Library Staff Recommended Reads for 2014

We wanted to let you know about some of the great books we read this year.  Read the list to find out why we liked them and maybe you'll find a favorite too.


Compiled by:
Paula G.
 A fall of marigolds : a novel

Susan Meissner

A beautiful scarf links two women over 100 years, one a nurse in 1911 who witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed the man she loved, and the other a contemporary woman who watched the Twin Towers fall with her husband inside. In the end, both move on, deal with guilt and are again looking for happiness.


 One Kick

Chelsea Cain
Series
Kick Lannigan novels

Kick Lannigan was kidnapped at age six and held by pedophiles for five years. At 21 she has trained herself to be an expert marksman, martial artist and lock picker so she will never be in danger again. John Bishop uses his wealth and contacts to track down missing children. He is convinced Kick is the only one who can find two who have recently gone missing. But this path may lead Kick back to her own dark childhood. Cain, author of the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series, has created a page turning thriller, with a compelling female hero in Kick.  


 Station eleven

Emily St. John Mandel
SF Mandel

Well it is a great book!  I read lot of dystopian novels but this one is a bit different which is what made it stand out.  An actor dies while playing King Lear and soon a theatre troupe called the Traveling Symphony wanders a wasteland that once was civilization. Eerie, provocative, philosophical, and absorbing, a book that will reel you in.


 The Princeton companion to mathematics

Edited by Timothy Gowers
510 Pr

The only book of its kind, it brings together clear, illuminating writing by some of the world's most accomplished mathematicians, including the editor himself (winner of a Fields Medal, often dubbed "the Nobel Prize of mathematics" by the media). It's designed to accommodate browsing as well as reading it straight through. It ranges over everything from the most important and widely used concepts in higher mathematics, to the history of the subject, to what researchers are working on today. It also includes a section devoted to the advice some prominent mathematicians would give to younger readers just beginning their journeys into pure mathematics. In short, if you have even the slightest interest in this field, you will love this book!


 We were liars

E. Lockhart

Powerful, haunting and lyrical, We Were Liars takes place during summers on the Sinclair family’s private island off the coast of Cape Cod.  The Sinclair children, self-named “The Liars”, have been inseparable since they were 8 until something happens the summer they’re 15.  Cadace can’t remember what happened, and she can’t get the rest of the Liars to tell her.  She spends the next 2 years, and we spend the rest of the book, piecing together what happened.


 Where'd you go, Bernadette : a novel

Maria Semple

Increasingly reclusive Bernadette hires a virtual assistant in India to take care of her daily needs in Seattle. When her daughter wants to take a family vacation to Antarctica, anxious Bernadette disappears.  Told through a series of emails, magazine articles and doctor’s reports, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a delightful story with quirky characters that’s hard to put down.


 Wolf in white van

John Darnielle

This fascinating novel tells the story of a young man, disfigured by a horrible accident, who develops a role-playing game that participants play through the mail. We learn the story of his plight as well as the tragedy that befalls two of its players who take the game too far. Darnielle brilliantly describes these events and the emotions surrounding and makes a real bummer of a story very enjoyable to read.


Bossypants

Tina Fey
791.4392 Fey

Easy read, funny. A nice book to read at lunch. Elizabeth Stamatina Fey brings humor to the story of her life. From Upper Darby, Pa. to New York and Hollywood. Lots of celebrities, lots of fun.


Delicious! : a novel

Ruth Reichl

Billie travels from California to New York to take a job at a magazine called Delicious, her dream job. The book introduces great characters and a captivating story line about recipes catalogued in the magazines library dating from WWII. It includes a correspondence between a famous writer/chef and a young girl. In it a mystery also develops about Billie, the main character, and what drew her to New York.


Euphoria : a novel

Lily King

A gripping read that made the experience of doing early anthropological fieldwork come to life by fictionalizing the lives of three famous early ethnographers (M. Mead, R. Fortune and G. Bateson) working in New Guinea.


Five came back : a story of Hollywood and the Second World War

Mark Harris
791.4302 Har

This meticulously detailed book (some of which was researched at the IU Lilly Library) chronicles Hollywood's involvement in World War II through the lens of five of its most prestigious filmmakers (John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler, and Frank Capra). We learn how each of these men put their own lives and careers on hold to be forever changed while they participated in changing the course of History (and Hollywood) forever.


