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 →
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 →
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 →
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. Courtney says:

    Hatching Twitter also made my favorites list this year! All The Light We Cannot See and Five Days at Memorial are both on my to-read list for 2015. As always, love your blog and love hearing about what you’re reading! 🙂

  2. Jeanne says:

    I also loved (!!) I capture the castle – think I read it based on your recommendation or Kindle deal…

    Other favourites:
    We are all completely beside ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
    Tibetan Peach Pie – Tom Robbins’ memoir
    Life after Life – Kate Atkinson
    The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
    If I stay- Gayle Forma (YA)

  3. Ronica Smith says:

    I’ve added a few of these to my reading list for 2015. After I finish Outlander, of course. I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, with work and school and all, but I’m reading much more than I had the past few years. And now that a friend turned me onto audio books I’m getting even more “reading” time in!
    I started Outlander about the same time you did, and while I usually tear through books, I’ve only made it to the middle of book #5. Everyone talks about Voyager being their favorite of the series, but so far Drums of Autumn has been my favorite, hands down.

  4. Arenda says:

    I love this reading roundup, Anne! Just put All The Light We Cannot See on hold at the library and I’m number 200 on the list! Guess a lot of others have heard good things about it, too! 🙂

  5. Kayris says:

    Another vote for Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

    According to goodreads, I read 178 books so far this year.

    I discovered the “dead end job mystery” series by Elaine Viets. A good light cozy series.

    Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult.

    Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

    Day After Night by Anita Diamant

    The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

    I read a lot of excellent YA fiction, including Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, the Partials series by Dan Wells, The Tyrants Daughter by JC Carleson, the Legend series (Marie Lu) and Exposure (Kathy and Brendan Reichs).

  6. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for this great post, Anne. (I realized I’d somehow left 5 Days at Memorial off my own list in my post so I went in & added it!) The Doerr book is my next must-read — I’ve heard so much about it. Thanks for so many good book suggestions this past year; many of the ones I’ve read were mentioned on MMD.

  7. Anne says:

    Whoo-hoo! I have been looking forward to this linkup. 🙂 I kept my list to five since I only read 24 books. I thought that would force me to think of my favorites more, which I wanted. I finished Peace Like a River on Christmas Eve, and I really loved so much of it. I should not have read the ending while little ones clamored for my attention in a loud living room. Oh, well. Still beautiful. Thanks for the fun, Anne! Oh, and I started Outlander, too.

  8. I’ve been wondering how Hatching Twitter compares to Things a Little Bird Told Me? Have you read that one by Biz Stone? I don’t know much about the story, so does the betrayal happen between Biz Stone and Nick Bilton? I remember listening to an interview between Dan Pink and Biz Stone, and it was really interesting.

    • Anne says:

      Will and I both read Hatching Twitter and both loved it. He read Things a Little Bird Told Me and told me not to bother. His take was too much motivational puff and not enough substance. (I did enjoy that interview though!)

  9. Dana says:

    Thanks, Anne,
    Peace Like A River is on my top 5 books ever! Leif Enger’s other book, So Young, Brave and Handsome is also quite good. His brother Lin Enger has a book out called The High Divide. I got it for Christmas. It was highly recommended by the guy at our local indie bookstore.

    I have All the Light We Cannot see on my Kindle ( thanks to you!) waiting to be read. I Capture The Castle has been on my radar for a while. I will add it to the list.

    I have Team of Rivals but I have not read it yet either.I read The Bully Pulpit by Goodwin this year. I enjoyed that a lot. I learned a lot about T. Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Also her book No Ordinary Time about Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt is very good.

    My best of 2013 list was hard to winnow down, but here goes:

    The Bully Pulpit

    Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury ( this had been out of print but was re-iisued this year) Great book on writing.

    Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby This is a compilation of his articles on the books he purchases and reads each month, originally publish in The Believer magazine.

    Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Gorgeous, beautiful language in this novel. This is a book that must be read slowly and savored. I got her new book Lila for Christmas.

    Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan. Non-fiction about Edward Custis who took photos of Native Americans as many of the tribes were disappearing.

    Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman About the true race around the world by 2 women inspired by Jules Verne’s novel.

    Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall. novel set in Mississippi in the 60’s.

    The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

    Also The Invention of Wings, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The Rosie Project and A Man Called Ove.

