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.

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Top Ten Dishes from the Classics

For her series “Fictitious Dishes,” photographer Dinah Fried staged her favorite food scenes from literature. Via The Picture Show, here’s a sample of her amazing work to delight foodies and book lovers alike.

“I’m interested in creating something that evokes an emotional feeling for myself and others. I wanted to see how other people who had read the books would connect on that level.”

On the Road

on the road

“I ate apple pie and ice cream — it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer.”

The Bell Jar

the bell jar

“Then I tackled the avocado and crabmeat salad. Avocados are my favorite fruit. Every Sunday my grandfather used to bring me an avocado pear hidden at the bottom of his briefcase under six soiled shirts and the Sunday comics.”

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“Eight Million Stories”: Humans of New York Project


“There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” –  From The Naked City

In 2010, Brandon Stanton lost his job as a trader in Chicago.  Despite his mother’s objections, Stanton moved to New York City to pursue the latest thing with which he had become “borderline-obsessed“:  photography.

At first, Stanton was only snapping pictures of the city’s residents. His original goal was simply “to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map.”  But after a few months, Stanton began adding captions and commentary to the photographs.   “Taken together,” the photographer explains,  “these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog, which over the past two years has gained a large daily following. With nearly one million collective followers on Facebook and Tumblr, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.”

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald called New York City the “wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.”  Some eighty-eight years later, it still holds all that mystery and beauty, and through his lens and careful attention, Stanton helps develop those stories in colorful resolution.

The following are just a few of my favorite images and stories. Follow Humans of New York here.


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World Class: Snapshots of Classrooms From Around the Globe

The ever-curious Brain Pickings yesterday shed light on a fascinating project, “Classroom Portraits.” Since 2004, photographer Julian Germain has captured images of classrooms the world over, progressing from his small corner of North East England to include schools from North and South America, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Collected in a new book, Germain’s photos provide unique insight into childhoods both familiar and foreign, sharing what makes schoolkids around the globe so similar, yet worlds apart.

England, Bradford, Year 7, Art

Each photograph captures the same faces we’ve all seen in the classroom growing up: you have the bored and the enrapt, the angry and the apathetic, the eager and the daydreamers. Germain captures all of these and more in his trans-global portraits.

Wales, Felindre, Reception and Years 1 & 2, Numeracy

Yet, just as these photos begin to hark back to one’s own school days, you come across a classroom like the one snapped in Yemen, below. A small room packed with serious-looking men, the only thing belying their young age the dark but faint peach fuzz atop each one’s upper lip.

Yemen, Sanaa, Secondary Year 2, English

Flipping past the slightly militaristic uniforms of a class of Peruvian 4th-graders…

Peru, Cusco, Primary Grade 4, Mathematics

to a colorfully Havanan classroom…

Havana, Cuba, Year 2, Mathematics

and a stark Nigerian one…

Nigeria, Kano, Ooron Dutse, Senior Islamic Secondary Level 2, Social Studies

you are reminded that this (I’m presuming for most of you) is not the childhood you remember.

But while the environments and languages might not be the same, it’s always easy to spot some common ground: in one image a band of sulky pubescents, in another a mob of sticky-fingered kindergartners, and in all the compulsory child with the mischievous glint in his eye, the one who is certainly up to no good at all.

England, Seaham, Reception and Year 1, Structured Play

In each photo Germain has also managed to evoke the gang-like quality found in a room full of students. He positions them with their eyes locked on the camera, staring it down as though ready to pounce at any given moment. Perhaps the one similarity we should be mindful of in every classroom is the courage it takes to stand up in front of a room of these creatures and teach them.

Cuba, Havana, Playa, Year 9, national television screening of film ‘Can Gamba’ (about Cuban participation in Angolan Revolution)

No, in all seriousness “Classroom Portraits” is a joyful reminder of the many fresh young minds out there in the world, and the importance a good education serves in shaping every one of them.

Lagos, Nigeria. Basic 7 / Junior Secondary Level 1, Mathematics

For more on the project, you can visit Germain’s website or purchase his book Classroom Portraits 2004-2012 on Amazon.