Ghosting

Kirby Gann

A story reflecting reality, unfortunately. Slow start but it pulls you in, like quicksand. I found myself involved with the characters even though I didn't like any of them. Some of this book really creeps me out. One, because it has some incredibly graphic violence. Two, because the descriptions are so real one wonders if the descriptions are of actual events. Three, either the author has witnessed some extremes of human behavior or it's all in his imagination. I'm not sure which is more frightening.


Going clear : Scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belief

Lawrence Wright
299.936 Wr

I know this one was from 2013, but I read it in 2014 – a generation-spanning thriller and exposé of the mystifying world of Scientology by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wright.  Shocking and fascinating accounts from L. Ron Hubbard's inner circle.  Brainwashing, torture, Tom Cruise – the veil is lifted on this freaky religion (or is it a cult?)


How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

Mohsin Hamid

Usually, I run from a book written in second person, but this intriguing account of growing up in an unnamed country (probably Pakistan), I found thoroughly involving despite the fact the two main characters were not named. It tells the story of a poor rural boy who moves to the city and becomes a water tycoon. He falls in love with a beautiful model/actress and throughout most of the tale their paths cross but they do not connect.  Humor, pathos, violence, business, and political intrigue all masked in the instructional format of a self-help book.


How to Read the Air

Dinaw Mengestu

Written by the son of Ethiopian immigrants/refugees to the United States in the 1970’s.  This is his second novel (I loved his first one as well).  It’s semi-autobiographical and recounts the story of the main character’s challenges in life due to his dysfunctional childhood with confused parents unable to adapt easily to western culture. It illuminates the difficulties of the immigrant experiences down the generations while using cleaver juxtaposition telling of current and past events. The writing is engaging and well-wrought.  A quiet book from a new talent. 


Moby Dick

Herman Melville

An old classic but in a new audiobook edition read by Anthony Heald.  Heald makes this epic whale hunt come to life.  It is a fantastic way to work through this tome and is available through Hoopla (our new digital download service).


The bees : A novel

Laline Paull

Flora 717 is different from the rest of the colony, a sanitation worker of the lowest caste in her small world--a bee hive. A mysterious illness is wreaking havoc on the colony's very survival. Through Flora 717's courage and strength she will defy the laws enforced by the Queen and her Colony in order to help the cement the future of the hive. Reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale in terms of the environment and overall plot. A fantastic read!


The bone clocks : a novel

David Mitchell

A cabal of dangerous mystics track Holly, a 15 year old English runaway, in the opening of this masterful novel. Mitchell brings his operatic writing skills to bring into focus characters wandering across the globe: Australia, England, Shanghai, and Manhattan. Time and space travel by a master who captures characters and life events like no other.


The goldfinch

Donna Tartt

This book was on the NY Times Best Seller list for most of the year so it's no secret, but it was still my most enjoyable read of 2014.  An addictive story with powerful themes: how the loss of his mother shapes a young boy's transition into manhood, the ambiguity of good and bad, the poison of guilt, the importance of friendships.


The Golem and The Jinni : A Novel

Helene Wecker

In this debut novel, Helene Wecker creates a world that blends historical detail with those of the religious supernatural. The year is 1899 when the world is on a cusp of technological, social, and political change when Chava, a golem, and Ahmad, a jinni, through a serious of events, must blend into the immigrant population of New York in order to survive.


The Martian : A Novel

Andy Weir
SF Weir

Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars when the rest of his crew wrongly assumes that he died in an accident. His survival depends on his ability to think creatively while using his knowledge of botany and mechanical engineering. A science fiction thriller!


The Rosie project : [a novel]

Graeme C. Simsion

In this quasi-romantic comedy with a sarcastic twist, Don, a fastidious geneticist with Asperger’s Syndrome, develops a questionnaire that he hopes to use to find a wife. But Rosie, a brilliant but outlandish graduate student with an agenda of her own keeps distracting him.


The squared circle : life, death, and professional wrestling

David Shoemaker
796.812 Sho

Even if you have no interest in professional wrestling, Shoemaker's book is an emotionally captivating look at the often tragic lives of these complex individuals who are often endearing, sometimes despicable, but overwhelmingly complex. I found it to be an exceptionally well-written and comprehensive overview of this unique form of entertainment. The book is a "breakthrough examination of professional wrestling and its cultural relevance that traces its evolution throughout the past century while offering insight into the intellect and sense of irony shared by athletes and fans."


