Since 2011, I’ve been doing the Reading Challenge on Goodreads, and am always surprised at how many books I actually get through in a year. I mean, I know I’m a voracious reader — I always have a book close at hand, and lately I’ve been reading two or three at a time — but it still comes as a bit of a shock when December 31st rolls around and I see just how many books I’ve read. Last year I managed 154 books. I know there are other readers who do a lot more than that, but I also write my own stories, so I don’t get nearly as much read as I should, I know.
Of those 154 books, five in particular stand out as amazing books that still resonate with me. My readers often want to know what sort of stories I like to read myself, and I think they’re a little disappointed to find out that I don’t actually read erotic romance for fun. I tend to like speculative fiction, particularly apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic stories, and Stephen King is my all-time favorite author. So keep that in mind when you check out my top five favorite books I read last year. They’re listed in the order I read them.
The Best Books I Read in 2014:
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
In this coming-of-age YA story, Austin and his best friend Robby accidentally unleash an unstoppable insect army on an unsuspecting midwest town. To complicate matters, Austin loves his girlfriend but might also be attracted to Robby, who is openly gay. The humor and heart in this story kept me turning pages to see how it ended. I loved every minute of it.
The Troop by Nick Cutter
An excellent horror story about a scouting troop isolated on an island whose members become exposed to a man-made toxin. One of the reviews quoted on the back cover calls it Lord of the Flies meets 28 Days Later. I really enjoyed it a lot, and it reminded me of old school Stephen King. If you like and stories about biological weapons and nightmarish creatures and the disturbing things people do when cornered, pick this up. You won’t be disappointed.
Brilliance by Marcus Sakey
Set in a near future where a small segment of the population, called brilliants, are born with superhuman talents and regulated by the government, this book is the beginning of a trilogy about one such man, Nick Cooper, who works for a secret agency to curb brilliant terrorist activity. But when he goes undercover to draw out the mastermind behind recent attacks, he finds himself questioning which side he’s really on. The writing is tight and the plotting superb. If you love the X-Men, you will love love LOVE this story.
The Passage by Justin Cronin
This is a well-written story that starts off really slow. And by slow, I mean I didn’t get into it until around page 270, after the world as we know it crumbled away and the post-apocalyptic wasteland storyline started up. But I’m so glad I hung in there. The US government created a biological weapon to create the perfect soldier, effectively turning former convicts into vampires, who then destroyed most of civilization. A hundred years later, the survivors must find a way to destroy the original virals (the convicts) and hopefully restore peace to the world.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Reviewers call this an adult Harry Potter, but it’s more of a cross between that and The Chronicles of Narnia. I was prepared to write it off as derivative and thought I’d hate it, but I was sucked it from the first paragraph and couldn’t put it down. The story follows Quentin, a high school student (in the beginning) who’s always dreamed of a better life in a fictional world called Fillory, which he read about in a series of childhood books. At 17, he’s super smart and super bored, and resigned to a depressed existence when he’s invited to take a test at Brakebills, a school for magicians in upstate New York. It sounds like Harry Potter, I know, but I assure you, it isn’t.