My favorite books of 2014.

My favorite books of 2014.

Today I’m sharing the best books I read in 2014. These are the books I read in 2014 that I enjoyed the most, regardless of publication year.

(Not in order. It was hard enough to make this list already!)

I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle

Author:
Claims to fame: this is the “original YA novel,” with one of the best narrators in English literature. We hear the story of this eccentric 1930s English family—struggling to make ends meet in a tumbledown castle—through the eyes of 17-year-old Cassandra—bright, witty, and wise beyond her years. Replete with love, magic, writer’s block, and bear costumes. More info →
Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River

Author:
You all kept telling me to read this and I’m so glad I finally listened. The jacket description didn’t sound interesting to me, so don’t worry if it doesn’t sound good to you either. Just pick it up and start reading and you’ll be hooked. A beautiful, mesmerizing book for fans of Wendell Berry, Marilynne Robinson, and Amor Towles. More info →
Astonish Me

Astonish Me

I enjoyed this book at the time, yet I didn’t expect it to end up on my Best Of lists. But the story and characters have stuck with me for months. Spanning 30 years, told from 4 different viewpoints, this novel swept me into the world of classical ballet—a world I didn’t know I’d been longing to enter. The Times hated it, but nevermind that.

(A warning: check all your preconceptions about good girl ballerinas. There’s lots of language, and so much cocaine.)

More info →
Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal

Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal

Author:
This deeply-researched, fascinating glimpse into twitter’s early days has the pacing of a good novel and is rich with interesting insights into social media, the larger web, start-up culture, and human nature. You can’t make this stuff up—but if you tried, you could only hope to invent anecdotes as bizarre and readable as the ones in this account. Recommended reading for Jon Krakauer fans—and anyone who spends much time on social media. More info →
Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint

All the clichés about “a breath of fresh air” apply: this memoir was fresh and unexpected and utterly surprising. I didn’t know that “pastrix” was a word before I sat down to read, but it’s a term used by some Christians to describe female pastors they don’t recognize as such. A wildly irreverent, profanity-filled spiritual memoir, filled with humor, f-bombs, and grace. Not everyone’s cup of tea. More info →
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

Author:
A brilliant, difficult book—easy to read, but the content will make you want to weep for humanity. This meticulously researched, journalistic account of what went down in the aftermath of Katrina reads like a novel and won the Pulitzer to boot. So good and so readable, but so very sad. More info →
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Speaking of books that make you cry: Goodwin brings history to life in the (800+!) pages of this historical narrative. The first hundred pages or so are slow-going, but those who hang with it will be rewarded.

I had no idea how much I didn’t know about Lincoln and the Civil War, and I’m grateful for my new deeper, richer appreciation of the near-miraculous Lincoln administration and the unspeakable tragedy of his assassination. I cried like a baby at the end: for the man, for his family, for the South, for our country. “Now he belongs to the ages.”

More info →
Voyager

Voyager

Author:
I devoured all the Outlander books this fall. I hate picking favorites, but this might just be my most-loved of the eight so far, if only because at page 1 I couldn’t understand how Gabaldon could possibly resume her story where book 2 ended and take it in any direction at all that made me not hate her. It works. I’m impressed. More info →
All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

Author:
A captivating story, well-told. The characters in this war novel are fascinating and altogether unexpected, and the book’s setting couldn’t be lovelier: much of the action takes place in Saint-Malo, France, a unique walled port city on the English Channel. An intelligent, detailed, literary novel that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. More info →

Honorable mention to some great books I really enjoyed in 2014 that didn’t quite make the cut: The Rosie Project, One Plus One, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, 11/22/63, and Cinder.

My favorite books of 2014 from Modern Mrs Darcy. These are the 9 best books I read in 2014, regardless of publication year.

What were the best books you read in 2014? Link up below or post your favorites to comments.

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96 comments

  1. Maryalene says:

    Years ago, I read Peace Like A River when our library system picked it for their ‘One County, One Book’ program. Like you, I didn’t think it sounded interesting at all. However, it really was a great read!

    For this year, I Capture the Castle (read at your recommendation) is probably my top pick.

    After that, Life As We Knew It is a book I just can’t get out of my mind. The science behind it may be questionable but I found the story riveting.

    Rounding out my top five are:

    Emily of New Moon
    The Scorch Trials
    The Daring Ladies of Lowell

  2. Beth Anne says:

    I loved Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum. It tells the story of several different teenagers who live in a home for people with disabilities from their perspective. Nussbaum is so creative and real in the way she portrays each character, the way they communicate, how they understand the world around them. It’s such a unique book and also a quick read because the language is simple. I think you’d enjoy it.

