Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Reading Highlights

I read some good books in 2014 and a few great books as well.  I know what I like, and I mostly stuck to that this past year.  It's time to be brave again, to leave my comfort zone and read some books I'm not sure I would like.  Aren't those often the books we end up loving?

In no particular order, here are the Highlights of my 2014 Year in Books ...

Disclaimer:  in most cases, I am borrowing heavily from my own GoodReads reviews for the blurbs below.  Second disclaimer:  only some of the books below were published in 2014.

Hmmm ... looks like I don't own physical copies of many of my 2014 highlights.

Favorite Reads of 2014
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This book was my first big read of 2014 and looking back at my GoodReads, I can see that I copped out on my review, which was:  "WOW."  The Goldfinch is a WOW book though.  Long, but worth it.  Loved all of the settings from NYC to the outlying ghost town Vegas suburbs to Amsterdam and was rooting for Theo even when I did not like his choices.  32 hours and 29 minutes of listening were heavenly, thanks to the masterful narration of David Pittu (his Xondra, Theo's dad's Vegas girlfriend, was supreme).  

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
This book makes me want to go back in time and be a better teacher.  Not that I was a bad teacher, but I wish I had been a Mr. Terupt.  Written for young readers, Because of Mr. Terupt is a powerful reminder (for readers of any age) that we can never fully appreciate the battles others are (often silently) fighting but we CAN find the courage to be kind, to reach out, to forgive, and to give others the benefit of the doubt.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
A lovely, lovely book that I just inhaled.  The author describes it as a book for book lovers, and I agree.  This book prompted me to read one of its inspirations:  Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster and its sequel, Dear Enemy, both of which are available as free/inexpensive ebooks.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett might be my favorite living writer.  This collection of essays includes thoughtful, exquisitely crafted, honest essays about her family, divorce, marriage, faith, the LAPD, writing, friendship, her dog, and much more.  If you aren't yet an Ann Patchett fan (trust me, you will be once you start reading her books), I'd start with Bel Canto, State of Wonder, and Patron Saint of Liars.

Want Not by Jonathan Miles
This novel about want and its partner in crime, waste, is masterfully written.  Miles forces readers to think about waste (and want) in many iterations without ever being heavy-handed and without reducing his characters to types.  In my past life, I would have loved to write a paper on this novel.

Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye
Lyndsay Faye is some kind of genius.  History, mystery, beautiful writing, and memorable characters.  This novel is the second in a series about Timothy Wilde, a detective in the fledgling NYPD.  The first, The Gods of Gotham, was fantastic, and I am eager for the next installment.  If you listen to audiobooks or want to try them, Stephen Boyer's narration is flawless and, when voicing Timothy Wilde, dead sexy.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
J. K. Rowling is not a bazillionaire by accident.  I eagerly await the third title in the Cormoran Strike series as I can't wait to see the friendship between Robin and Strike develop. Robert Glenister narrates the audiobooks, and he is perfection.

Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe
Nina Stibbe was a nanny in London in the 1980s.  This book contains the letters she wrote home.  I love reading about London, about literary people, about English majors, about funny people, and about households/families very different from my own -- so this book was, hands down, a five-star read for me.  I laughed out loud so many times while reading Nina's letters.

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn
What if the Queen of England took the train on her own while wearing a hoodie?  This heartwarming British book was exactly my cup of tea.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
This book is everywhere and for good reason.  Great read!  My new favorite of Liane Moriarty's novels (and I've enjoyed all of them).

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Ove is a crotchety old man who is tired of living.  And you know what?  Living right (working hard, saving money, helping others, following rules, being honest) is tiring.  I just loved Ove and his story.  Laughed and cried.

The Book Whisperer:  Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller
When I was a high school Language Arts teacher, I would have struggled to implement Miller's philosophies within the required framework and curriculum, but I can see that it would be worth fighting to try to make it work.  As a parent, I found ideas and inspiration for nurturing a love of reading in my kids.  I like how confident and straightforward Miller is in sharing her passion for reading and readers.  This book fired me up in a good way!

A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin
I thoroughly enjoyed this expertly plotted, twisted tale.  Great psychological thriller.

Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute
This book just made me happy.  It's the story of a good, good man who has a great adventure.  I did not love it quite as much as I loved Shute's A Town Like Alice, and I think others might find this novel slow.  Pace was just right for me.

And a few more titles ...
Creepy, Compelling Reads -- these books are page turners with interesting female characters:
Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas (if you think your own mom is crazy ...)
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (Chicago setting!)
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (family secrets of the super rich, forbidden love)

The Books of Shauna Niequist -- A friend and fellow book lover/former English teacher recommended Niequist's books to me.  Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, Bread and Wine ... I've loved them all.  Niequist's spirituality is tangible and her writing is honest and humorous.

2014 Books from Some of My Beloved Authors -- 
The Matchmaker (sniff, sniff) and Winter Street (first in a trilogy, hurry up with #2) by Elin Hilderbrand
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner (ended too soon, but packed a punch)
The One and Only by Emily Giffin (left me a little WTF overall, but couldn't stop reading)
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (delightful)
Landline by Rainbow Rowell (not as awesome as Eleanor and Park or Fangirl)
Us by David Nicholls (honest look at marriage, Nicholls' novels are funny and real)

The Memoirs of Jennifer Worth --  Call the Midwife was one of my 2013 favorites.  This year, I finished the series with Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End.  Bloody brilliant and inspirational to boot.  Read this series to learn about history (London's East End, post WWII), midwifery, and humanity.

Graphic Novels -- This genre is new to me so I don't know exactly how to evaluate these books.  I read Smile and then Sisters by Raina Telgemeier on the recommendation of my eight year-old and enjoyed them both!  I also enjoyed Seconds (for adults) by Bryan Lee O'Malley.

This post would be more visually attractive if I had taken the time to track down and paste cover images for each title, but I'd rather spend my time reading!

What were your 2014 reading highlights?  I'd love to know.  Love to read the reading lists of others?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy's link-up of 2014 reading lists


  1. So many of the books are on by TBR pile!! Great list!

  2. Great great stuff and inspiration as always for my own list. Glad for winter days that feel perfect for reading in a cozy spot. I felt like 2014 was not a spectacular reading year for me, and I hope to improve things in 2015.

  3. Just posted this on my blog's Facebook page. So many people ask me for a list of books! I often refer them to you on Goodreads. So glad I came across this...did you always have this blog?!?!

    1. Thanks for sharing this list! I started this blog a couple of years ago, but it's never been quite up and running. I always post a bit at the start of each new year before school is back and session. Then, activities, volunteer stuff, life starts happening again, and I fall away from blogging. One day I hope to commit!!