Bethany’s Top Five Reads of 2014

 

Bethany has been of our fearless booksellers here for four months. Hit her up for recommendations of obscure classics and general literature. When she’s not slinging books, she’s at home, hanging out with her dog, who she loves very, very much. 

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

If, like me, you missed being assigned The Bluest Eye in high school, or if it’s been a while since high school, or if you consider yourself homo sapiens, you should drop whatever you are doing and read or reread this book. It’s not just one of the best I’ve read this year; it makes the top five reading experiences of my life. Toni Morrison unflinchingly describes horrific acts in prose of breathtaking beauty—and humanizes the people who commit them. You may be immersed in experiences you’ve never had and identify with characters whose lives are very different from yours, but in Morrison’s early-1940s Ohio you will recognize universal problems that you, and everyone you know, both suffer from and help perpetuate.

baboon

Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt

After reading two reviews of this contemporary short story collection newly translated from the Danish, I thought that it wouldn’t be to my taste, but I’m so glad I tried it anyway—I was mesmerized from the first confusing, ruthless story. Aidt drops the reader in the middle of each narrative with very little information with which to make sense of what’s going on, and her style is so abrupt and shifting that I’m still not sure how it works, but somehow it does, beautifully. The prose is spare yet lush, and not quite like any I’ve ever read before.

god bless you

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater! by Kurt Vonnegut

Like all the best Vonnegut, this hilarious, moving book will take aspects of society you never think about and suddenly strike you with their utter absurdity. The plot centers around an extremely wealthy, privileged man who opts to spend all his time and money helping the poor, and the attempts of a mercenary lawyer to have him declared insane. But while Eliot Rosewater is undoubtedly a rare bird, few could read his story without concluding that it is, in fact, the rest of America that has gone mad.

history of white people

The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter

You might think that a history of white people would be primarily about their oppression of other races. The lesser known reality is that for most of American history, the leading minds of the day were obsessed with classifying, ranking, and discriminating against various peoples of Europe. Painter writes an exuberant account of how the elusive concept of “whiteness” has changed over the years, including different groups at different periods, but always serving the interest of power.

pnin

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov’s break from the strain of writing Lolita, this book is a true delight. Professor Timofey Pnin is as pure of heart as the more famous Humbert Humbert is…less pure, and every bit as complex—and heartbreaking.

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