It’s that time of year! Assessment! List-making! Summing up the last twelve glorious months of reading time!
So I can share the Ten Best Books I read in 2014!!
Of course, I read a lot of great books this year, and they weren’t all published in 2014. But I pick my ten best from the past twelve months, regardless of publication date.
Last year, I didn’t take the time to type up my list of books read, I simply listed my ten favorites — but this year, I decided you should know what I’m choosing from. So first, I will share the titles of the books I read this year, and then I’ll reveal which ones made my Top Ten List.
Let’s get the party started.
Books I Read in 2014 (mostly in the order in which I read them)
1. The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel (2009) [nonfiction]
2. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (2012) [mainstream novel]
3. Hopeless, by Colleen Hoover (2012) [New Adult/NA novel by a self-publishing author turned superstar]
4. City of Thieves, by David Benioff (2008) [literary fiction]
5. The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt (2000) [this literary novel is NOTHING like the Tom Cruise movie]
6. Divergent, by Veronica Roth (2011) [dystopian YA novel]
7. Claire of the Sea Light, by Edwidge Danticat (2013) [literary fiction]
8. Queen of Hearts, by Colleen Oakes (2014) [YA fantasy novel]
9. Prize Stories 1999: The O. Henry Awards, published 1999 (award-winning short stories)
10. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero (2013) [self-help book]
11. Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple (2012) [epistolary novel]
12. Old Bones, by Gregory Picard and Wendy Picard Gorham (2013) [mystery novel by father & daughter indie authors]
13. People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman, by Richard Lloyd Parry (2012) [nonfiction]
14. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (2013) [NA novel]
15. Lungs Full of Noise (short stories), by Tessa Mellas (2013) [Iowa Short Fiction Award Winner]
16. Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell (2011) [NA novel]
17. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller (1961) [literary fiction]
18. The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin (2012) [literary fiction]
19. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott (1994) [nonfiction]
20. Dreams of Gods and Monsters, by Laini Taylor (2014) [YA fantasy novel]
21. The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion (2013) [mainstream novel]
22. Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (2007) [memoir]
23. Ignited Hearts Inspiring Hope: Women Sharing Journeys of Awakening (2014) [nonfiction; indie group of authors/editors]
24. The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown, by Paul Taylor (2014) [nonfiction]
25. Man Walks into a Room, by Nicole Krauss (2002) [literary fiction]
26. Red Rising, by Pierce Brown (2014) [dystopian YA novel]
27. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, by Jennifer Senior (2014) [nonfiction]
28. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson (2013) [literary fiction]
29. The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank (2000) [This book of short stories was a reread; I first read this in 2004]
30. Orange Is the New Black: One Year in a Women’s Prison, by Piper Kerman (2010) [memoir]
31. Dirty Love (four stories), by Andre Dubus III (2014) [literary fiction]
32. No B.S. Sales Success, by Dan Kennedy (2004) [This nonfiction book was a reread; I first read this in 2004]
33. Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis (2014) [nonfiction]
34. Couldn’t Keep It to Myself: Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution, edited by Wally Lamb (2003) [nonfiction/memoir]
35. Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America, by Catherine Ryan Howard (2011) [memoir; indie author]
36. Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi (2014) [literary fiction]
37. The Giver, by Lois Lowry (1993) [dystopian YA novel]
38. Hard Twisted, by C. Joseph Greaves (2012) [literary fiction]
39. The Secrets of a Fire King (short stories), by Kim Edwards (1997) [literary fiction]
40. The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert (2013) [literary fiction]
41. Mousetrapped: A Year and a Bit in Orlando, Florida, by Catherine Ryan Howard (2011) [memoir; indie author]
42. The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss (2005) [literary fiction]
43. The Aging Athlete: What We Do to Stay in the Game, by Martha McClellan (2014) [nonfiction; indie author]
44. Re-Making Love: The Feminization of Sex, by Barbara Ehrenreich (1986) [nonfiction]
45. Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, by Barbara Ehrenreich (1997) [nonfiction]
46. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (1991) [I read this historical fiction/time-travel novel twice, one reading right after the other]
47. Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2), by Diana Gabaldon (1992) [historical fiction/time-travel]
48. Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game, by Mark Edmundson (2014) [memoir]
49. The Shopkeeper and the Traveler, by J.D. Hanning (2014) [time-travel novel; indie author]
50. Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty that Sparked a National Debate, by Helen Prejean (1994) [memoir]
51. The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (2011) [women’s fiction]
52: Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty (2008) [nonfiction]
53. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters (2014) [literary fiction]
54. Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton (1911) [literary fiction]
55. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (2003) [women’s fiction/literary fiction]
56. One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd (a novel), by Jim Fergus (1998) [historical fiction]
57. The New Psycho-Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz (first written in 1960) [self-help]
58. Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, by Byron Katie (2003) [self-help and a reread; I first read this book in 2004 and 2005]
59. What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, by Daniel Bergner (2013) [nonfiction]
One thing I’ll say for my list — there is some variety there. Fiction, nonfiction, YA, NA, short stories, and memoir. Indie authors as well as traditionally-published writers. I don’t read cookbooks, or middle grade fiction, or books by celebrities… but everything else is fair game.
