Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What I Read: {Best Books of 2014}

Hi Friends!

I can't imagine my life without books. Given the choice, I'd pick a good book and my pj's every time. Books have changed my life in so many ways: they teach me about myself, and they teach me about other people.  Books make me think about things that I don't necessarily want to think about. Sometimes they show me that I am not the only one.  Some books leave me feeling completely wrung out and others haunt me for weeks.  The best books take me to places I wouldn't ever go to on my own and make me feel surprising things while I'm there.

I've been compiling a "Top Ten" post for a few years now.  You can look at my past lists here:  2013, 2012, 2011.   Every year I struggle to narrow down my list.  This year is no different:  2014 was a great year for reading.  As always, my "Top Ten" list is in no particular order.  They are all books I would highly recommend.  Each of these books is definitely worth reading.  The complete list of what I read in 2014 is at the bottom of the post.  

Top Ten Fifteen Books of 2014
My Notorious Life, Kate Manning.  I am still thinking about dynamic, feisty, brave Ms. Axie, the delightful, unique heroine of My Notorious Life.  Axie is definitely one of the best female characters I've run across in a good, long while.
The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters. Oh, I do love a book full of strong female characters.  The Paying Guests is full of twists and turns--it's about love and choices and getting away with the perfect crime.
Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng.  This book still lives deep inside me. It's about families and expectations and the price of it all.  It's brilliant and sad.
One More Thing Stories and Other Stories, B.J. Novak.   Oh my gosh--there are a whole big bunch of odd and wonderful things going on inside B.J. Novak's brain.  I loved these stories.

This is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper. This novel captures family dysfunction at its very best. It's funny and real and a bit cringe-worthy at times.
Serena, Ron Rash.  Oh, my!  Serena is one bad, bad woman.  She still gives me the willies.
This Dark Road to Mercy, Wiley Cash. Desperate times often call for uncommon courage.  The character of Easter has an abundance of courage.  Part mystery, part family saga, This Dark Road to Mercy definitely took me down a road I had not previously traveled.
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. This book lives up to the hype.  It's a big, beautiful story of survival and figuring out how to do the best you can where you are.  I'm always up for a good WWII story, and this one was fabulous.  All the pieces of the story seamlessly fit together, just like one of Marie-Laure's father's secret boxes. 
We Are Called to Rise, Laura McBride.  Oh, boy.  This has so many damaged characters and so much big-hearted love. In the end, those who are called to rise do so.  This book is beautiful and haunting.
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel.  I'm not sure I can do this novel justice in a few sentences. I will say it was more than a bit life-changing.  Pick it up.
The Auschwitz Escape, Joel C. Rosenberg.  It was almost impossible to put this book down. Its story is tragic and triumphant.
The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd.  I'm still thinking of the relationship between Sarah and Handful.  What a story!
The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick. Oh, Bartholomew, you were one messed-up, tender-hearted main character.  I couldn't help but root for Bartholomew throughout the book.
Lucky Us, Amy Bloom.  Full disclosure: I LOVE the way Amy Bloom writes:  my writer crush on her is real and complete.  Combine that love with quirky characters and a fabulous story, and you have Lucky Us.  I grew to care (probably way too much) about each bizarre, wonderful character.  
The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, Mira Jacob.  Here's a family that is completely different from my own, and yet, in many ways it is similar.  I loved this witty and optimistic story about family and loss and love.

The Complete List {2014}
Here is the complete list of what I read in 2014, including how I rated each book.  My rating system is out of 4, and I tend to have a hard time giving a book lower than two stars.  Please let me know if you end up reading any of my favorite books (or any of the books from my list).  I'd love to hear what you think!

1. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt (3 1/2 stars)
2. The Rosie Project, Don Tillman (3 1/2 stars)
3. The Husband's Secret, Lianne Moriarty (3 stars)
4. The Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes (3 stars)
5. This is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper (4 stars)
6. Serena, Ron Rash, (4 stars)
7. Odds Against Tomorrow, Nathaniel Rich (3 stars)
8. Istanbul Passage, Joseph Kanon (3 stars)
9. Longbourn, Jo Baker (3 stars)
10. Wave, Sonali Deraniyagala (3 1/2 stars)
11. Labor Day, Joyce Maynard (3 1/2 stars)
12. The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen (2 stars)
13. Monkey Mind, Daniel Smith (3 stars)
14. Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys (3 stars)
15. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd (4 stars)
16. This Dark Road to Mercy, Wiley Cash (4 stars)
17. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman (3 1/2 stars)
18. The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan (2 1/2 stars)
19. I Don't Know Where You Know Me From, Judy Greer (2 1/2 stars)
20. Always Something There to Remind Me, Elizabeth Harbison (2 1/2 stars)
21. Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead (3 1/2 stars)
22. Family Pictures, Jane Green (2 1/2 stars)
23. Panic, Lauren Oliver (3 1/2 stars)
24. What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty (3 stars)
25. One More Thing:  Stories and Other Stories, BJ Novak (4 stars)
26. The Other Language, Francesca Marciano (3 stars)
27. The Rook, Daniel O'Malley (3 stars)
28. Frog Music, Emma Donaghue (4 stars)
29. The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick (4 stars)
30. The Year She Left Us, Kathryn Ma (3 1/2 stars)
31. And the Dark Sacred Night, Julia Glass (3 1/2 stars)
32. You are One of Them, Elliott Holt (3 stars)
33. Summer House with Swimming Pool, Herman Koch (3 1/2 stars)
34. The Hundred Year House, Rebecca Makkau (3 1/2 stars)
35. Lethal, Sandra Brown (3 stars)
36. Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing, Mira Jacob (4 stars)
37. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, Courtney Maum (3 1/2 stars)
38. One Plus One, Jojo Moyes (3 stars)
39. Fourth of July Creek, Smith Henderson (3 1/2 stars)
40. Freud's Mistress, Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman (2 1/2 stars)
41. Secrets of the Lighthouse, Santa Montefiore (3 stars)
42. Fallen Skies, Philippa Gregory (2 stars)
43. Lucky Us, Amy Bloom (4 stars)
44. Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas (3 stars)
45. The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters (4 stars)
46. Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng (4 stars)
47. My Notorious Life, Kate Manning (4 stars)
48. We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas (3 stars)
49. Station Eleven, Emily St. John (4 stars)
50. We are Called to Rise, Laura McBride (4 stars)
51. The Singer's Gun, Emily St. John Mandel (3 1/2 stars)
52. The Auschwitz Escape, Joel C. Rosenberg (4 stars)
53. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (4 stars)
54. I Remember Nothing, Nora Ephron (3 1/2 stars)

Happy Reading!



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