My Top 10 Favorite Books from 2014

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I started this list of my top 10 favorite books of 2014 with at least 16 contenders. I read so many wonderful books this year. But I managed to narrow it down to 11 … #10 is a tie between two similar books. I read 84 books this year, plus at least one reread. You can see them all over on GoodReads.

I’m sharing this list with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Favorite Books of 2014 carnival … where I am sure I’ll find a bunch of new books to populate my already-overflowing TBR list.

Favorite Books of 2014 at jessieweaver.net

11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Original review: Thoughts upon finishing 11/22/63:

1. What am I going to do now that I am not spending every free second reading this book?
2. It feels appropriate to have finished a book about the JFK assassination on 9/11. Both key “where were you when” days.
3. It made me snort that there was a book club guide. From my experience with book clubs, good luck getting everyone to read an 860 page book. I hope you give them 6 months!

All that said, it was probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. Never did it feel like the story was dragging, even with over 800 pages. So interesting, well-researched, and well-written. A+, Mr. King. {It’s still $2.99 for Kindle, and well well worth it!}

Why it was a favorite: No doubt that this was my very favorite book I read in 2014. It’s simply amazing, it stuck with me, it was utterly un-put-downable. I’ve never read a King book before, because I am not into graphic horror and being scared. But obviously he’s earned his gold star as a fabulous author.

inventionofwings

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Original review: I think Kidd redeemed herself from The Mermaid Chair with this great piece of historical fiction. I would really give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars – I held back the last star because it wasn’t un-put-down-able. But it was really REALLY good. Compelling historical fiction taking place in Charleston, S.C., in the early 1800s. Alternating views between a young slave-owner from a wealthy planter family and her slave, girls of about the same age. Fantastic and based loosely on the real life of abolitionist Sarah Grimke.

Why it was a favorite: I love historical fiction. Seeing Sarah’s walk toward abolitionist alongside the story of her slave, Handful, was a thoughtful and interesting way to show the story.

surprisedbymotherhood

Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker

Original review:  I think I put off reading this for a few months because I have been disappointed by some bloggers’ books in the past. But I was not at all disappointed by Lisa-Jo! I absolutely adored reading her story about growing up in South Africa and how God worked in her life. It was the perfect accompaniment to my sleep-inducing baths as my soul was soothed alongside my body. I felt like it offered practical advice as well as a beautiful story.

Why it was a favorite: It’s no secret that I am not a big nonfiction reader. I promise, I did read some actual nonfiction this year, but I much prefer memoirs. This book is what a good memoir should be: both a great story and instructive to my own life. Lisa-Jo’s words and experiences really speak to my soul.

deluge

Deluge by Lisa T. Bergren

Original review (of the whole series): I knew I wanted to reread this wonderful series before the final book, Deluge, was released in August. It is a YA, historical fiction, time travel, Christian-y series of novels. Yes, that sounds weird, and I put off reading them for awhile because of that. But Mary insisted I read them … and once I started I couldn’t stop. They were just as delightful in the reread. Romantic, exciting, funny, and just all-around wonderful. Five stars from me! I think Bergren did a fabulous job wrapping up the series with Deluge. I cried, I grinned, and it was extremely satisfying as a novel.

Why it was a favorite: It’s hard to wrap up a series. It has to be satisfying to the reader as well as fulfilling what the author wants to do. You’re never going to please everyone. (Take my husband, who wishes book 7 of Harry Potter had never been written.) Bergren made wise choices. She did what she needed to in making the novel realistic to the Black Plague and medieval times while keeping her reader relating with the main characters. Probably my favorite series ever.

sweetnessbottompie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (and the other 5 books I’ve read of the Flavia de Luce series) by Alan Bradley

Original review:  When Anne kept recommending this series, I thought it must be about some snooty Italian lady. What kind of name is Flavia de Luce? But when I actually read a synopsis and saw the books are about a 10-year-old sleuth in 1950s England, I decided to request the first one from the library. Flavia is a simply delightful character. I’m constantly amazed a modern-day Canadian man could write so poignantly from a young British girl’s point-of-view. Flavia is hilarious, and her obsession with poison and chemistry is something else. If you like a good mystery, these are well worth your time.

Why it was a favorite: I am not a mystery-reader, but Flavia is just the most enjoyable character ever. I look forward to Libbie being old enough to read these – a strong, young, smart, female protagonist makes these a winner for older children, too, I think. (Although there is some language, mostly just d@#n, use your discretion.)

languageofflowers

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Original review: There are very few books that I can devour all in one day, but this is one of them! Diffenbaugh’s Language of Flowers is absolutely heart-wrenching as we follow Victoria’s journey from neglected and hurt foster child to young woman so pained by her past that she can’t move on to the future. Her only real love is flowers and their meanings. I had read and read how people loved this book, but I was still skeptical whether I would like it or not. (Divergent, anyone?) I was not led astray. This is really a wonderful, wonderful work of fiction that will stick with me for a long time.

Why it was a favorite: I devoured this book, and it truly moved me. Victoria is an unforgettable character.

supremesatearls

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

Original review: This is one of the most purely enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time, despite some of the serious subject matters. Edward Kelsey Moore says he based this book off years of eavesdropping on his female relatives. His novel follows three women, best friends dubbed The Supremes, in the present-day as well as the 60s. With a fortune-telling looney, some crazy relatives, a slew of ghosts including an intoxicated Eleanor Roosevelt, and a dash of civil rights, Moore’s first book is fun and funny, touching and wonderful.