The unwritten. 1, Tommy Taylor and the bogus identity

Mike Carey
Graphic Novels Carey
Series
The Unwritten

A graphic novel series where fiction and reality collide with people slipping into stories and stories slipping out into the real world.  This is actually a great series to read while working through Moby Dick as the Leviathan plays a pivotal role in the stories.  If you like Bill Willingham's Fables series, you will love The Unwritten!


Those Who Wish Me Dead

Michael Koryta

This book started off with a bang and had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.  I just couldn't put it down. Local author Michael Koryta pulls readers in from the first page of this fast paced thriller. When teenager Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder he is hidden in a wilderness survival program for troubled teens. But that does little to deter the Blackwell Brothers, creepy killers who go on a murderous rampage in search of Jace. With time running out and a wild fire raging, survival program director Ethan Serbin, his wife Allison, and fire lookout Hannah Faber may be Jace’s only hope.


To free a family : the journey of Mary Walker

Sydney Nathans
921 Walker Nat

Born into slavery in North Carolina, Mary Walker travels to Philadelphia in 1848 with her owner and his daughters. From there, she walks away from her slave life, leaving behind her enslaved mother and three children. Her goal for the rest of her life is to free her family. Based on the letters and journals of Mary’s friends and supporters both black and white, this compelling book is a testament to Mary’s bravery and dignity through heartbreak and disappointment.


Undocumented : how immigration became illegal

Aviva Chomsky
364.137 Cho

“What don’t you understand about ‘illegal’?” This question, popularized by anti-immigrant protest signs and bumper stickers, is answered by the author with one of her own: “What do you understand about it?” She then cuts through the self-serving noise that passes for debate in Congress and our news outlets to respond with something novel and profound: actual information about the past and current state of immigration into the United States, as well as a prescription for what might be done in the best interests of both immigrants and U.S. citizens.


Use of weapons

Iain M. Banks
SF Banks
Series
Culture novels

A man, a woman, and a drone. The drone once saved the woman Diziet Sma’s life by killing her attackers. The man, the hunter, Cheradenine Zakalwe, was a Special Circumstances’ agent who worked to change the destiny of many planets but he has left the Culture. An experimental space opera, the best in an involving series that shows distant and violent worlds.


When mystical creatures attack!

Kathleen Founds

The worst cover I've seen in a good while, but the stories inside are great.  They loosely follow three characters, two students and one teacher from a Texan middle school.  The stories take many forms throughout the collection: equally absurd--one is told through recipes collected for a church cookbook--and intensely realistic--another, the diary of the teacher who has decided to flush her Seroquel down the toilet--but they're forced.  The relative short nature of the pieces keeps the book's pace comfortable. Recommended for those who enjoy laughing and crying and then crying a little bit more.


Who we be : the colorization of America

Jeff Chang
305.8 Cha

It's a discussion of the intersection of culture and politics, examined through the lens of race. No, wait—it's a discussion of the intersection of culture and race, examined through the lens of politics. Either way, this is a fascinating study of race in post-Civil Rights America: what it means, how it's lived, and where we're headed as our country (and world) continues to pluralize.


Wilson

A. Scott Berg
921 Wilson Berg

Did you know that our 28th president was the first to give a State of the Union speech, travel across the Atlantic, hold regular news conferences, and attend a Major League baseball game? This highly readable presidential biography fills you in on many facts about Wilson—women first got the right to vote during his presidency, the income tax was initiated and sheep grazed on the White House lawn. A book that paints the period as well as gives a vivid portrait of one of our least understood leaders.


Without you, there is no us : my time with the sons of North Korea's elite

Suki Kim
921 Kim

An American journalist who was born and lived in South Korea as a child takes a job teaching English at a new North Korean University that was funded by westerners. It was the year before Kim Jong-il died, and many of the children of North Korea’s elite were enrolled. The author teaches them the art of the essay and tries to expand her students’ world views all the while feeling like a prisoner on campus. “Minders” accompanied her and her computer and phone were monitored so she typed notes for this book on a thumb drive that she wore around her neck. A fascinating account of time spent in a country seldom visited by Americans.