One of the things I list in my new year’s resolution this year was to read more books. And praise the Lord, I did. However, it doesn’t imply that I read hundreds books this year, it’s just it’s a lot more than any year in my life (for the record, I read 12 books this year, which is not bad. Right?).
And just like what everybody’s doing at the end of every year, here’s the list of four good books I read in 2014, in no particular order.
1. Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
Published in 1997, Enduring Love has the most gripping first chapter I’ve ever read in a book. It follows the story of Joe and how an unfortunate event of a single day changed his life and his seven year long relationship with his girlfriend, Clarissa. It’s a drama Mr. McEwan excellently wrote with mad details. His choice of first-person point of view gives the story an in-depth picture of Joe’s inner lives, including his feelings and his sometimes-flawed science-driven logic that distanced him from Clarissa and eventually drove her away.
Most events in the story is not the heroic one (if there is, all the male involved fails) and the conflict doesn’t always require the male protagonist to engage in physical combat. In fact, Joe is described as a troubled person, even vulnerable. It’s nice to know that there exist books which portray male characters in this manner. If you’re tired of reading fictions with overly manly man characters, try this one.
2. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Take a nice dramatic Greek family tree ride with Calliope Stephanides a.k.a Cal as you follow the trail of hermaphroditic gene that passed between Cal’s grandparents and parents and went off when Cal was born in 1960 Detroit (now, you may wonder how come a Greek family ended up in Detroit).
With Middlesex, Mr. Eugenides has given me a delightful reading experience. Cal is not an ordinary character (she/he is a hermaphrodite, for crying out loud). Using first person point of view, Mr. Eugenides makes Cal an interesting character I’ve ever encountered, not because she/he is a hermaphrodite but rather because she/he is able to tell her family “awful” history with humor.
Just like Mr. McEwan, Mr Eugenides is also a fan of details and this is the aspect I always treasure the most in prose. An event that probably takes about a minute or two to occur in reality can be expanded, say, into two page long text. And that’s what the two authors did in their books.
3. Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon
Show Your Work! is the book about self-promotion in the digital age. It’s not only for artists and it doesn’t have to be works of art. It’s for anyone and the works one shares can be anything. And if you’re doing it right, you’ll get the chance to build your own audience that really care about what you create.
You see, a lot of people claim that they are good at something but somehow reluctant or too shy to show (prove?) it. This book will make you come out of your proverbial shell and use more of your time online showing your work or the creation process instead of your selfie photos. In fact, the book has profoundly helped encourage me taking a lot more picture with my film camera, starting this very blog and many other things. Show Your Work! is the great follow-up to Mr. Kleon’s yet another masterpiece, Steal Like An Artist.
4. The Messenger by Markus Zusak
The Messenger revolves around the 19-year-old guy named Ed Kennedy. Ed is just another ordinary teenager, stuck in an incompetent and boring life as an underage taxi driver and helplessly, pathetically in love with his best friend, Audrey. His world turned upside down after he inadvertently stopped a bank robbery and were assigned the tasks of delivering messages. By delivering messages, Ed was meant to help people, mostly strangers, in need. Sometimes, it was easy, other times it was so complex Ed had to question his intention and courage. Eventually, Ed realized that it’s not only about helping people. It’s also about helping himself.
Overall, The Messenger is a delight to read. I like how Mr. Zusak uses fray sentences to evoke emotion in poetic ways. I also like the way I can relate to Ed’s story. Sometimes, I wish someone too would send me series of playing cards with names or addresses on them.
I actually have read The Messenger back in 2010, but I couldn’t help but picking it up again one March night. Being the best coming-of-age novel so far (at least for me), The Messenger should have had more hype than The Fault in Our Stars deserved.
So what good books you read in 2014?