Any book that was “a reread” in 2014 doesn’t qualify for making my list of best books for 2014 — because the fact I’m rereading them is proof enough they’re great books. And if I’d been blogging 10 years ago, those rereads would have been on my top ten list for prior years, not 2014.
Also: I’m not putting Psycho-Cybernetics on my top ten list because I’ve been a Tony Robbins addict for years (especially since leaving teaching in 2011 to be a full-time writer), and Tony Robbins uses Maxwell Maltz a lot in his work. Maxwell Maltz is amazing, his work is amazing, and if you’re a Tony Robbins addict like me, you’ll “hear” Tony Robbins when you read Maxwell Maltz. Psycho-Cybernetics is a great book, a book I wish I’d been able to read in high school — because I was pretty much a train wreck in high school and college, self-esteem-wise, though I did manage to survive all 8 of those years.
But those would have been much better years if I’d had a copy of Psycho-Cybernetics when I was twelve.
So Psycho-Cybernetics gets its own special place in the pantheon — a place of honor for inspiring my favorite guru ever, Tony Robbins, to be who he is.
Now on to my ten favorite reads of 2014 —
Okay. It’s time.
Number Ten — You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero (2013)
This is such a fun book! And my inspiration for a couple of different blog posts this year. Plus, I got to meet Jen Sincero in Albuquerque this year. She’s awesomely funny. And her book is delightful. *hugs* to this book!
Number Nine — City of Thieves, by David Benioff (2008)
This novel is amazing, and it features one of the most badass women I’ve ever met in a book. I fell in love with Vika as much as the main character does (and he falls for her hard). This story takes place during the siege of Leningrad, when 17-year-old Lev Beniov (the mc) is arrested for looting a dead German soldier. Along with a fellow prisoner, he’s tasked with the impossible: finding a dozen eggs in a city full of people starving to death. If they don’t find those eggs — to be used in a wedding cake of a Soviet colonel’s daughter — they lose their ration cards. This is the skeleton of the plot of City of Thieves, a story full of sex, violence, the horrors of war, and this total badass woman who I LOVE. Long live Vika. I’m so glad she’s immortal because she was born in a book.
Number Eight — Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (2007)
This book was a game-changer for me. It made me look at Islam in new ways. It also made me feel like my hair had turned white because reading about female genital mutilation from a survivor is a horrifying experience. This memoir is gripping, especially the first half of the book. The final third of the story, detailing her flight from Europe to the United States, was less interesting than reading about her youth in Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere — including how she fled her arranged marriage to strike out on her own. I love this book. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is smart and tough, and so is her memoir. A brilliant read.
Number Seven — Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
I *loved* Eleanor & Park (which I read last year) and I *really* loved Fangirl. It’s a novel that stars a writer, for one. And two, there is Levi. Levi. It’s been months since I read this book, and I am still crushing on Levi. SO much. If you haven’t read the book, and you want to know what’s up with Levi, please read Literary Crush: Levi from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. That short, sweet post even contains some gorgeous, gorgeous artwork of Levi and Cath kissing and being all swoony together. If you haven’t read anything by Rainbow Rowell yet — you are missing out on some serious joy. Her books are heavenly. I’d suggest reading Eleanor & Park first, and then Fangirl. Because Levi. Levi is awesome.
Number Six — Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, by Barbara Ehrenreich (1997)
A truly beautiful, brilliant, and amazing book. Love it, love it, love it. One of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read. These pages explain so much, not just about war, but human beings everywhere. A magnificent book full of research and enlightenment. (And oh my God how I *LOVE* Barbara Ehrenreich. So much author-love for her — she is one of my favorite writers Of All Time. Brilliant. She is simply brilliant.)
