All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

To make it easier to purchase books you may read about on the blog, I've linked to through The Cats and a Book Bookstore, which is located on the bottom of this page. Your purchases are fulfilled and handled through Amazon. To assure your privacy, Cats and a Book doesn't handle any of your payment or contact information.

Happy reading!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Best of 2014

Early in the new year is the time to reflect on the previous one, and in the case of the Nashville Book Examiner, to reflect on books read in 2014 that were impactful: stories elegantly written, or rife with conflict and raw emotion, or impossibly complex. They were the books recommended, talked about, and gifted. Although it is difficult to narrow the list to only 10, these titles stand out:
1. And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini. This beautiful novel is a story of betrayal, loss, love, sacrifice, and reconciliation. Hosseini’s frontispiece is a quote from Jelaluddin Rumi from the 13th century, which well describes the complexity of the story, the decisions his characters face, and the circumstances in which they find themselves:
Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
It is this meeting place that readers arrive at intervals in the novel, weighing the wrong and right, seeing the consequences play out in the lives of the characters, considering what would have happened “if,” mostly unable to condemn or praise anyone without reservation for their choices. Their motivations were strong: love, family pride, greed, honor, commitment. As his character Nabi says, “ . . . I have come to see . .. that one is well served by a degree of both humility and charity when judging the inner workings of another person’s heart.”
2. The Valley of Amazement, by Amy Tan. Another gem from the prolific pen of novelist Amy Tan, as her protagonist leaves behind her early life in a courtesan house in China to find her destiny.
3. Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple, is an identity journey--witty, touching, and memorable. From Bernadette’s interaction with the other mothers to the way she keeps (or doesn’t) keep house, Bernadette’s journey to find meaning in her life is both entertaining and relatable.
4. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, is well and powerfully written. As the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, that description is clearly deserved. Its story is intense, at times almost too painful to read. Readers ponder the painting at the center of the story and the object of its main character’s obsession from time to time—it’s unique beauty, the simplicity of the goldfinch as the central figure in the work, the chain holding it to its perch—and look for similarities between the subject of the painting, and the existence of the painting itself, to our protagonist’s life. Was he chained by the tragic event that took his mother’s life and left him injured and emotionally scarred? Was he chained by the theft of the painting, or by the painting itself? Was he chained by his love of Pippa, the young girl who was also injured in the blast? Was the survival of the painting itself, and the life of the artist, a parallel to Theo’s life? The Goldfish is an arduous read, but one that will remain with the reader for some time.
5. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, is the story of family, whether by blood or adoption, as our young heroine bonds with the lover of her beloved Uncle Finn, who died of AIDS during the 1980s.
6. Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner. Two Russian immigrants meet as children and find solace in dreaming of a world famous magic show. When Lena’s difficult home life leads to a long separation between the two, their reunion is a poignant reminder of the bonds of friendship forged years ago.
7. Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger, is at its core, a murder mystery. But it is much more the story of a small town, it’s pastor and his family, their history and connections with others in the town, loves and loves lost, and their faith.
8. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson is set primarily in the town of Gilead, which readers are acquainted with from Robinson’s previous novels "Gilead" and "Home." Lila Dahl is a nearly feral child, neglected and mistreated by people we assume are family. Her savior is Doll, a woman with a violent past, who takes pity on Lila and cares for her. After Lila is banished to the family’s front porch for complaining, Doll takes Lila and they begin traveling to find work, shelter, and food.
Lila learns hard lessons from Doll’s experiences. Although Doll doesn’t tell Lila everything—like the history of that sharp knife she carries—Lila knows life is hard and no one can be trusted. Doll tells Lila, “You got to look after your own self,” and Lila learns to live on her own, finding shelter, food, and work along the way, vaguely aware of people from her past who could be looking for her.
9. The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell, is a unique, disturbing, and yet satisfying novel, which combines science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary literature in one tome. Mitchell seems to enjoy snatching readers from one genre to another, all the while maintaining our bond with the characters so that we continue to care about their well-being, a remarkable feat considering the complexity of the plot.
10. The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer, is the story of Jewish brothers, born in Hungary, prior to World War II. The story focuses on Adras Levi, an architecture student in Paris at the beginning of its occupation by the Nazis and the deprivation and cruelty his family faces at the hands of their enemy.
More to come in 2015!

No comments:

Post a Comment