  10. liz n. says:

    Not counting my annual re-reads of Watership Down, Potter, and LOTR…

    Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, The Mote in God’s Eye, Peace Like a River, American Gods, Culloden Tales, The Penelopiad, English Passengers, Wash, and Heroes and Heretics all stand out from this years’ reading.

  11. Beth says:

    I loved Things We Couldn’t Say be Diet Emans, Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry, Galatians for you by Timothy Keller, and Parnassus on Wheels. I also devoured the Charles Todd mysteries this year…both Inspector Rutledge and the Bess ones.

  12. Sarah says:

    Capture the Castle has been my favorite book since my mom gave me a copy in 8th grade. Hands down, the best book I’ve ever read. I didn’t realize it’s history as one of the first YA novels! Astonish Me has been on my to read list for a few months. I just added Team of Rivals!

  13. Rachel says:

    So glad to see you loved Peace Like a River! That’s usually the one I tell people is my favorite book (although, as you know, choosing a single favorite is nearly impossible).

  14. Dawn says:

    Anne, it was this post/link up last year that first led me to your blog! It has been a great year of enjoying all the book love (and other awesome discussions) here. Thanks for your efforts and I look forward to what you have in store for 2015!

    p.s. We share many favorite reads this year.

  15. Cassie says:

    I have read none of these! On to the TBR pile they go! I have All the Light floating around here somewhere, I got it ages ago. Everyone seems to be loving it these days.

  16. Lisa says:

    One of my favorites from this year was a non-fiction book: The Nesting Place by Myquilllyn Smith. I absolutely loved that book; as I increasingly desire to surround myself with fewer things (whether clothes or decor or household gadgets) but more things that I truly love, this book helped me have a new appreciation for my home. It is so much more than *just* a decorating book.

  17. MissJelic says:

    Great suggestions! Rushed to the library and was able to get 3 of them, reading Five Days at Memorial” right now, while I make dinner.

  18. It’s been several years (at least 5, I think) since my best friend bought me I Capture the Castle for Christmas and I ate it up. Now I want to read it again! I have All the Light We Cannot See on reserve on Overdrive, hoping to get it soon from our library. I had a hard, hard time cutting down my list to 10 this year. Some of your runners-up would be mine, too, although 11/22/63 was my #1 for the year.

    • Anne says:

      Your #1 for the year, wow! I didn’t mention this in the post, but I coincidentally read Team of Rivals right after 11/22/63, which was realllly trippy, since Goodwin speculates just a teeny tiny bit at the end of Team of Rivals on how different history would be if Lincoln had lived. Now I want to go read both books again!

  19. Kirsten says:

    I’ve been trying to narrow down my top five all week, so I’m really glad to see your list. Thank you for a wonderful year of reading, as I’ve read (and loved!) many of your recommendations this year. So in no particular order, The Book Thief (in my top 3 of all time, by the way), What Alice Forgot, Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood, and The Secret Garden are definitely top five material. I can’t decide on a fifth, though, so my honorable mentions, to steal your term, go to The Rosie Project, The Language of Flowers, Attachments, Doctor Sleep, and Something Other Than God (if you add in Eleanor and Park, I guess I’ve given you my top ten).

    • Kirsten says:

      And I just finished Outlander today, so I have to thank you (I think?!) for suggesting the series. I really look forward to the rest, but it’s too fresh for me to add to a favorites list yet. I suspect it will be there in a month, though.

      • Anne says:

        I understand the “I think” part! And I understand about the “too fresh” bit—it can take me months to decide what I really think about a book.

        • Kirsten says:

          I’m making out my goals and to-dos for the year, and I’m wondering if it’s reasonable to put all life on hold for the month of January so I can just read straight through the next seven!

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for sharing! That sounds like a great list. I haven’t read The Book Thief, Stone Mattress, or Doctor Sleep but I thoroughly enjoyed the others.

      • Kirsten says:

        No, I really don’t think you’d need to re-read it. Honestly, I think one could thoroughly enjoy the book without ever having read The Shining. Of course, it’s more enjoyable with full knowledge of the backstory, but King gives plenty of information to make revisiting it first unnecessary.

  20. Becca says:

    I heard so many rave reviews about All the Light We Cannot See, I snatched it up when Amazon had their 30% off; I figured if it is as good as all that I’d want it on our bookshelf! Can’t wait to starting it 🙂 Great list and thanks for the Link up!

  21. 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

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

  25. 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! 🙂

  26. 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:)

  27. 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!

  28. 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…

  29. 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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