Saturday, January 31, 2015

Top book picks

Although I'm a little late with it, I wanted to post a recap of some of my favorite books of 2014.

I read a total of 30 books last year. I don't set goals as to how many books I'll read. I just read as I can. I do try very hard for variety, and  include some classics (although I didn't do well with that one last year) and non-fiction along with fiction.

My favorite fiction book in 2014 was Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, a beautiful coming-of-age story about two preachers' sons growing up in Minnesota in the 1960s. I found the adolescent theme to be reminiscent of A Separate Peace, with social justice tones that reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird (both of which are in my top five all-time favorites). I really can't recommend this book enough.

On the non-fiction side, my favorite was Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which chronicles the stories behind the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. It took me about 50 pages to get into it but once I did, it was a page turner. I don't know that I have ever learned as much from a book as I did from this one.

Other top picks on the fiction side were The Rent Collector, Orphan Train, The Fault in Our Stars (never saw the movie), The Invention of Wings,  We are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The All Girls Filling Station Reunion ,The 100-Foot Journey (saw the movie with Helen Murin, which was very good, but the ending is completely different from the book), Gone Girl (didnt' see the movie and don't think I can because the book scared the poop out of me) and Grisham's latest, Gray Mountain.

Each Shining Hour is the second in the Water Valley Series by Tennessean Jeff High, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also read the last two in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series, The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon and The Handsome Man's Deluxe CafĂ©, both of which lived up to the charm I have found throughout this delightful series.

Jan Karon's latest Mitford installment, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, affected me the same as all of hers, finding myself in love with all the characters and becoming sad at the end that I could no longer continue the relationship.

I picked  up Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time in a used bookstore in Maine last August. I tried. That's all I can say.

 Lois Lowery's The Giver and Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men would not yet be called classics, but they are two my more challenging reads from 2014. Both were worth the effort.

Shauna Niequest is a young spiritual writer I mentioned in my recap last year. I read two more of her essay collections, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and continue to be in awe of her insight and talent.

I already have a stack ready for this year.  I started January with Boys in the Boat, a great story about the 1936 Olympic rowing team, and just finished How God Became King by New Testament scholar N. T. Wright (very deep and challenging and I probably need to read it again).

As always, too many books and not enough time.

If you have any recommendations, I'm all ears.