With less than a week left of 2014, it’s time to review 1% of the year’s favorite books and authors to watch. But let’s be honest: a review of every book I read and liked this year would be another book in itself, so I painstakingly narrowed this list down to a Top Five.
5) THE CHOICE by AJ Adwen
THE CHOICE is a gut-wrenching story of a teenage girl who finds herself in a dark place that no young woman should ever know. At the same time, it’s also a love story, with a message of redemption for those who have been hurt by life and don’t know whether they can trust anyone again.
There are no easy answers or heavy-handed morals, which I prefer in books that tackle difficult topics. It’s rare for me to read a book that explores a dark subject like rape so realistically and responsibly, without getting unnecessarily graphic. That’s not to say I wasn’t somewhat triggered by the content, but that’s a testament to the power and beauty of Adwen’s writing.
4) WISHING WELL by Kaitlyn Oruska
Kaitlyn Oruska tackles the issue of substance abuse, and the friends and family members struggling to understand it, with wisdom and grace. The characters are flawed, yet believable. There are so many questions implicitly asked of readers: how do you love someone when you don’t fully understand what they are going through? When they aren’t acting very lovable? When you wonder why you should still remain involved in their lives? Do you run away, or do you stay? And how far would you go to remain loyal, even if it turns your own life upside down?
3) THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO by Peter Enns
I have great respect for Christians – scholars, no less – who openly wrestle with doubt, and are unafraid to address the difficult questions that many would prefer to sweep under the rug. Questions like why God permits and even orders genocide, and why the Scriptures seem full of contradictions. At the same time, if the Bible is a series of documents inspired by God, it does not require a human defense. Rather, it can stand on its own merit.
While I appreciate the honesty of this book, I wasn’t completely satisfied by Enns’ answers (not that I expected there to be any, considering the vast number of scholars who have wrestled with the same texts throughout the last two thousand years and still can’t seem to make up their minds). Still, this is a great book for discussion, and I wish I read through it with a small group instead of on my own. Perhaps one day.
2) QUIET by Susan Cain
I’m generally skeptical of ‘blockbuster books’ – the kind that every media outlet is talking about, that are displayed front and center at every grocery store and airport newsstand. But it was hard to resist a book addressing a commonly misunderstood demographic that I fall into – introverts – so I had to pick it up. And I’m glad I did.
This a book I wish was available years ago, when I struggled to maintain a ‘people presence’ while working in retail under a boss who kept telling me I wasn’t smiley, perky, or talky enough (and I was genuinely trying my hardest to be that way), and while volunteering for the ‘meet and greet’ team at church to get out of my comfort zone. I’ve wondered if something was wrong with me for having a fear of talking to strangers (usually businesses) over the phone, hating to be the first to introduce myself, and feeling worn out after being around large groups of people for too long.
At the same time, I’m fairly decent at public speaking (in limited amounts) which Cain says is not uncommon for a lot of introverts. In fact, some of the most famous actors and creative types – people who make a living performing in front of other people – are introverted. In a world that tends to favor the extroverted personality, this is a necessary book that everyone should read.
1) THE CREATION OF ANNE BOLEYN by Susan Bordo
I guess it goes without saying that Anne Boleyn is one of my favorite historical figures: mysterious, controversial, ambitious, and woefully misunderstood. This book addresses the ways that Anne has essentially been ‘recreated’ depending on the bias of whomever is telling her story: historical fiction novelists, TV producers, playwrights. She is someone who can be painted in a number of ways: martyr, whore, victim, feminist icon, ‘mean girl,’ and more. How can you not be intrigued by someone like that?
This book is not so much a biography as it is a cultural history, and it’s a conversational, at times even humorous read – not like a textbook.
So, have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite books from 2014?