I thought I'd sandwich my Best Books of 2014 post between my 2014 recap to break things up a bit. As of now, I've read 68 books this year, which is fewer than the 79 books I read in 2013 (which was an abnormally high number and a signal of how much time I spent alone), but far more than my goal of 52. Here are my favorites of the year in no particular order!
1. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch - This is a memoir written by a woman who battled the crippling grief of losing her sister by reading a book a day for an entire year. She learns a lot about herself in the process and most importantly, finds healing. It sort of reminded me of "The End of Your Life Book Club". I loved this quote from the final pages: "The only answer to sorrow is to live. To live looking backward, remembering the ones we have lost, but also looking forward, with anticipation and excitement. And to pass on those feelings of hope and possibility through acts of kindness, generosity, and compassion."
2. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein - I bought this book off of one of those BookBub eBook deal of the day emails as I was drawn to it after reading Shoshanah's review. It's about WWII but unlike most of the books I've read about that era, this book was set in Japan. If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend this book.
3. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent - This book is dark and can be described as slow moving at times but I loved it so much as the writing was so good. It's set in the 1820s and is about a woman who has been charged with the murder of her master. She is sent to live with a family on a farm until her death by hanging. It was a chilling read for me.
4. The Vacationers by Emma Straub - This is another book that was recommended by a blogger, this time by Lisa-Marie. It looked like it would be pretty light based on the cover but it had a lot of depth to it. It's about a family who takes a 2 week trip to Mallorca as a celebration of the husband and wife's anniversary and a final hurrah before their daughter heads to college. There's isn't much plot and instead the book delves into the characters and their relationships with each other.
5. From Here to Paris by Cris Hammond - I read a lot of memoirs set in France but this one was one of my favorites of the year as it was just plain fun to read! It's about a man who gets laid off and instead of wallowing in self-pity, him and his wife buy a river barge and sail the rivers of France. Reading this book made me really want to take a river barge tour of France some day!
6. Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen - When I was reading this book, I probably wouldn't have guessed that it would make my top books for 2014 list... but it's one of those books that I liked the more and more I reflected upon it. It's about a woman who leaves her life in NYC and spends a year in a cabin in upstate New York, as for both financial and personal reasons, she needs a change of scenery. The book is about that year away. There is not a whole lot of plot but it was still a good read. I pretty much love every Quindlen book I read - I think her writing is just excellent. I found myself highlighting a lot of passages of the book, but this was my favorite as it resonated with me: "One day she had been out walking and had wondered whether she'd become a different person in the last year... Then when she really thought about it she realized she'd been becoming different people for as long as she could remember but had never really noticed it or had put it down to moods, or marriage, or motherhood. The problem was that she'd thought that at a certain point she would be a finished product. Now she wasn't sure what that might be, especially when she considered how sure she had been about it at various times in the past, and how wrong she'd been."
7. Us by David Nicholls - I adored Nicholls other book, "One Day" so was excited to read this and it did not disappoint. It is darker and heavier as it's about a couple who takes a summer vacation through Europe with their son, which sounds marvelous - except before they leave for the trip, the wife tells the husband that she has decided their marriage is over and she will leave him after the trip is over. Hence the heavy nature of the book. The husband is the narrator of the book and he tells the story of their trip, city by city, while weaving together reflections of the relationship with his wife and their experiences dating, getting married and raising their son. It's dark and honest and heartbreaking.
8. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult - I am really not a Picoult fan as I find her books to be so formulaic and longer than is necessary but I was urged to read this by others as they said it was different from what she typically writes. Which was completely the case. It's about a young Jewish girl who befriends an older man in the community and finds out that he was an SS guard. He asks the young girl to help him kill himself as he feels that is the punishment he deserves for his involvement in the atrocities of the Holocaust. If you like WWII books, this is worth checking out.
9. The Girls from Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe - This is another book that I would describe as dark. It's about the friendship between two girls who meet at a young age. The books follows their progression through life. It's about friendship, our fates and whether a person deserves what they get. It brings to question how well we ever really know another person.
10. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin - OK, this list was not in any particular order but I did save the best book for last. This was hands down my favorite book of the year. The characters were delightful and it's one of those books that I really did not want to end. It's about a bookseller who owns a store on an island near Boston. He's smart and quirky and you will want him to exist in real life so you can shop in his bookstore and talk about books with him. I borrowed it from the library but it's one of those books that I wish I owned and may need to buy. Read it - I know you'll love it! Here's one of my favorite passages: "We are what we love. We are that we love... We aren't the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think they really do live on."
What were your favorite books of 2014? What are you looking forward to reading in 2015? I'm excited to read "The Rosie Effect" which is the sequel to the book "The Rosie Project."