Number Five — What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, by Daniel Bergner (2013)
Please be warned, this book is not for people who get easily enraged when conventional wisdom is questioned. In fact, if you are someone who cherishes conventional wisdom, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. Bake brownies, walk the dog, call a relative, play with the baby, watch a movie, read your Facebook wall, do the dishes. But DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. Because What Do Women Want? is the most empowering book I’ve read in a long time. Why do I love this book so much? Because women are amazing. Because understanding desire is key to understanding who we are, as women, as men, as transgender people. And that’s all this book is doing– talking about how science blinded itself for so long, and how some scientists are taking off their blinders. There are so many things I learned in this book. So. Many. Things. This book is awesome. Melt-my-brain awesome.
Number Four — All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, by Jennifer Senior (2014)
Wow. WOW. I LOVED reading this book. Beautifully written, insightful, and full of superb information. The stories shared by family members in this book, as well as the research information Jennifer Senior provides for her readers, make this one of the very best books I have read in a long time. This is an exquisite read! I say YES to this book. SO MUCH YES to this book! Read it, read it, read it. It’s worth every second of your time.
Number Three — Dreams of Gods and Monsters, by Laini Taylor (2014)
This book ends the trilogy that began with Daughter of Smoke and Bone — and this novel freaking ROCKS. *heart-pounding beauty right here* Plus the cover rules. I love this book. I love this book so much. If you haven’t read this trilogy yet — then what are you doing reading my blog post?? Go read these books!!
Number Two — Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis (2014)
Man, this book is GOOD. Good good GOOD. I’m in love with Brad Katsuyama and his Robin Hood team. In LOVE. I was outraged to read about Sergey Aleynikov’s arrest and prison sentence– eight years in federal prison for an innocent man. This nonfiction book about the U.S. financial markets had my pulse pounding faster than a thriller. Because this is all TRUE!!! Gahhhh!!! Michael Lewis is just so phenomenal. His books are amazing. Flash Boys is a brilliant, amazing read. Long live Michael Lewis, and the incredible human beings he writes about. Brave, compassionate, and full of integrity. His books are always about good and evil, presented in their most thrilling, nuanced best. I’m rooting for IEX. I so want this stock exchange to succeed!! GO IEX! GO IEX!!
Number One — Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (1991)
This book is amazing. So much WOW for this book. I devoured this novel, and then immediately read it again. I also watched the first 8 episodes of Season 1/Book 1 that debuted on Starz this summer and fall. I’ll be tuning in to watch the second 8 episodes of Season 1/Book 1 of Outlander in April 2015. I might have a major crush on Levi in Fangirl, I might totally swoon for Vika in City of Thieves, but I have *massive* love and worship for Jamie and Claire in Outlander. Like, build-a-shrine-in-my-room kind of worship. Like, weeping and sobbing in ecstasy, I love this book so much adoration and JOY. (The freak is in the house when it comes to me and this novel.)
In reflecting on my Top Ten List for 2014 —
I have four fiction titles, and six nonfiction titles. One nonfiction title is a self-help book.
Last year, my choices were split equally: five fiction titles, and five nonfiction titles.
Something else I can’t help but notice — none of the books I’ve chosen (this year or last) were published by indie authors. [Side note: *I* am an indie author.]
Yeah, I’ll just sit with that for a while.
Cause I know I’m in a business writing stories that compete with all of these fantastic books — written by people I revere as gods — (er, I mean I revere them as gods in a non-psycho-way… more like a worshipful-adoration way… okay, maybe I am just the teensiest bit psycho about these authors — or a lot — um, yeah, probably a lot psycho) —
But not everyone has to be psycho over an author to love a book. In fact, most people do *not* operate this way, and that’s probably a good thing. Because I definitely feel like Gollum with his Precious when it comes to me and my books.
So here’s the thing. I’ll self-publish Mark of the Pterren in 2015. And maybe — just maybe — someone will love that sci-fi story so much that it will be one of their Top Ten reads of 2015. (Which will probably only happen because they don’t have 58 other books to choose from, but Details. A girl’s gotta have a little hope she can compete with the big dogs, no? Mount Olympus looks pretty darn nice to us mortals.)
Diana Gabaldon, Michael Lewis, Laini Taylor… these authors are in a different class than me. They are the heavyweights, and I’m the puny high school kid who weighs 92 pounds and dreams of a title one day.
*must go lift weights now*
*lifting lifting lifting*
Here were the books I wanted to read this year, but didn’t get a chance to —
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson (YA, 2014)
Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay (essays, 2014)
Redeployment, by Phil Kay (stories, 2014)
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth E. Wein (YA, 2012)
Looks like I’ve got my next month’s reading lined up. *happy grin*
So. Dearest Thought Candy reader — what about you? What were your favorite reads this year? And what are you looking forward to reading in 2015? I hope you’ll share!