In 2014, I read 23 books, almost making it to an average of 2 books a month. Like last year, I wanted to share some of my favorites, but unlike last year, I’m only highlighting a few of them. I made one-liner descriptions for the rest of what I read at the end of this post, which might be my new style of reviews since it was so fun to do.
And The Favorite Is: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My favorite book of last year was The Book Thief. I was far behind (by nearly ten years!) on the fanfare for this novel, but it lived up to the hype. While I love WWII novels, the market for that kind of work is saturated, so it’s not every day that you find a really excellent work on the subject. I couldn’t help but marvel at the masterpiece Zusak created. It’s a book I plan to read again and again over the course of my life. As a writer, the two things I appreciated the most were: the language was beautiful and precise and the characters were complex and compelling. I was also impressed with the many stories within the story; the subplots were just as intriguing as the overarching story.
Many people, when they talk about this novel, will talk about the narration by Death, and I am going to join them. Death’s narration lends a somberly epic quality to the novel. The perspective of Death is so timeless and informed that you are both staggered and comforted by it. It is something familiar, something we all know we’ll experience, both personally and as a bystander, and yet something we all resist. And Zusak has a way of making you sympathize with Death and his terrible work, especially during war time.
Probably my only strike against the book was the occasional foreknowledge that Death provides. However, I could appreciate it because it also served to instill a sense of suspense. Because how can you dread something that you don’t even know is coming? Since it’s a novel about World War II, you know people will die; that’s inevitable. In some sense, receiving insight from Death is like someone telling you something you already know, but their confirmation of your fears just heightens your anxiety.
Most of all, I adore Liesel. She’s such a multi-dimensional character, and she leads you through as the heroine with grace, sass, flaws, strengths, and an intuitive sense of how to make the best of the worst possible situations. And I love watching her grow from a scared little girl into a tenacious woman. As I said in my goodreads review, “Liesel Meminger, the book thief, will steal your heart and soul as quickly and steathily as the books she takes, and you will love her for it.”
Now I just need to see the movie!
Runner-Up: Honor’s Lark (Volume 1) by Rachel Hamm
I don’t know how to explain this book to people, and that’s actually a good thing. Part fantasy, part mystery, part romance, it’s one of the most original spins on the timeless theme of finding love that I’ve read in a while. The premise alone will pull you in from the start, but the characters and the additional themes of family and finding your passion will carry you through to the end.
I’m also a big fan of this book because I know the author and she’s local to North Carolina! (I read her other book, Twenty-Five, too, and I mention it below.) And, good news: she’s planning a late summer release of the next book in the Lark series, Junie’s Confession. You can find out more about her on her Facebook page or on her website, if you love supporting indie authors like I do!
Runner-Up: Republic (The Emperor’s Edge Book 8) by Lindsay Buroker
Just when I thought the Emperor’s Edge (EE) series was over with Forged in Blood, Part Two, Buroker announces the true finale, Republic. When I found out, I was ecstatic. I’m on her email list, so when she offered advance copies in exchange for reviews, I was on it. As soon as I got my copy, I devoured it. The novel is about 200,000 words, and I finished it in under a week. Buroker does not disappoint in this farewell to the gang. It has everything that I love EE for: adventure galore, nefarious plots, suspense, kick-*ss heroines, funny dialogue, and swoon-worthy romances.
I detailed my love for the EE series in my roundup of what I read last year, if you’re curious about the rest of the series. The first book in what is now an eight-book series (plus novellas) is free, so there’s no reason not to give it a shot. You can also get the first 3 books in a collection. And if you love Emperor’s Edge already, then chances are very good that Republic will deliver for you over and over again. My full review of Republic is on goodreads, if you want all the details of what I liked, and just a smattering of things I didn’t.
Runner-Up: Ender’s Game (The Ender Quintet) by Orson Scott Card
Why I took so long to read this, I don’t know. I’ve heard about it for years, and I finally decided to read it. If you love science fiction or dystopias or both and if like me you haven’t picked this one up yet, then this is a must-read. Winner of some of the most prestigious awards in science fiction, it’s a classic. Eventually, I’ll get around to finishing the quintet so I can know the rest of Ender’s story.
