The Best Book I Read Last Year

Looking for a good read to begin 2014 right? We have some recommendations for you! Here’s a list of eNotes’ staff members favorite picks from a year of reading. We hope it inspires you when creating your list for 2014.

Clearly the editors, interns, marketing staff and others behind eNotes are a mixed bunch, with high-brow, chick lit, and even photography manuals between us. Check out our reads and let us know what’s on your list in a comment below.


Gone Girl

This huge bestseller was probably on many readers’ lists for 2013, with its spellbinding plot and really, pretty horrifying characters. It had me compulsively turning its pages, making Gillian Flynn’s dark thriller easily a one-weekend-read. Warning: don’t pick it up without a bit of time on your hands; you won’t want to put it down without solving the mystery of Amy Dunne’s disappearance.


Infinite Jest

One of eNotes’ co-founders selected a throwback for his 2013 pick: David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest. The book is set in a futuristic society of North America and has inspired some polarizing opinions from readers for its complex plot, but it has to be admired for its influence over the past two decades of fiction. If you’re looking for a challenging, important read, look no further.


The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles is the captivating imagining of what would happen to our world should Earth gradually cease to spin. The ensuing apocalypse is a slow and torturous one, wreaking havoc on both the natural world and the formerly normal teenage life of its main character. If you’re looking for YA fiction with truly poetic prose, this is your read.


Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites

So, our managing editor is a bit of a photography nut. If you are too we suggest you pick up the Speedliter’s Handbook. It’ll teach you all kinds of things about Canon Speedlites. The rest of us have no idea what those are, but hey, look at the cover shot! That’s good, right?


Art as Therapy

Into philosophy? We’ve got a high-brow selection for you with Alain de Botton and John Armstrong’s Art as Therapy. The philosopher and art historian duo explore the purpose of art and specifically of masterpieces, “suggesting that they can be useful, relevant, and – above all else – therapeutic for their viewers.” Finally, walk into a museum and “get” the art!


Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

And onto the list’s most controversial choice: Helen Fielding’s latest installment of Bridget Jones’ Diary. I know, I know, Darcy’s dead (sacrilege!) but I challenge you not to smile at Bridget’s encounters with Twitter, toyboys, head lice and heartache. Just don’t be a buzzkill and compare it to Bridget’s debut. On its own the novel is really v.g.


The Sense of an Ending

eNotes’ editorial intern Tyler’s choice for his best 2013 read is Julian Barnes’ 2011 novel The Sense of an Ending. Sitting at only 150 pages, the Man Booker prize-winning novel is a quick but important read. It centers on the life of Tony Webster, who recounts his youth and tries to make sense once and for all of the suicide of his schoolboy friend Adrian. The title of the book is pulled from a literary theory book that concerns “making sense of the ways we try to make sense of our lives.”


Vivian Maier Street Photographer

Vivian Maier was one of the talented few in street photography who captured all facets of humanity in her expertly shot portraits: the humorous, beautiful, and often heartbreaking scenes of city life following WWII. But until just a few years ago, nobody had seen any of her work. The full-time nanny had no formal training in photography, and though she passionately, compulsively shot photographs into the 90s, she never shared them with anyone. This 2011 collection of more than 100 of her best prints is a fascinating read for any photography admirer.


The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

Another of our editorial interns, Katie, recommends this unique spin on a cooking book: “Flinn’s book was really interesting because it demonstrated just how transformative learning to cook can be. She takes on a group of women and visits their homes and takes inventory of their kitchens, interviewing them about why they would like to cook. Then she does a series of classes with all of them and once they finish, she does a follow up visit a few months later to see how the experience had changed them. Really interesting and inspiring, plus lots of good recipes!”


The Cairo Codex

Again from Katie, “Lambert’s book is very provocative. It’s reminiscent of Dan Brown’s books, but her protagonist is a female anthropologist who discovers an ancient codex that seems to have been written by a member of the Holy Family. I’ve always been fascinated by Egypt and its culture, and that’s where the book is set. The book really keeps you on your toes. I’m excited because it’s the first in a trilogy.”

So, what’s up on the list for 2014? For me it’s the enticing The Light Between Oceans and Eleanor Catton’s Booker prize-winning The Luminaries (to start). What will you be reading this year?

Happy New Year from the gang at eNotes