The books that cracked our brains wide open in 2014
They say nobody reads anymore, but that was not true for the Hello Giggles editors and contributors. We were so obsessed with some of these books, we didn’t check email for at least 37 minutes.
Elena Sheppard—Station Eleven
The love I felt—and still feel—for Station Eleven could not be any more real or true. Emily St. John Mandel is a new hero of mine and she wrote a book that somehow makes you feel nostalgic for RIGHT NOW, right now. I burst into tears as soon as I finished reading it. I didn’t want it to end.
Jennifer Romolini—Girls Like Us
I love following-your-dreams bios and this story about Carol King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon is everything I want in one: It’s inspiring, juicy, fascinating, and chock full of little nuggets of information I never knew about its three subjects. There’s also a fourth character here—Los Angeles in the ’70s—and I am totally obsessed.
Piper Weiss—Notes of a Native Son
James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son may have come out in 1955, but when I read it this year it resonated as much as anything written in 2014. Baldwin’s titular essay has been described as the best example of writing in modern America, and it absolutely lived up to that description.
Amelia Olson—Demons in the Spring
Thought it’s not new, it’s new to me in that I finally read the entire collection of short stories in Joe Meno’s mysterious and heart-heavy book. The illustrations are simple and sweet and the stories are consuming. Demons in the Spring is a compelling push to reach down into the human experience and find something curious and exceptional.
Gina Mei—Bad Feminist
Roxane Gay is a gift. She is funny and smart and her writing is superb. I savored this book from cover to cover. If “feminist” was one of the words of the year, this book should be required reading. Every essay is powerful and important, and the book was a crucial exploration of how we define a “good” feminist.
Sophia Elias—Hyperbole and a Half
For one, it’s animated! Author Allie Brosh touches on a lot of dark topics (depression, self-worth), but she also shares hilarious, light-hearted stories ranging from never returning a Blockbuster video to the psychology of her dogs. I’ve given this book to three people and every single one of them cried tears of laughter.
Sundi Rose-Holt—The Circle
With The Circle, Dave Eggers offers us a clever indictment of the absurdity of our relationship with social media. It makes me think twice about posting anything, even this.
Lindsey Robertson—Poking a Dead Frog
Mike Sacks has really entertaining conversations with comedy writers about their career trajectories and how they got their start.
Caroline Gerdes—Yes Please
This is a no-brainer. Amy Poehler’s Yes Pleaseis brilliant, fun, and inspiring. As Leslie Knope would say, Amy is a beautiful tropical fish.
Rachel Grate—We Were Liars
The language in E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars was so beautiful. And I couldn’t wait to figure out the mystery.
Margaret Eby—Dept. of Speculation
Jenny Offill’s short, breathtaking novel is the story of a relationship’s rise, fall, and rise again. But it’s Offill’s prose that really lured me in: I kept thinking about some of the sentences she wrote here months after I finished the book.
Kathryn Lindsay—Not That Kind of Girl
I listened to Lena Dunham’s audiobook every morning and it would fill me with girl power for the day.
I’m late to this Mary Gaitskill party, but reading her prose is like living in one long, lovely poem. It’s amazing.
Carly Lane—The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Leslye Walton tells a lovely, bittersweet story. Also, Mallory Ortberg’s Texts from Jane Eyre because it made me laugh many times, and Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist because I wanted to give a copy to everyone I know.
Jill Layton—The Great Big Book of Feelings
This book, by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, just gets me.
Elizabeth Entenman—I Like You Just the Way I Am
Jenny Mollen takes things to an outrageous place, but is always relatable and honest. Also, can’t leave out other books I loved: One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by BJ Novak and Goodbye to All That by Sari Botton.
Gina Vaynshteyn: The Girls from Corona del Mar
I have relentlessly recommended this book to every human in my life because a) it was so wonderful, so well-written and such a refreshing take on friendship (as well as motherhood and womanhood), and b) I’m really just aiming for my life to be one giant book club. As a person who also spent her teen years in a small, sleepy beach town, this story of two best friends resonated with me so, so much. And of course not in all the ways, because their friendship takes a very dark turn —Mia and Lorrie Ann choose super different paths, and their choices ultimately shape who they are as people. Horrific, tragic things start happening to Lorrie Ann, and Mia has no idea how to stop these vicious twists of fate. You’ll finish this book in two days max—it’s that good.
[Images via Amazon.]