Why it was a favorite: I love some magical realism. I think I came across this book in someone’s highlights of 2013, and it was definitely a highlight of 2014 for me! If you just want to enjoy reading a book … this is it.

lacuna

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Original review: It took me nearly a month to get through this 500+ page work by Kingsolver (mostly because I kept stopping and reading the other books above) but the read was well worth it. I’ve never been disappointed by Kingsolver’s novels. This one is another work of art, a thought-out biography of a character through his diaries, letters, and notes. From a tiny Mexican island to Asheville, North Carolina, we follow Harrison Shepherd as he grows and learns about Communism, war, and being American.

Why it’s a favorite: Kingsolver is amazing, detailed, and imaginative. Again, a fascinating character (plus a semi-fictional Frida and Diego). Kingsolver writes epics. And they are good.

monstrousbeauty

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Original review: Mermaids? Fantasy is not usually my thing. But Marissa Meyer, who wrote the awesome Lunar Chronicles series, recommended Fama on her blog, so I decided to jump on it. And she did not lead me astray! Here Fama writes a story going back and forth  between the present day (2002) and the late 1800s. A mermaid falls in love with a man, leaves the water, and gets to absorb the consequences in Puritanical Massachusetts. In the present, 17-year-old Hester is scared of love, knowing that there is a long train of women in her family who have died immediately following childbirth.

The way the stories intertwine and Hester uncovers the mystery will keep you reading for hours. I finished this one in a day. Fama is a wonderful story weaver, and I will be on the lookout for more of her work.

Why it was a favorite: One of the rare books I sat down and read in one day. This one I wasn’t in the car; I literally sat glued to our sofa until I finished. I enjoyed floating away into the fantasy world that Fama crafted.

eleanorparkseaoftranquility

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Why these were favorites: I am grouping these two together as #10, because I think I liked them in the same way. Both are YA novels about first loves between broken teenagers. Sea of Tranquility is a little less fun, a little more intense, but I think about them in the same way. They both made me stay up late and feel a little bit like a 16-year-old again.

Original reviews: 

The Sea of Tranquility – Captivating YA novel about two kids with sad lives coming together. Millay somehow makes this incredibly gripping, reading-til-midnight material. Despite the language factor, I totally loved it. (Modern Mrs. Darcy’s post about the best of summer 2014 reading pushed me to pick this one up. Thanks, Anne!)

Eleanor & Park –  While there is nothing high and mighty about Eleanor and Park, nothing that is going to classify it as “great literature,” Rowell writes a story that you simply can’t put down. Eleanor is a wounded eldest child of five, living in a vapid home with an angry, drunk stepfather and a mother who’s given up. When she meets Park on the bus, nothing seems extraordinary. But slowly, they fall. It put a big goofy smile on my face, thinking back on being an infatuated 16-year-old girl. Rowell is utterly readable. I whizzed through this book in 12 hours … and only because I thought I should probably sleep at night.

_________

I could give a ton of honorable mentions for this year, too! I read a lot of great, great books. You can browse the past Booking It posts for everything I’ve read this year if you’re interested. And my post for everything I read in December will be up soon.

What was one of your favorite books you read in 2014?

8 thoughts on “My Top 10 Favorite Books from 2014

  1. We have similar taste in books! I LOVED 11/22/63; and it delights me to tell you that it was a book club pick for my group a couple of years ago! It was one of our most rousing discussions, and the book earned almost unanimous high praise from all of us. So much fun. Hope your reading list in ’15 is full of great stuff!

    • That makes me laugh about the book club. Everyone actually read it? I imagine once you start you can’t stop with that one, even though it’s SO long. Thanks, and looking forward to sharing reads on GoodReads. It did look like we have similar tastes!

  2. I picked five to write about for the blog, but my very favorite of the year was probably The Nesting Place, followed by Hannah Coulter. Their themes are similar, when I think about it. I enjoyed your list. So fun to read everyone’s posts. 🙂

    • I am going to have to pick up The Nesting Place one of these days. I love the Nester and her space and her personality! I read Jayber Crow this year, but it wasn’t really up my alley. Is Hannah Coulter similar?

      • Sorry, the notification that you replied went to spam! Just saw this! 🙂 Yeah, I get the impression the books are similar. So maybe Hannah Coulter is a no. But yes to Nester!!

  3. I love these lists! Loved loved loved 11/22/63. I picked up the first Flavia de Luce at my local Goodwill for 2 bucks recently. I keep seeing them recommended so I couldn’t pass it up. I almost bought the kindle version of The Invention of Wings, but saw all the negative review about Oprah’s notes. Lol. It came up for me at the library the very next day. I’m still having trouble with it though. I read so many sad slave novels there for a while, I actually don’t know if my heart can take this. But it’s been on my to-read list forever. I’m torn. Can you believe that the Atlanta library system does not have a single copy of the Sea of Tranquility? Still!

    • Aw, that is a bummer! The Chattanooga library is awesome about ordering stuff for you that they don’t have, but it’s a fairly small system. I think the first Flavia book is only $1.99 for Kindle permanently, but I almost wish I had them all in hand so I could reread and lend out to my heart’s desire. I can see that on Invention of Wings. It’s hard to read about the inequality that happened and still happens in our own country.

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