Favorite books in 2014

Thinking back over the past year, there are several books that stand out in my mind.  Some years it is difficult to pick favorites, but not this year.  Although I enjoyed many books, a few were “head and shoulders” above the rest.

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New** fiction:  a tie between The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

I loved The Goldfinch so much that my children bought it for me in hardcover for Christmas. The prose is luminous, the story is gripping, and in the end, there is redemption.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  Now that I own the book, I can re-read it slowly and drink in all of Donna Tartt’s lovely descriptions and poignant,but never saccharine, moments.

Anthony Doerr writes about France in World War II and, amazingly, makes you care about both the French girl and the German boy about whom he centers his story.  In the end, you find yourself hoping that both of them will make it out alive and question whether they really are on opposite sides.

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Classics:  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

How I missed reading this book over the last thirty years, I will never know, but I loved every second of it when I finally opened it up this summer.  A coming of age story of a bookish, imaginative girl in early 20th century Brooklyn.

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Non-Fiction: The Magic Apple Tree: a County Year by Susan Hill

As soon as I read the first page, I knew it was going to be one of those books that you don’t want to end.  So I read it very slowly, savoring each page, like a fine wine, one tiny sip at a time, until at last, it was finished.  I will definitely read this one again and again.  Although I wish I had it in hardcover, the kindle edition was readily available and in my budget.  Perhaps one day, I will own this one in hardback, too.

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Series: The Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries by Louise Penny

This was the only difficult choice this year.  I almost chose Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series instead but, in the end, Louise Penny’s books about Armand Gamache were my top choice because they are so much more than your typical mystery novel.  Ms. Penny has brought Armand Gamache, along with his wife Reine-Marie, his co-workers, and the delightfully eccentric residents of Three Pines, to life.  The books are complex character studies, amazingly well-written, and thoroughly satisfying mysteries.  I have only read the first six in the series but as each one is better than the last, I am looking forward to reading more of these in the coming year.

All in all, 2014 was an excellent year for reading.

**Written in the last few years as opposed to classics

An overview of my reading life in 2014

 

One of the things I like most about Goodreads is that I am so much better about keeping track of what I’ve read.  In the past I would jot down a book title and perhaps the author in a notebook but, more often than not, I would forget to write it down, and as a result I never really had a good record of my reading habits.  Regularly adding to Goodreads has changed all that.  Now I know how many books I read and can review my progress from month to month.  Overall 2014 was a good reading year although I can see areas of weakness that I’d like to address in the future.

In 2014 I read 109 books, 10 of which were audiobooks.  I am in the car for several hours a week and listening to audiobooks helps me to redeem that time.  Out of the 109, only ten were non-fiction.  That is the lowest percentage of non-fiction books (only 9% non-fiction!) that I can remember reading for many, many years, and I would like to see that be a much higher percentage.  I started several non-fiction books but didn’t finish them.  A better balance of book types is something to consider as I think about my 2015 reading goals.

I had hoped to read more modern books this year and I did:  13 of the books were published in 2014 and 14 were published in 2013 so 25% of my reading was books published recently.  I want to do the same again this year.

I read part or all of several series, my first graphic novel, a handful of classics, a bunch of World War I fiction (2014 was the centennial of the start of the War to End All Wars), and, as always, lots and lots of mysteries.  Now to go think about what goals I’d like to set for my reading in 2015.