Runner-Up: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
For a middle grade book, oh, you will laugh, cry, cheer, and cry some more, and then want to reevaluate your life and how you’ve treated people who are different from you. It’s rare that I say this, but this is a book that everyone should read, from elementary school students to adults. While it comes from the perspective of juveniles, I think anyone could see themselves in at least one of the characters in Wonder, if not several of them. And be sure to read The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story, too. I feel like that part really completes the whole thing.
Mostly, I think the wonder of Wonder is that it will make you want to a better person. If you read it for no other reason, read it to see the world a little differently, and hopefully with more understanding.
Soon I hope to read the new Pluto: A Wonder Story, too.
The Superlatives, or The Rest of What I Read
As for the rest of the books I read, instead of doing any kind of serious review, I came up with superlatives like you see in yearbooks and at award ceremonies. While a few of them are a bit silly, they’re all true to my take on the book. The ones that are starred I wrote goodreads reviews for, so click the asterisk if you want my full take. These are in order of most to least favorite.
The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg *
Best Premise for Magic
The Selection by Kiera Cass *
The Elite by Kiera Cass
The One by Kiera Cass
Best Subplot When They’re Not Kissing
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Most Likely to Make You Want to Go Outside
Twenty-Five by Rachel Hamm *
Best Minor Characters
Dewey by Vicki Myron *
Most Likely to Make You Want to Become a Librarian
Morning Glory by Sarah Jio
Most Likely to Make You Want to Write a Novel on a Houseboat
Most Interesting Community
The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner *
Most Likely To Be Finished Just Because You Had to Know How It Ended
Most Disappointing Ending
Worst Romance That Had the Best Potential
Bossypants by Tina Fey *
Most Likely To Be Thrown Across the Room in Frustration
Best Potential, Worst Execution
What did you read last year? Tell me what your favorite book was that I should read. I love book recommendations! And if you’re on goodreads, let’s be friends — here’s my profile.
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10 thoughts on “The Best of What I Read in 2014”
I have to agree with you with all my book loving heart on your review of The Book Thief. I was enamored with Death’s narration and, while frustrating every so often, I couldn’t stop laughing or crying out loud with this read. AND I haven’t seen the movie yet either. Although I am absolutely dying to get my hands on it.
I am actually reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed right now (well, listening to it, anyway) and you are right again. When I read it, I feel that sense of empowerment. I want to go hiking. I really want to go camping. I really want to build a fire. I also really want marshmallows. Almost finished! Can’t wait to see the movie for that one too.
Bossypants, however, was an absolute favorite of mine for the pure fact that you can’t take any of it seriously. I love Tina Fey and thought that her snark came across perfectly. It was like reading extra footage of 30Rock.
For you, my friend, I am not sure you would enjoy these as they are pure fluffy goodness, but I recommend you pick up anything by Rainbow Rowell. Preferably her book Attachments. Or Eleanor and Park. Or Fangirl. Or Phoneline. Actually, that’s all. Pick up any one of her four books and I promise, you won’t regret it. Or maybe you will. Then you can write me angry hate comments.
My 100% absolute favorite novel last year had to be Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer. It’s hard to describe the beauty in her unconventional prose and her dysfunctional characters. I was absolutely moved by every word on those pages.
Happy reading in 2015. We are already friends on Goodreads and I’m so glad for it.
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Oh, I’m glad you loved The Book Thief. Wasn’t it just beautiful? It’s a hard one to not appreciate.
Wild is good. There were a few times when I wondered how she could be so crazy as to hike that trail with so little preparation and research, and I kind of wanted to yell at her, but I got through it. And it does make you feel like you too could go out and hike it with no experience, even though you probably shouldn’t! Other than that, it’s a great read, and she’s a strong writer. She does a great job of showing, not telling. I also want to see that movie, with the lovely Reese Witherspoon!
