Here are a couple of caveats about this list: It includes books written for children, teens, and adults, as well as fiction and nonfiction. It doesn’t include any picture books, because while I read (and love) a ton of them every year, I haven’t yet figured out a rating and reviewing system that makes keeping track of all of the ones I’ve read in a year easy for me. It doesn’t include only books published in 2014. It’s not written in any particular order. It doesn’t include books I re-read this year. If you click on the book cover, it will take you to my Goodreads review of the book. Without further ado, here are my 10 favorite books of 2014:
1. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Beautifully written and deeply affecting, I absolutely adored this book. This was even more surprising to me because I am not normally a big fan of books written in verse. But this book felt perfect, and it’s one I hope will win big come Newbery time.
2. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. This is a book that’s all about what’s happening under the surface. No one can say what they mean and there are deep, aching moments of misunderstanding and reading between the lines and ridiculous societal constraints that make you feel sad. I just lived in this book while reading it, and it made me want to go out and read everything Wharton ever wrote.
3. Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff. This is another book I hope gets recognized come Newbery time. Albie is just such a wonderful main character–so full of love and hope and good intentions. I read this back in July, but if I think about it too hard I can still start to tear up. Also, every parent of young children should go out immediately and read this book. Just perfection.
4. 84, Charring Cross Road by Helene Hanff. One of those books that you want to recommend to every bibliophile you know the second you finish it. So full of charm and a love of books and a wonderful voice. Everyone that I have recommended it to has also loved it, and I’ve heard the movie is quite charming as well.
5. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candace Millard. When I finished this, I realized I am in no way cut out for an adventure down the Amazon. I also realized why so many people cite Teddy Roosevelt as their favorite president. Reading about the larger-than-life man and his crazy journey down the The River of Doubt (which is also the best name for a river ever, in my opinion) was a joy. Candace Millard is one of my favorite nonfiction writers and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
6. The Observations by Jane Harris. A Gothic story full of madness and ghosts and mystery. It also managed to be both lovely and charming, due to the fresh, funny voice of the main character, Bessy.
7. The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming. This was both an excellent overview of what life was like for the last of the Romanovs and what it was like to be a peasant in imperial Russia. Fleming gets into the politics of the time in a way that is illuminating, but not overwhelming. It made me want to read more, more, more about the subject, which is the highest compliment I can give to a nonfiction book.
8. Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxanne Gay. Not only does this have a fabulous title, but it’s also a great read about what it means to be a feminist, or a bad feminist, in today’s world. Gay looks at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and more, and also delves deeply into pop-culture and how it informs our understanding of feminism. As someone who considers myself a feminist, but also likes some problematic things, I really enjoyed Gay’s message.
9. Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan. This is a very last-minute addition to the list, as I only read it on December 31st, but it was just such an enjoyable book I have to share it. Looking at 200 years of Jane Austen’s covers shows you the trends of publishing at the time, and will make you want to go out and buy some of these beautiful books if you’re a Jane Austen fan. Lovely.
10. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Another book that just really stuck with me and that I want people to read so that we can talk about it. I love stories about stories and the infallibility of memory and how we perceive things versus how other people do. This book hit all of those marks and then some.
So those are my books! There are many more that could have made this list–it was a great reading year.