It’s one of my favorite posts of the year! I look back on all I’ve read this year and choose my top 10 (or, in this case, 12.)So, first a few things about this year in reading. At the end of last year I was very disappointed to have not met my Goodreads goal for the year and subsequently set this year’s goal deliberately low. My goal was 65, but as of today, the last day of 2014, I’ve read 91 (that’s 140% of my goal!) And yes, I count a variety of books, including graphic novels and big long adult books, and short ya books and all sorts of things. This year I started including the long audiobooks we listen to. According to Goodreads, I rated 31 of them as 5-star books. Either I’m a lenient starrer, or I have great taste. 37 books were 4 stars. Really, for the most part I do really like the books I choose. I suppose that also means I stick with authors and formats I like, which I suspect is true for most people. Only 2 books got stinker 2 star reviews (a terrible Jackie Collins and a clunker by my beloved Anne Tyler!)
My other reading goal for the year was to indulge in re-reading books/series I’d loved. I started off the year by rereading Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler. I was thrilled that I still loved it, and in fact maybe liked it even more now! I didn’t reread anything again until the summer when I began the Harry Potter series. This was extra fun because I read each book after we watched the movie, and enjoyed talking to Clark about them. I really had forgotten just how much I liked them. I only read the first 4, so next year I’ll continue the series. I also didn’t get around to rereading the Outlander series, which is high on my list of cherished books to revisit. Also next year I’d like to reread the early Nick Hornby books, like About a Boy and Fever Pitch.
Not listed here are the many books we read as a family, including audiobooks. This year we took a few very long car trips and thus listened to many books. We discovered The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle. Bronson Pinchot (yes, Cousin Balkie!) is my new favorite audiobook reader. These books are looooong on audio (10 hours!) but so worth it. He is an amazing reader and the book is hilarious. You can read Paul’s reviews here. We’ve also been enjoying M.T. Anderson’s Pals in Peril books. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was also a wonderful treat. Apparently I’d missed any buzz when this came out,which surely there was amongst my librarian friends as it seems like half of them were mentioned by name in it!
In other reading news I ceased my Fourteen Bears blog. I’d really loved doing it and the way it looked, but I only had between 2 and 4 readers and when I stopped doing it not a single person noticed (not even my husband), so I figured it wasn’t worth doing anymore. Your loss, world!
Now, on to the books! Not listed in any ranked order and two authors have two books each on my list. (Though I read three books by each of these authors and liked them all, there were two by each that stood out.) Lots of my titles were ones that did have big buzz this year and have probably shown up on other lists as well.
Let’s begin with the first book I finished in 2014 (on January 2) and immediately knew would make it to the list 12 months later. I’ve spent the year having it be my go-to recommendation for something hilarious and different, and very much look forward to his second book, which is coming out soon. I’m talking about, of course, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. The fashion, the drama, the intriguing and educational details about Asian culture, the intriguing and fascinating details about the insanely wealthy, and the food! food! food! all made this a highly entertaining and satisfying package.
One Plus One by JoJo Moyes-This author has the distinction of having written one book I loved so much I’d put it on my top list of the year, and another book I hated (Me Before You.) I guess she’s quite versatile. Funny and sweet, it reminded me maybe of a melding of Marian Keyes and the movie Little Miss Sunshine. It’s feelgood, for sure.
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer-There was no way this was not going to end up on my list. A YA novel set in a boarding school for teens with emotional needs? Plus there was an element that I don’t want to call magical or supernatural, but yes, I suppose it’s technically not real. Anyway, I loved this and thought it was a great story, emotional without being burdensome, and a great addition to the boarding school books I adore.
House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell-What a fascinating story! Besides the hoarder element, this was a beautifully constructed, and then unraveled story. It was not a “fun” read, as it seemed like pretty much everything that happened was depressing, a bad choice,uncomfortable, etc. Yet somehow it was not a depressing book.
Before I Met You Lisa Jewell-It was a year of rediscovering Lisa Jewell. I’d read her a long time ago, then forgotten about her, and then discovered just how many books she’d written since then. In addition to her newest book (above) I also read and loved this. Again, one of those stories that I really admire how it was put together. Two time lines that you wait breathlessly for them to merge so that you can finally uncover exactly what happened. This had an interesting historical element and setting of an isolated island.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty-Obviously this is on my list. I love every single thing she’s written. This was a terrific one, too. Really great. A broad cast of characters, a mystery set up at the beginning, and piece by piece figuring out exactly what has happened and whodunnit. She does such a good job of blending tragedy, comedic elements, emotion, and not 100% rosy happy endings.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart–I was blown away by this book. Disturbing, sad, beautiful, a mystery.
The Hundred Year House be Rebecca Makkai-Another winner for me because of how this book is put together. Setting up a bit of a puzzle, and then going back and back in time in each section. Although it doesn’t solve the puzzle for the people in the present day, it does for the reader. A really interesting story too, about an artists’ colony.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell-Everyone in the world (who reads YA) loved this and with good reason. Added bonus for people of my age, it is set in the 80s. This actually drives the plot-a walkman, sharing music on cassettes, etc. This is a beautiful romance, but lots more here, including isolation, neglect, poverty, and a really bad family scene. You root for the two kids so hard!
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell-I was in a fever of reading everything she’s written this summer. I think Fangirl was even better than Eleanor & Park and was especially taken with the inclusion of sections of the protagonist’s fanfiction (and guess what? She’s publishing a whole book next that is the story that is happening in the fanfiction!). The whole fanfiction community and world was entirely new to me and was an interesting angle. On top of that, the story of adjusting to college and family changes was wonderful. An absolutely terrific story.
The Rosie Project by Don Tillman-Come on, who wouldn’t love this book? It was the go-to feel good book of the year. Suitable for people who say they don’t like to read, or people who only like feel-good books, or basically anyone. And yet, it didn’t feel like a lame please everyone story. What sticks with me that I liked so much is that the whole book manages to find the humor in the clearly Aspberger’s guy strange ways while not making fun of him. A wonderful story and I eagerly await the sequel (though I didn’t think it needed one.)
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen-I liked this a lot. She writes enchanting stories with bits of magical realism. Although it wasn’t a big dramatic book like some of the others on the list, I enjoyed it very much and particularly because I felt like it was a return to the strength of her earlier books (and speaking of which I cannot wait for her new book next month which revisits her first novel.) A rundown old hotel by a spooky lake, lots of family history and secrets. Read this on a hot summer afternoon with a tall glass of iced tea.
So those were my favorites of the year. There were plenty of other wonderful books I read and it seems like the world will never run out of great books to read. How was your year in reading? What were your favorites?
Wishing you a very Happy New Year and a 2015 filled with amazing stories!