My 12 Favorite Books of 2014

December 12, 2014

Every year I like to share my favorite books with you. 2014 has been a great year for reading, and I see by my Amazon widget (at left) that I have so far read 91 books! I read a variety of books, from contemporary fiction to non-fiction, mystery and even this year a bit of sci-fi.

So here goes, in no particular order…

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber is a story about a corporate colonization of a planet as our Earth begins to collapse. But it is beautiful, and horrible, and thought provoking every step of the way. I also read his book Under the Skin – an incredible book that has since been made into a movie.

The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville is a quiet book about two people living in a small town in the Australian outback. The character studies and the delicacy of the unfolding of our knowledge of the main characters is truly wonderful. I have enjoyed Kate Grenville’s books before, and highly recommend her book The Secret River. I will also be reading The Lieutenant in the next couple of weeks.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian is the story of a girl who becomes homeless after her parents were killed in a nuclear plant meltdown. Bohjalian is a masterful writer, I have loved everything I have read of his.

I loved The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez It is the combined stories of a group of immigrants from various Spanish speaking countries that all live in the same apartment building in Delaware. This book shakes up our ideas about immigration and gives us an unflinching look at the challenges they all faced. Beautifully written, it was a big hit with my entire book group.

Lila< is the newest book by Marilynne Robinson, and is the prequel to Gileadand Home. I had read Gilead a few years ago and loved it so I dove head first into Lila. This is a love story, really. A May – December romance that is just full of surprises. Robinson writes beautifully and she reveals her characters bit by bit. I know these people, this town, and I grieve and love and laugh along with them. These fantastic books, set in Gilead, Iowa, together are a must read.

Jane Smiley is a favorite author of mine, and her new book Some Luck is a treasure. This book is the first in a trilogy (yay! more books to look forward to) that starts here with a chapter per year in the life of the Iowa farm family of Rosanna and Walter Langdon, beginning in 1920 and continuing to the 1950’s.

I love Haruki Murakami. I love every single thing he’s written. But his newest book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is for me a bit of a return to an older style Murakami. Introspective and tormented, Tsukuru struggles with something that happened in his past and in true Murakami style makes you alternately frustrated and eager to know more. It’s a very good book, and lo and behold there’s another new Murakami waiting for me soon,The Strange Library.

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo is a story about a cross-country road trip shared by a man and a Buddhist monk. Using examples from the experiences on the road, Buddhist teachings come out little by little as they drive West. This is a short book that did what it set out to do very successfully. He’s also written Lunch with Buddha and Dinner with Buddha, both of which I hope to read sometime soon.

Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is the story of a blind French girl and a German boy who meet in occupied France during WWII. I almost didn’t read this book because I am weary of war stories, but thankfully I had faith that Anthony Doerr would make it worth it. And he did, this is a knockout book that will come back to you over and over. By the way, I highly recommend his books About Grace and The Shell Collector and I’m getting ready to read his newest book of stories, Memory Wall.

I came to read Jamie Zeppa’s “Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan thinking it would be a travel or expat experience book… and in many ways that’s what it was. But in so many ways it was not, too. I loved learning about Bhutan and can understand why they are such happy people.

Liane Moriarty’s new book Big Little Lies is one of those twisty books that teach you a lesson about assuming you know where it’s going. You never know with Ms. Moriarty. Good read.

Euphoria by Lily King takes you to Papua New Guinea and is based on the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead. It’s a fascinating book, characters to puzzle over and lots to think about in this one.

I hope you enjoyed this roundup of my favorite books so far this year. By the way, if you’ve read a favorite book this year why not share it in the comments?

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More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco after 11 years in Mazatlán, México.

    1. Thanks for sharing these great books, Nancy. I have read about half of them and agree with everything you say. I also enjoyed this year ALL WE HAD by Annie Weatherwax, A THOUSAND ACRES by Jane Smiley and THE STORY HOUR by Thrity Umrigar. You have given me some new titles to search out, thanks again!

    1. Love your eclectic list of authors. As an omnivorous reader it’s nice to see a list of books and short reviews. I’ll write the authors down and look for them at home in our library

    1. I’ve read only one book on your entire list…I will make a point to look for a few others. I am lost without a book.

    1. Too many books, too many books! I’m overwhelmed – this is so exciting – I love recommendations……Thanks!!

    1. I look forward to your list every year. I am going to send it to my former book club in Winnipeg.

      1. I appreciate all your comments, it is so nice to have friends who love to read! And thanks so much for the suggestions, Judith. I have read (and loved) A Thousand Acres but I’ll have to check out the others. May you all have hammocks or comfortable chairs and endless stacks of books to read!

    1. Another recommendation: THE ART OF HEARING HEARTBEATS by Jan-Philipp Sender.

      1. Judith, I loved that book too, I wish I knew why I didn’t put it on my best books list. But I looked him up and he has another book out – A Well-Tempered Heart so that is good news.

    1. Great list Nancy – have read and enjoyed about 2/3 of them. Loved the Kate Grenville especially. Our tastes are not always the same, but have you read the biography of Penelope Fitzgerald? And I love her books. We can talk about them when I am in Mazatlan next year!

    1. Also enjoyed The Unamericans – short stories – Molly Antopol

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