    Also, I’m loving the StartUp Podcast too. So great! I love the conversations Alex and Nazanin have with each other. I hope they start producing more podcasts with a similar bent – just real-life, honest stories.

  3. Becki says:

    Anne, my 2014 favorites included several books you recommended during the year. I re-read Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner – what a great read. It made me think a lot of other fiction I had read was junk, why was I wasting my time?! Now I’m re-reading Angle of Repose and planning to read as many other Stegner novels as I can. And I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gaskell – I had read the Cranford series but picked up Wives and Daughters (loved it!) and North and South (good, preferred Wives). Loved Eleanor and Park.
    Do you read travel memoirs? I loved Into the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O’Hanlon – fun and funny. He traveled into the middle of the island some 30 years ago, and it’s still a great read. Happy New Year and thanks for the reading recommendations!

  4. Katherine says:

    I have only found your website about two months ago and I’m loving it! Some of your posts are not relevant at the time as I’m in Australia but in six months I’ll understand! 🙂

    I owned I capture the castle as a young adult and never read it. I started a couple of times but couldn’t get into it so I gave the book away. After reading your post I purchased it again! From a second hand bookstore. Fingers crossed!

    Your blog has also made me realise that I need to log the books I read as I can not give you a list of my favourites from last year….. Keep going with the book thief though. I put it down and picked it up a few months later and wished I hadn’t stopped before! Also, he is an Australian writer too. The book thief was one of his first adult fiction books. He does some kick ass YA fiction too. Particularly for boys.

    Anyway thanks for the awesome blog, tips and ideas!

  5. My favorites from 2014 were EUPHORIA by Lily King and ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. I also really enjoyed LIFE DRAWING by Robin Black (and many, many others, of course). I don’t know why, but I didn’t care for ASTONISH ME. I’m glad you liked it though! 🙂

  6. lulu64 says:

    I had to read Peace Like A River in college (over a decade ago) and the sentence “We crept through the town like a fat boy through a pack of wolves” has stuck with me ever since. I may have misremembered a word or so, but it’s one of my favorite sentences I’ve ever read.

    Loved loved loved Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty I honestly don’t read much non-fiction or memoir type books, but these were both extremely interesting/entertaining. And I finally read A Tree Grows in Brookly – HOW HAVE I LIVED THIS LONG AND NOT READ THIS WONDER?

      • lulu64 says:

        As soon as I finished it I called my mom and said, “Have you read this?! It’s great!” and she said it was one of her favorites. Mothers are very wise, apparently.

        • Deirdre says:

          A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was a favorite of my mom as well, and she gave it to me. I always dreamed of having a little girl named Francie, but I had all three sons—so the youngest is named Nolan:)

  7. Deirdre says:

    Your blog was one of my favorite discoveries of 2014 (thanks to Tsh’s podcast). Somehow I missed this post though. My post is at: http://www.deirdreokeatingblog.com/2015/01/best-of-2014-books.html

    I definitely had a better nonfiction year than fiction, even though I prefer a good novel. I bet you’ve already read it, but Wonder by P.J. Palacio, which I read aloud with my boys, was better than the “grownup” novels I read.

    Peace Like a River has been on my shelf for years—but now I’m finally motivated. Thanks!

  8. Emily Childress-Campbell says:

    I Capture the Castle is one of my all time favorites! (I also love the movie adaptation.)
    For those who loved Life After Life, you will be excited to know that the companion novel, A God in Ruins is coming out in May. From what I can tell it’s the same story told from Teddy’s perspective.

    • Anne says:

      I haven’t seen the movie yet. I want to, but I’m afraid to because I loved the book so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it; that makes me feel better. 🙂

      A God in Ruins sounds interesting…

  9. Bev Brandon says:

    First-time visitor from Emily’s CATS blog. Riveting post. I feel like I’m walking into a knock-dead enchanting Narnia that’s about to come alive. Being torn to read in so many different directions. I’ve never known so many book lovers—and I’m in a book club. My fav 2014 book from our tiny club of ten: “Severe Mercy” by Vanauken ~ I have thawed out so much since I read this book years ago. My fav book last year: “Unbroken” – God dried up a sea of suffering for Zamperini. Hillenbrand is a white-hot writer. Thanks for post. Feel like I’ve walked into a spacious room filled with hope, suffering, & necessities.

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