Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Favorite Books of 2014



My 2014 reading year didn't start out very well so by June I thought I wouldn't have enough books to make a top ten list. Everything changed after I read Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. For a while almost every book I read after that was just wonderful.

I read many 2014 releases and some of them were good but then again not quite good enough to make the cut. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was a sometimes compelling read but it inevitably pales when I compare it to Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. And though they've received glowing reviews, I honestly didn't enjoy Us by David Nicholls and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart was just ok. Meanwhile, Colorless Tsukuro by Haruki Murakami, Malice by Keigo Higashino and Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi were all interesting reads and if I could list more than ten they would surely have made this list. One classic that almost made it was The Collector by John Fowles, a creepy and well-written psychological crime novel.

However, I want to limit myself to only ten books. Three of them are by the same author, Elena Ferrante who I cannot rave about enough. Six of the books on this list were released in 2014. There's one non-fiction book, one YA, one Victorian vampire novel, two thrillers and one horror/fantasy graphic novel. Surprisingly nine of the books were written by women.  It's certainly a mixed bag of books so here's my list in order (drum roll please)...my favorite books of 2014.


1. to 3. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) - Words can't describe how I was completely swept away by these novels of two friends growing up in Naples, Italy. I'm still suffering from Ferrante Fever and quite happily at that. I loved all three books and I can't wait to reread all three again just before book four will be released in late 2015. These three novels not only made it to the top of this list but they now have a permanent place in my My Reader's Table, my favorite books of all time.

4. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters - Sarah Waters does it again this time with a crime story set in London in the 1920s. The pacing was excellent, the characters were well drawn and the writing was brilliant as always. This was a fabulous read from start to finish.

5. The Quick by Lauren Owen - I loved reading this stylish debut novel about vampires and vampire hunters in Victorian England. Pure escapism. I'm hoping there'll be a sequel.

6. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer - This is the last book I read this year and it's also the only YA novel on the list. Read this if you love Sylvia Plath, The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Looking for Alaska by John Green. A wonderful book about fragile teenagers at a boarding school and their very special teacher who helps them deal with grief and loss by reading The Bell Jar and writing in their own journals.

7. The Secret Place by Tana French - I will read anything that Tana French produces and though this wasn't her best, I still enjoyed it very much. The Dublin murder squad is back and this time they are trying to solve a murder at a girls' boarding school.

8. Locke & Key by Joe Hill - This graphic novel written by Stephen King's son is completely addictive and immersive. Kids, a strange house, magic keys, an unsolved mystery and an evil being - all the elements for a thrilling read.

9. Tiny Beautiful Things, Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed - I don't think I'll ever forget some of the letters I read in this anthology. I highlighted so many lines so I know I'll be dipping into this again and again in the future. She's certainly a wise one, Ms. Strayed.

10. Euphoria by Lily King - This novel is loosely based on anthropologist Margaret Mead. It covers just a short span of time in her life and in fact my only complaint is that at 256 pages it was too short! Just when I was beginning to get into the characters, the love triangle and the setting, the story ended. This was a fascinating read not just for the story but for the close look at the work of anthropologists in the 1930s.

So that's it. My 2014 list. I'm looking forward to more reading in 2015 and hopefully (cross my fingers) more blogging. I've been using Twitter and Instagram more than my blog but would love to know if there are still any of you out there who read The Literary Stew. Happy New Year to all of you and happy reading in 2015!



15 comments:

  1. I didn't have enough books for a top ten either! There were only 2 or 3 books that really stood out for me this year. I'll have to choose better next year! Happy new year

    My year in review

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even if you don't have a top ten, I'd love to know which books stood out for you this year. Happy 2015!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for n informative list. I'll definitely use your recommendations and put some of these titles on my TBR list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also loved your top lists this year and am curious about a number of them. Happy New Year Arti!

      Delete
  3. I also tore through all three of the Ferrante books! I am a new reader of your blog so imdont know if you discussed them earlier this year, but when I saw them on your 2014 list of books read, I was curious to hear your thoughts. I am glad others are reading them. The sense of time and place she creates is superb and the two women are so distinct, complex, and fascinating. My top pick for 2014, though, is The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. Set aside all ideas about her and about (the awful) Eat, Pray, Love and give this book a read. She can tell a story, and she has created a main character I absolutely loved -- a female botanist in the early 20th century whose life takes unexpected turns. This was really an exceptional book, for reasons I am not exlplaining very well here.... It surprised and delighted me on every page, and I couldn't put it down. Next on my list: The Paying Guest, which others have also recommended highly. Please keep posting because I love reading your thoughts and opinions and I love being in the company of other readers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Maggie, I did read The Signature of All Things earlier this year but it didn't really stand out for me. I do know a lot of people who loved it though and I'm still curious to read whatever Gilbert produces next. The Paying Guest is excellent!

      Delete
  4. I raced through the Ferrante novels, too. I'm intrigued by the Lily King. It's getting good reviews, I might give it a go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you'll enjoy Euphoria. I still wish it had been longer.

      Delete
  5. I really want to read Locke and Key, and really just anything by Joe Hill. I've only read Horns, but I LOVED it.

    -Lauren

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lauren, I tried Horns but couldn't get into it. I absolutely loved Locke & Key. Try it!

      Delete
  6. I love your book list, Astrid! Funnily enough, 5 of them are in my wishlist: all 3 of Ferrante's novels, Euphoria, and The Paying Guests. Tiny Beautiful Things was among my best reads last year, and I'm so glad that you love Locke & Key, too.

    Will be sure to check out the other three in your list. You're one of the few bloggers whose taste I automatically trust. Also, regarding blogging, I know how difficult it can get when we're busy, but I'm glad that you're still here. Happy New Year to you and the family!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Honey, Thanks for dropping by. Your blog is also one of my go-to blog for book recommendations. So glad you posted a year end list. I was looking out for it. Yes, I hope we both blog more in 2015

      Delete
  7. Oh I've not read so many of these! I guess I've got some catching up to do :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Please keep posting. I have gotten so many happy recommendations from your blog--yours is truly my go-to blog to get new additions to my reading list. We have very similar tastes, I find. Always look forward to your updates, but if you are writing elsewhere please let us know how to find you. - Caterina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Caterina, Thanks for your kind words. If we have the same tastes then I would love to know your favorite books or anything else you recommend. I'm actually having a book slump right now. You can catch me on twitter: @theliterarystew or email me at: Theliterarystew@gmail.com. Hope to hear from you soon!

      Delete

There was an error in this gadget

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails