It’s time for this blog’s favorite posts of the year: the ABC Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2014! We hope these books, magazines, games, and more will help you start your new literary year with a bang.
And this is our last post already! A big THANK YOU to all of my colleagues who handed their Top 5s in, right in the middle of the busiest time of the year. :-)
- Nyjolene: The Hague’s New Age/Consciousness, Fashion & Beauty, and Childcare buyer.
- Sigrid: Amsterdam’s Health & Nutrition, Childcare, Nature and Languages buyer, and ABC Facebook poster.
- Sophie: The Hague’s Crafts, Military History, Military Fiction, Sports, and Audio Books buyer, and Blogmistress of this blog.
We want to know about your favorite reads, too. They don’t have to be books published in 2014, just read in 2014. Please mail your Top 5 reads, and your reasons for enjoying them so much, to firstname.lastname@example.org by Christmas Day. Your favorites will kick off the new year for this blog, as they have done for the past 7 years, and you will receive a € 7,50 ABC Gift Certificate as a thank you!
More of Nyjolene’s favorite reads can be found on Staff Choice: Nyjolene.
Economics: A User’s Guide – Ha-Joon Chang
A must-read for those not familiar with modern-day economics, and also a must-read for aficionados. Finally I can read the paper and make up my own mind of how the economy works. Works better for me; before I used to find it confusing to read a writer’s opinion neatly disguised as facts. It didn’t make sense to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now I can, and I highly recommend this book to every human being above 16.
Dream Plants for the Natural Garden ( Meer droomplanten ) – Piet Oudolf & Henk Gerritsen
After moving house a couple of years ago, I came to live in a house with access to a communal garden. I enthusiastically set out to make it a flowering paradise, but it turned out it wasn’t that easy in a shady garden. This book is very inspiring and gives a lot of examples of plants that do well in this region, and it has lots of great examples of shadow plants that flower.
Twelve Years a Slave – Solomun Northup
Definitely wanted to read the book before seeing the movie, and definitely wanted to see Steve McQueen’s movie as I am a fan of his art films. I liked the story a lot, also the rather detailed way the author tells it, which is from another era. It is very oppressing, though, and I had to put it away several times. The movie does justice to the book, but I can highly recommend reading the book as well.
Godforsaken Idaho – Shawn Vestal
To be honest, I only read the first story of this collection that won Shawn Vestel the PEN/Bingham debut prize this year, but it still lingers with me today. In it, the author paints a bleak picture of heaven and the things we would do there. It makes you think about life and what matters in the end; the things we leave behind and the ones that come and haunt us. Definitely will read the other stories in 2015. I also read Yiyun Li’s short story collection Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. Beautiful but sad stories from a master story teller.
Hidden Food Allergies – Patrick Holford
I am very interested in nutrition and luckily there are so many books on the subject these days that I will never have to get bored. Even though I have no allergies myself, except for the occasional sneezing after getting in contact with sawdust, I wanted to read this because I had heard about the link between gluten and brain fog. Having limited my consumption of bread a couple of years ago for a different reason, I felt much more clear-minded and wanted to read more about the link between the two. I initially thought it had to do with stabilizing my blood sugars, but there is more to the story. In this book Patrick Holford explains how allergies affect you, how they come about and how you can test if you have any.
Sigrid’s favorite reads can also be found on Staff Choice: Sigrid.
The scariest books I’ve read in a long time. I didn’t like the main character in the former, and the latter really has become a bit dated, but both of these books really need to be read for their messages. Privacy, the government and (big) businesses knowing every little thing about you, other people deciding for you what you should think and feel, the falsification of history… And all of it done in the name of making the world a better place. I get Pavlovian cold sweats every time I read about transparency or (personal) drones in the news. And Goldstein’s The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism could still convince anyone that war is, indeed, peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength, if read out of context.
But facing your fears is one way of dealing with them and so I urge everyone to read these books. Inform yourselves, so that others don’t do it for you, and so that the choices you make are yours, not Big Brother’s.
Joe Speedboot – Tommy Wieringa (English title: Joe Speedboat)(I know, just one letter difference, but still )
So, my mother won a € 150 book voucher at the casino, but it was only redeemable online and only for Dutch books. She insisted in buying a book for all her children (one of the many reasons we love her!) and I went ahead and picked this one because it was my mother who had told me several times over the years what a great read this was. I started reading – and I laughed and laughed and laughed…
I was born in northern Limburg, and even though I only lived there for a short time, nearly 90% of my very extensive family still lives there. Joe Speedboot perfectly hits the rhythm and the humor and the characteristics of the South and East of this country.
Also, the main character has such a blazing personality, you can’t help but root for him from start to finish, no matter that he can be just as much of a jerk as everyone else.
The Universe vs. Alex Woods – Gavin Extence
See, this is why you join book clubs: because they make you read books you otherwise wouldn’t pick up, and lo and behold, you read some absolute gems, like this one.
Seventeen-year-old Alex is stopped at Dover customs with a glove compartment full of pot, an urn full of ashes on the front seat, while he is in the first stages of an epileptic attack. What follows is the story of how he got there, and more importantly, who with.
It’s a beautiful, encouraging, thought-provoking book that asks big questions about friendship, loyalty, and dying (and dares give answers, too). It made me laugh and cry, and it made me read Kurt Vonnegut. Heartily recommended!
The Inspector Brunetti books – Donna Leon (starts with Death at La Fenice)
I work in an American Book Center, and I read pretty much only American and British books, about America and Britain. Not to mention the skewed-towards-US-and-UK media I read on a daily basis. It can all make me feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes. Luckily for me, I discovered Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti books this year: European down to their marrow (and no, Britain is not Europe, no matter what the maps say ). I love the slower pace, I love the amount of time Brunetti drinks good coffee and good wine, I love the appreciation for history and culture that filters through the stories. I’m very slowly reading them in order, saving them for when all the American and British flag-waving and chauvinism becomes too much. And I do realise that Donna Leon is an American, but she’s lived in Venice for over 25 years now – more than I’ve lived in The Netherlands. I think she knows what being European is all about.
Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck
God but the man knows how to write. This was also a book club book, and I was slightly hesitant to read another book by the man whose work I remembered as good reads but with such heavy themes. But this is Steinbeck as he crosses the USA with his poodle, Charley, in a camper truck named Rocinante – and did you know he had such a great sense of humor? Not to mention an eye for detail only the greatest writers have: “The customers were folded over their coffee cups like ferns.” A beautiful dreamscape of a travel book.
De brief voor de koning – Tonke Dragt (English title: The Letter for the King)
I somehow never read this when I was young, but I’m glad I got to it this year. I really enjoyed this adventurous and chivalrous tale, and I particularly loved Tiuri, the main character, who is a great example of a quiet and thoughtful boy who thinks before he acts – and then still acts, even if it means consciously defying the strictest orders of his king and putting his dreams of becoming a knight aside. The book is also full of wise lessons, without becoming pedantic. My daughter enjoyed it, too, even it took some time for her to get used to the slightly old-fashioned Dutch.
More of Sophie’s favorite reads can be found on Staff Choice: Sophie.