I am SO EXCITED to publish this post, everyone. I’ve been looking forward to writing it for ages because it involves flailing over books – and not just any books, but the best of the best! The books that made me fangirl for days on end!
But at first, I didn’t know how to format this post. Should I talk about ALL of the awesome books I read last year, or should I pick just ten? I read 39 four-star books and 4 five-star books in 2014, which sounds like a LOT until you realize that I read 203 books total!
You see, I’m VERY picky when it comes to books. Sure, I’ll read just about anything, but it’s very, very hard for a book to earn a four-star rating from me – and I almost NEVER give five-star ratings. (If you’d like to know my reasoning behind this decision, I discussed this picky bookish habit in another post titled after a song: OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars.”) Want proof? The fancy-schmancy Goodreads graph below shows how I rated what I read.
Forty-three four- and five-star books? That’s a LOT to recap in just one post… so I’m not doing that after all. I am going to list all of the four-star books that didn’t make it onto my top ten list, though – thirty-three total – at the end of this post because they’re still very special to me.
Because, compared to the number of books I read total, thirty-three is a very small amount. A three-star rating is typical for me; it means I liked the book. Above-average and excellent ratings are, RELATIVE to the total number of books I read, quite rare. That word “relative” is super-important there, which is why it’s capitalized for emphasis.
Plugging some stats into my calculator reveals that only twenty-0ne percent of the books I read in 2014 received EITHER a four- or five-star rating. What about just the five-star books, though?
On the other hand, the above graph also shows that I hand out poor and extremely poor ratings quite infrequently. I read exactly the same amount of two-star books as I did four-star books, and reserved that awful, awful one-star rating for what I absolutely loathed.
Aaaaand that’s enough analysis, so I’m going to move on. Here’s my top ten list! It IS listed in a particular order; books ten through five are the best four-star books, while the bottom four are, naturally, the five-star reads. Enjoy!
Note: All links lead to the reviews of my top ten books!
10. Like No Other by Una LaMarche
Contemporary YA love stories are so not my thing… usually. But this one was beautiful! Like No Other is about the forbidden love between a black boy and an Orthodox Jewish girl who live on opposite sides of the same street in Brooklyn, NYC. I devoured it in one sitting!
9. Cress by Marissa Meyer
I discovered the Lunar Chronicles last year, and this is the newest installment! (But not for long: Meyer is publishing two more volumes, Fairest and Winter, in 2015.) This series has sooooo many awesome elements, from fairy tales and cyborgs to hilarious characters and a dystopian Beijing setting. Highly recommended.
8. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
I love classic vampire stories. (Think Dracula and Carmilla.) But the newer ones? Not so much. Except for The Coldest Girl in Coldtown! In this book, Holly Black creates a complex and terrifying world where vampires and humans lead an uneasy coexistence. I LOVED this modern take on vampires! It’s probably the best paranormal story I’ve ever read.
7. Sceptre of the Ancients by Derek Landy
This is the first book in a looooooooong fantasy series about a walking, talking, wise-cracking, fireball-throwing, impeccably-well-dressed skeleton detective, Skulduggery Pleasant, and his teenage student/assistant, Valkyrie Cain. These books really blur the lines between children’s/middle-grade/YA – the series begins quite cheerfully and gradually becomes darker, yet keeps its screwball sense of humor until the very end. Great fun.
6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
So I know that some of you are probably thinking, “Ew, classic books!” but trust me, you HAVE to read this. This short, brilliant novel tells the story of Nick Carraway and his recent acquaintance Jay Gatsby, a well-to-do and mysterious young man. I frequently roll my eyes at what is considered a “classic,” but this one really does deserve all the hype.
5. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
I hereby give Since You’ve Been Gone the MOST SURPRISING BOOK OF THE YEAR award! As I said above, contemporary YA is not really my cup of tea… so I’m very glad that I picked up this book! It’s about lists, and trying new things, and whether you really need a BFF or just a bunch of good friends. I hereby declare Since You’ve Been Gone the ultimate summery read! (Also, I just really like the word “hereby.”)
4. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
I have one small request to make of you: Take a break from all your recently-published YA dystopian novels. No, really. Spend your time reading this instead, because it’s SO worth it. V for Vendetta is an extremely dark, extremely well-written story about a dystopian Britain, and it’s filled with enigmatic characters, brilliant monologues, and Big Ideas. Told in graphic novel format, it’s one of the best old sci fi books I’ve yet read.
3. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Stiefvater could write, like, a to-do list or something else really mundane, and I’d probably still fangirl over it. She’s just that amazing. Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third and penultimate installment of Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series, and it’s just as wonderful as its predecessors. (I gave The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves five-star ratings as well.) Her writing is both vivid and dreamlike, and fantastically beautiful too. I love the characters. And the setting. And you really, really need to read this book.
2. Adaptation by Malinda Lo
Aliens? Check. Bisexual protagonists? Check. Conspiracy theorists? Check. Love triangles that are actually interesting and realistically written? Check. This book was SO refreshing to read after slogging my way through so many poorly-written, boy-meets-girl YA dystopians.
Such as Divergent. I’d much rather read a girl-meets-girl-and-then-a-boy-and-together-they-learn-about-aliens story!
1. Ash by Malinda Lo
If I were Gollum, this book would be my precious. Actually, I’m going to call it my precious anyway, even though I’m so much more attractive than Gollum. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, right. This book. Ash is a beautiful retelling of “Cinderella,” in which Prince Charming is replaced with a girl, and I love it to bits. Absolutely stunning.
As promised, here are the thirty-three other four-star books! They’re not listed in any particular order.
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
- Malice by Chris Wooding
- How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
- The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
- Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
- The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
- Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli
- Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman
- The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner
- Cinder by Marissa Meyer
- Inheritance by Malinda Lo
- Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
- The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
- My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
- Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
- What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
- Princess Princess by Katie O’Neill
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
- The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
- The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
- Playing with Fire by Derek Landy
- The Faceless Ones by Derek Landy
- Dark Days by Derek Landy
- Mortal Coil by Derek Landy
- Death Bringer by Derek Landy
- Kingdom of the Wicked by Derek Landy
- The Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy
- Last Stand of Dead Men by Derek Landy
It’s your turn now! What are the best ten books you read in 2014, and what do you think of my choices? Let me know in the comments!