I know I’m pretty lonely on the Bossypants hate train. I’ve heard it was funniest on audiobook, and I believe that. The strange thing is, I LOVE Tina Fey. Love her. And I know the woman can write, her extensive career in television writing is proof enough of that. And I did laugh at some points, just not as many as I had expected. I also felt that there was no structure to the book, and she spent more time than I cared for exalting other people and self-deprecating herself. (Which gets old quickly.) I had also hoped that she would get serious for a little while and talk about what it’s like to be a successful woman when she picked a career that’s dominated by men, but I felt like she shied away from that, which was too bad. Still, I know it’s been loved by many. Maybe I’ll try it on audiobook some time.
Rainbow Rowell has been recommended to me repeatedly, and I’m looking forward to picking up one of her books soon. I love some fluff in my life! (Note: The Selection Series is near the top of my list…erm. Guilty pleasure for sure.)
I haven’t heard anything about Shine Shine Shine. I’ll have to check that out! Sounds excellent.
Looking forward to keeping up with your reads and your posts this year! Love reading your blog!
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The Book Thief is one of my favourite books. If you haven’t watched the movie, you definitely should. It’s especially good to watch if you’ve had a really bad day and need a good cry. There’s nothing about the book I dislike – the narrative is definitely my favourite part though. If you like Zusak there’s another book of his I’ve read called The Messenger which is really good as well. It’s very different from The Book Thief but still a very good read.
And Ender’s Game! I first read that in high school and it’s been a favourite ever since. If you’re considering reading the sequels, I would recommend reading Ender in Exile first – it was actually released in 2005, but fits in between Ender’s Game and the book that was published immediately after it, Speaker For The Dead. So although not in the chronological publishing order, Exile should be read before Speaker For The Dead, as the events in take place before Speaker (does that make sense?) and explains how Ender gets to where he is in Speaker. They’re good books, but I don’t think they are anywhere near as good as Ender’s Game – but still worth the read!
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I can’t wait to watch the movie. Like you said, I just need a good night for a good cry. I’ve wondered about his other book so now I’ll have to check it out.
And that’s great to know about what order to read the sequels in! I’ll try to remember that when I get around to them. 🙂 Any favorite books that you read last year? I plan to browse your goodreads now that we’re friends!
I read so many books last year I don’t even remember half of them! II just had to go through my Goodreads to see what I read.
‘ve gotten really into spy and detective stuff recently, so I read lots of John le Carre in the closing months of the year – he’s my absolute favourite. And I read a good series of books by Ben Aaronovitch, which are sort of detective novels crossed with fantasy. Paolo Coelho’s new book Adultery was amazing too. I can highly recommend that.
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Oh, thanks for the great recommendations! Detective novels crossed with fantasy sounds right up my alley, so I’ll have to look into those. And I’ll have to check out Coelho, too. I’ve heard good things but haven’t read anything by him.
I’m reading Bossypants this month for book club, and I completely agree with you, Katilin! I’m a fan of Tina Fey, so I was sure I’d enjoy the book. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m disappointed so far. (This is Laura, BTW, in case that wasn’t obvious.)
I actually know some guys who’ve enjoyed it as well, so I wouldn’t be shocked if it was Will. 🙂
How does your book club feel about it? I’m glad I’m not alone in this, though. So far, I’ve been pretty convinced I’ve got to be one of the few people who really didn’t like it a bit. I don’t give a lot of books one star on goodreads, but I did to Bossypants. It’s rare for me to be that annoyed, I usually hang through bad writing if I like the story or the style, but I just couldn’t do it with that book, not for all the love of Tina Fey in the world!
We haven’t met yet to discuss the book, but I’ll let you know what the consensus is. So far, the only chapter that hasn’t made me want to stop reading is the one about her dad. I should also note that I tried to listen to the audio book, and it was actually worse to hear her reading it.
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The chapter on her dad was pretty good, I agree. Can’t wait to hear the book club consensus.