Rachel’s Favorite Reads of 2014

Happy New Year! I’m pleased to say that I surpassed my reading goal for 2014! It may or may not have had something to do with the fact that I was unemployed for a chunk of it. Still, I’m the eternal optimist, so I’m shooting for 50 books in 2015 instead of last year’s 44. Out of those books, here are my favorite reads from the past year.

1. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Ok, I know, I’m already starting this off by cheating a little bit and labeling an entire series as #1. I will justify it by saying that I could never separate one book from the story as a whole. It is one giant, fantastic, tale. I hadn’t read the series as a whole since Deathly Hallows came out, so I felt it was due for a reread. It was just as amazing as ever–Harry Potter will always be my favorite. Rowling’s books started my love of reading. My childhood was molded by Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

2. Half Bad by Sally Green
This was the very last book I read in 2014, and I’m so glad I finally got around to it! The YA genre has been inundated in the past years with endless amounts of series, the supernatural, dystopias, or some combination of the three. I think the majority of it is either crap or just not worth my time. Half Bad, I’m happy to say, was neither. It had a great premise, interesting characters, and a good pace. There was an adequate dose of romance without monopolizing the story. If you’ve lost some faith in YA, give this one a shot. And you can read it in time for the second one, which comes out in March 2015! Let’s hope Half Wild doesn’t suffer from Second Book Syndrome.

3. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter it’s not, so don’t expect it to be. If you’re looking for witches and spells, go back to Half Bad. If, however, you came looking for Rowling’s unmatchable voice and story prowess, pick this up. Those of you who’ve spent time with Potter and his pals know that she can weave a good plot like it’s nobody’s business. Her characters never fall flat. There’s still magic, but this time it’s found solely in the words of a fantastic storyteller.

4. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
In terms of the actual story, it’s definitely not my favorite. This book is on my list because I’m so happy I finally did it. I bought this book back in 2006. Flipping through the pages in a Barnes and Noble was all it took to pique my interest. Google this book and you’ll be swamped with images showing the strangest book format there ever was…strings of text overlapping, footnotes going every which direction, blocks of red text stricken out. Oh, and two different stories being told. The majority of it reads like a text book, so oftentimes I was bogged down by the academia of it all, but it was still a very cool story done in a very cool way. Everyone should attempt this feat of a book.

5. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
One thing I was disappointed about in my 2014 list was how few classics were included. I’m glad On the Road made it on, though. It took some time to get used to Kerouac’s writing–a bit unique considering he wrote it all in one vast block of text–but once I did the flow and rhythm of his words could hypnotize me like the Road itself. The story is such a great depiction of America as well. If you suffer, even occasionally, from wanderlust, this is definitely a classic you need to read. I’m looking forward to reading more of Kerouac in the future.

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