt this strongly about an entire trilogy in over a decade. (Most of the time I’ll have extremely strong feelings for one particular book, and the other two will pale in comparison. Not so with Daughter of Smoke and Bone.) I don’t even know how to talk about these books without collapsing in a heap and flailing my arms.
MIDDLE GRADE: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
Ah, this book. It’s a testament to how good it is that I read this last winter and still remember how much I adore it. (I feel like those books read earlier in the year are at a disadvantage for end-of-the-year round-ups just because so much time has passed. Lucky thing I obsessively update my spreadsheet of the things I’ve read and my notes on them.) The Forbidden Library is everything Little Emily would have been obsessed with. I’d have slept with this under my pillow and carried around everywhere. It’s also paired with some really wonderful illustrations. This book is magic for kids and nostalgia for adults.
POETRY: Stop Wanting by Lizzie Harris
This book is so incredibly good I bought three copies at AWP and seriously regretted not getting a fourth. This is a debut collection, named a runner-up by Tracy K. Smith for Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s 2013 First Book Prize. For anyone who might be scared off by poetry, these poems are extremely readable and so sharply written. It’s one of those books that wrecks and moves you; you swallow it whole and the knot stays in your throat for a long time after.
GRAPHIC NOVEL: This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
This is a fantastic coming-of-age story paired with incredible art. It would make a great entry point for bookworms looking to dip into the world of graphic novels. Super readable, full of emotion and great negative space. I was blown away by how real this felt. Most of the time when I read graphic novels the art adds distance from reality. That’s not the case here — this art captures so much that’s left unsaid, the tiniest of moments that speak volumes.
So there you go. Happy reading / gifting!