my favorite books of 2014

DSCF1023I read 76 books this year. My goal was for David and I to read 100 books between us. He stopped writing his down somewhere along the way, but I’m pretty sure we hit our goal. This list was supposed to have 14 books on it because blah blah 2014 cutesy cute. But I cut it to 16 and couldn’t cut it any farther so here it is. Also worth noting is that some of these books are years (decades?) old–this list deals with what I read this year, not what was released this year.

Without further ado (and in no particular order) the books I enjoyed the most in 2014 were…

Wonder | I read this at the very beginning of 2014, but it’s stuck with me a full year later. Great story about differences, acceptance, and friendship, told in a really creative way. I’m (re)reading this one with my students this fall and I’m really excited about it.
The Penderwicks | This book was summertime and childhood. It’s one of those books that’s totally timeless–it could be set in current times or 50 years ago and you don’t really know and it doesn’t really matter. The plot is decent, but the characters are the best part. They’re quirky and funny and after a few pages you feel like they must be alive. Also, the author nails Life in a Big Family, a subject near and dear to my heart.
Flora & Ulyssess: The Illuminated Adventures | When students ask me what this book is about, I reply: “A natural born cynic and an unassuming squirrel.” That’s a direct quote from the jacket and reason enough to read the book (in my opinion). The illustrations are beautiful as well.
Three Times Lucky | I thought this book was a run of the mill middle grade book, but it was one of those that kind of sneaks up and sticks with you. The plotlines about looking for birth parents and alcoholism/abuse were handled really well. And t here was just something really poignant about how this book was hilarious and sweet and serious, all on the same page.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian | Months after reading it I can vividly remember the page of this book that made me burst into tears. It’s about growing up, fitting in, sticking out, and the hope that just maybe everything is going to be ok. There’s language and some mature content, so even though it’s marketed YA I’d say it’s best for adults or older teens.
Ok for Now | If I had to pick just one favorite book from 2014, this would probably be it. It’s not as popular as it’s sister book (The Wednesday Wars), but it’s an even better story. It was one of those books that made me cry and laugh and just think about how big and rich and hard and good this life is.
Mr. Prenumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore | I don’t normally read this genre, but I’m a sucker for books about books and this one was enjoyable. I loved the inside look (albeit fictional) into Google-life.
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry | This one was another book about books, but I think I liked it better than 24-Hour Bookstore. The story was good and it had a twist I didn’t see coming.
The Husband’s Secret | This novel was so well-written. The author writes almost tongue in cheek, the characters were so well drawn, and the plot kept me on pins and needles until I finished.
The Cuckoo’s Calling | This one wins the Ruth-Ann-was-totally-glued-until-she-finished award. (Well, really Gone Girl wins that award but I hated it and don’t want to talk about it.) In hindsight it’s a little irritating that there are 450 pages of build up and 30 pages of resolution, but I guess that’s detective fiction. Some language and mature content.
Daring Greatly | I had never read a Brene Brown book until this one. When I finished I put all her other ones on hold at the library. A really great musing on what it means to live a vulnerable life. I think it has some unique wisdom for our “be brave!” culture and it definitely changed the way I see my relationships, at home, at work, and everywhere else.
Delancy | I’ve probably said it a million times, but I love a good memoir. When my wonderful mom sent this back to Jackson with me, I expected it to be good, but it surpassed expectations. It’s a book about a restaurant, but really it’s a book about a marriage, about discovering what you love, about building a life.
Lean In | I’m not anywhere close to being a billionaire CEO like the author of this book, but I’m a woman who works and thus found this book pretty fascinating. I expected it to be a little heavy handed in the message of “women should work and lead and conquer the world,” but I was pleasantly surprised. The author really seemed to be advocating for women, not for any sort of agenda.
How Children Succeed | This one probably stuck with and shaped my thinking more than any other book on this list. Fascinating research on what really makes children successful adults. Hint: it doesn’t have that much to do with grades.
Killing Kennedy | I was really fascinated by this book and it spurred on a mild Kennedy obsession that occupied a lot of my reading time last March. The author writes in a way that makes history way more interesting than a novel and I was impressed by how well researched the book seemed to be.
Carry On, Warrior | The other memoir on this list, full of wisdom on parenting, marriage, recovery, and perseverance. I liked most of the essays in this one and a few of them I absolutely loved. 

Honorable mentions: Beautiful Ruins, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, Wild, and Whatever it Takes.

Interesting (to me): although nonfiction represents about 1/3 of this list, it only represents about 15% of the books I read all year. I’m thinking that’s because even if I’m 50 pages in and not loving a novel, I usually finish it anyway (“but I have to know how it ends!”). I don’t have that same compulsion with nonfiction, so if I read a couple of chapters and decide I don’t like it, it goes back to the library. Thus resulting in fewer non fiction books completed, but many of them ending up on my favorites list this year.

My first novel of 2015 was really good and I’m excited for another year of reading… hope the library’s ready for me.

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