Last year I had a goal to read 125 books. In 2013, I barely made my goal of reading 120 books, so I knew I was going to have to step up my game. Let me just say that it didn’t help matters at all when Netflicks decided to come out with some of my favorite HGTV shows plus all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls. (Dirty pool, Netflicks, dirty pool.)
Still, with a little dedication (and a lot of lost sleep), I achieved my goal. Out of 125 books there were a few stinkers, but when I look back on the year I read some great things. Here is a list of my favorites.
The Fault in our Stars (John Green- Young Adult fiction) I know, it’s so cliche to love this book, but it’s a cliche for a reason- the novel is amazing. I love the straightforward romance between Hazel and Gus, the unflinching honesty about death and sickness, and the brief moments of hilarity that make surviving this novel with your emotional faculties intact a possibility.
A Little Something Different (Sandy Hall- Young Adult Fiction/contemporary) This novel is fun, lots of romantic angsty fun. The premise is different from what I’ve read before: it’s a college campus love story, but told from the point of view of the spectators watching the romance unfurl. (My favorite scenes were told from the point of view of a squirrel. Hilarious.) The writing isn’t perfect but I thought the originality of the plot and the freshness of the characters carried this book through.
The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman- Middle Grade/Young Adult fiction) I read this book out loud to my older children this year and we all loved it. The writing is bleak but beautiful, with moments of compassion and clarity and brilliance. In a way, this is a dark Harry Potter-type story, without all the cute and adorable extras. The first few chapters can meander a bit, but persevere; the author saved the best parts for last.
Greenglass House (Kate Milford- Middle Grade fiction) This is the perfect mystery to read during a snowstorm, cuddled up in a fleece blanket with a cup of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. Everything about it is cozy, exciting, magical, and fun. Additionally, despite this being a kids’ book, I didn’t anticipate the ending at all. I was completely taken by surprise, which was lovely.
The Buddha in the Attic (Julie Otsuka- Adult historical fiction) The three words that describe this book best are lyrical, haunting, and moving. Some readers had a difficult time with the constant use of the first person plural point of view in this novel, but for me, I found it to be exactly right. The distance provided by the author through the point of view made it possible for me to enjoy the beauty of this book without being suffocated by the horrific circumstances that these Japanese immigrant women survived. Ms. Otsuka tells a brutal story, but she tells it so gorgeously that I couldn’t put this book down. I read it in a single sitting.
Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty- Adult Contemporary) Liane Moriarty is one of my new favorite authors. She creates characters that feel real, characters that I recognize in the people around me. In this novel, Moriarty writes about many modern day issues, but the one that stood out to me was the whole Mummy War debate. The book begins with a murder during a parent meeting at school. As a reader it is up to you to discover who was killed and why. Overall, I thought the plot’s organization was brilliant, expertly laid out with each shift in point of view and with every flashback. All said and done, this was my most favorite book in 2014.
Three Wishes (Liane Moriarty- Adult Contemporary) (Yes, I realize it’s another book by Liane Moriarty. Deal with it. Or better yet, read it.) This book tells the story of three sisters, triplets, living in Australia who think they know everything about each other. However, as the novel progresses, the reader realizes that despite being best friends, despite being triplets, these sisters might not know each other at all. Again, I love the way the author organizes the book. Each section has a little snippet of observation made by random strangers about these girls which just adds a another layer to the plot.
Written in Red (Anne Bishop- Urban Fantasy) If you love all things fanged and furry, you just might love Written in Red as much as I did. It has a freshness to it that makes it stand out of the supernatural fiction crowd. My original review is here.
Elizabeth is Missing (Emma Healey- Contemporary/historic fiction) I have a deep fascination with unreliable authors (I think it comes from a high school infatuation with William Faulkner’s Sound and the Fury) and Maud, an aging grandmother losing her memory, is a most unreliable narrator. Convinced her best friend is missing, Maud attempts to discover what has happened. Remembering less and less of the present, older memories of her sister who disappeared in the 1940’s fill Maud’s mind as she struggles to find answers. This is a beautiful and tragic story of a woman who is losing her memories and her mind, bit by bit.
An Inquiry into Love and Death (Simone St. James- Historical fiction/mystery/ghost story) I loved this book so very much even though it scared the pants right off of me. Read my original review here. Caution- this is not the best book to read late at night when your spouse is gone. Learn from my mistake.
Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver- YA fiction) This is a powerful book that you either love or hate, and man, did I love it. How do I describe the plot? Pretty much it’s Mean Girls crossed with Groundhog’s Day: a rude, popular girl is forced to relive her last day on earth over and over as she tries to get it right. For me, the characters were brilliant, full of depth and nuance. Ms. Oliver writes a book about friendships and choices, and how our friends and choices effect everyone around us. I found it completely moving.
The Invisible Boy (Trudy Ludwig- Children’s picture book) It is not often that a picture book makes my favorites list, but this is no ordinary picture book. This book gave me the shivers when I read it and proves that each one of us can make a difference in the life of another in simple ways. Without being preachy or overly moral, a great lesson subtly unfolds as the reader turns each page.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Claire North- Adult Supernatural thriller) This was one of the most intense books I read last year. Despite its larger size, I gobbled it up in just a day or two. Find my review here.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home (Carol Rifka Brunt- Young Adult fiction/Adult fiction) This is one of my favorite coming of age stories. You can find my review of this book here.
Attachments (Rainbow Rowell- Adult Contemporary) This was almost, quite nearly my favorite book of 2014. It’s a fabulous story of underdogs, true love, and fate finally triumphing. Additionally it involves email, Y2K, and a myriad of late 90’s pop culture references. Just to throw in a little added incentive (although why you’d need any after I mention late 90’s pop culture references is beyond me) this book has perhaps the world’s most fabulous leading man in a love story. Lincoln is perfect and lovely.
Edenbrooke (Julianne Donaldson) I love this book, I make no apology. It is a silly romp of a romance, but goodness gracious it is a brilliant silly romp of a romance. My original review is here.
Hopefully, Gentle Reader, something on this list catches your eye. What were some of your favorite reads from last year? Any reading goals for the new year? Tell me in the comments.