12 Booklists from 2014: Favorites and Duds

In 2014 I finished 123 books (76 fiction, 47 nonfiction).
booklists from 2014

12 Booklists from 2014

(This lists are my attempts to catalog my favorites – and a few that I really didn’t like. Along with quick reviews of some.)

Booklist #1: Reviewed Books – 10.

These are books I reviewed because the publisher sent me a review copy.

  1. The Power of a Half Hour. Nonfiction by Tommy Barnett
  2. Heart Wide Open. Nonfiction by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson
  3. How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, Nonfiction by Ken Ludwig. I love this book! My children have enjoyed memorizing the passages suggested by Ludwig and we even attended our first “Shakespeare in the Park” play because we were enjoying our studies so much.
  4. The Good News About Marriage. Nonfiction by Shaunti Feldhahn.
  5. A Spy Among Friends. Nonfiction by Ben Macintyre.
  6. Move On. Nonfiction by Vicki Courtney.
  7. Lost in Translation. Nonfiction by Ella Frances Sanders.
  8. 52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables. Nonfiction by Bob Welch.
  9. Fierce Convictions. Nonfiction by Karen Swallow Prior. Another book that I loved. This is a biography of a mostly forgotten woman who quite literally changed her world. Highly recommended.
  10. Small Talk. Nonfiction by Amy Julia Becker.


Booklist #2 -Mysteries published in 2014:

  1. Hunting Shadows: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteryby Charles Todd. An excellent addition to the series.
  2. Why Kings Confess: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteryby C.S. Harris. Hero is my favorite character and she is somewhat sidelined in this one. (This series does have an unfortunate tendency to stray into “romance novel territory”.)
  3. The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2) by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) Possibly better than the first book in the series. I really do hope Rowling decides to do more of these. (Warnings: lots of swearing, rather graphic violence.)
  4. The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mysteryby Sophie Hannah. OK, but not Poirot.
  5. The Late Scholar: Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane Investigate (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mysteries Book 4)by Jill Paton Walsh. (1st published in 2013 but my edition came out in 2014). Once again, Walsh is skilled at crafting a compelling mystery (her Imogen Quy series is a joy), but these are not Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. They’re just not. And, not to spoil anything, but I don’t like what’s happened to Lord Peter. He was never meant to be the…well, you’ll just have to read it.


Booklist #3 – Fiction published in 2014:

  1. Mrs. Hemingway: A Novel by Naomi Wood. Intriguing but my reaction to most of these characters (based on real-life people) was that they were spoiled and could have used several swift kicks in the…well. Suffice it to say, I have little patience for adults acting like spoiled brats.
  2. Wake: A Novelby Anna Hope. Parts of this are lovely and parts are horrifying: just what you might expect from a novel about the aftermath of WW1.
  3. Archetypeby M.D. Waters. Sci-fi. OK, but didn’t grab my imagination.
  4. The Fortune Hunter: A Novelby Daisy Goodwin. (1st published in 2013). First of all: what a gorgeous cover. (Does this evoke Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey or is it just me?) Second: well written but ultimately disappointing.


Booklist #4 – Nonfiction published in 2014

  1. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsbyby Sarah Churchwell (1st published 2013). I’ve never been a big fan of Fitzgerald’s “classic” but this book was intriguing anyway.
  2. Bizarre London: Discover the Capital’s Secrets & Surprisesby David Long (1st published 2013). Put a double-decker bus on the cover and I’m almost guaranteed to pick up the book.
  3. The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Leeby Marja Mills. Must reading for any fan of the classic novel, as long as you’re aware of the controversy surrounding this memoir and the fact that Mills is an adequate but not amazing storyteller.
  4. Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Lifeby Eric Metaxas. Not a modern classic like his Wilberforce or Bonhoeffer biographies, but another solid entry in the Metaxas canon.


Booklist #5 – Books I’d been meaning to read for a long time:

  1. The Complete Storiesof Flannery O’Connor. This was enough to confirm several things to me: 1)I’m still not, and likely will not ever be, a fan of “Southern Gothic”. 2)O’Connor had a gift, even though I feel like a lot of what she wrote goes right over my head.
  2. Weight of Glory and Other Addressesby C.S. Lewis. Superb. Highly recommended.


 

Booklist #6 – Interesting Memoirs:

  1. Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBSby Rebecca Eaton.
  2. Yes, Chefby Marcus Samuelsson. A compelling life story and enough about food to make you peckish while reading.
  3. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convertby Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. The strength of this book is in the first section. This is a must read for any Christian.
  4. Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior. I loved this one so much. In some ways I feel like Prior somehow wrote a memoir for me, too, even though our lives are not identical.
  5. Surprised by Oxfordby Carolyn Weber. I wanted to love this one but I simply didn’t. There are two reasons why I don’t rate this one more highly: 1 – the conversations are stilted. I don’t “buy” any of them. 2 – the only fully realized character is Weber herself. All the others are stock characters.


Booklist #7 – Books About Education or Homeschooling:

  1. Christian Unschoolingby Teri Brown & Elissa Wahl. Ultimately unpersuasive to me.
  2. Grace for the Homeschool Momby Tamara Chilver. A short, encouraging book for Kindle.
  3. Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Educationby David V. Hicks. Wow. I wish I had a copy of this for my own so I could read it slowly and really absorb it. Maybe one of these days.
  4. Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Styleby Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn. Encyclopedic. Some useful parts and other parts I skimmed.

Booklist #8 – Notable Fiction Not Published in 2014:

  1. The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit. Compelling material hindered by a gimmick that wears thin before the book is over.
  2. Life After Life: A Novelby Kate Atkinson. I’m not sure I have anything to compare this one to. Shades of the Mitford Sisters and Forster meets Groundhog Day or Sliding Doors. Intriguing, but not perfect.
  3. What Alice Forgotby Liane Moriarty. Well done. The characters and their actions seem realistic, even with the unlikely scenario. Kind of reminded me of the old “Regarding Henry” movie.
  4. The Graveyard Bookby Neil Gaiman. The first chapter is horrifying, but keep reading because the entire book gets better. My 2nd favorite Gaiman book, after Stardust.


Booklist #9 – Fascinating Nonfiction Not Published in 2014:

  1. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard. Inspired much discussion around here.
  2. The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan Englandby Ian Mortimer. This series by Mortimer is fantastic. He does a great job of trying not to transpose our modern sensibilities onto what life would have been like then.
  3. Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Timesby Lucy Lethbridge. Recommended for any and all fans of British period dramas (as in, Downton Abbey).
  4. The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ Londonby Judith Flanders. Marvelously compelling for a nonfiction title. If you love Dickens or other British writers from this era, you will enjoy this book. (Even if you don’t love Dickens or other writers, you still might enjoy this book.)

Booklist #10 – Most Disappointing:

  1. American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell. Nonfiction by Deborah Solomon. Provided no new information or insight and the author seemed equal parts befuddled and annoyed by her subject.
  2. Allegiant. Fiction by Veronica Roth. I didn’t throw this conclusion to the Divergent series across the room, but only because I didn’t want to wake up any of my sleeping children.
  3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I didn’t really hate this one, but my reaction was “meh”.

Booklist #11 – Number of Mysteries finished by these authors (47 in all):

  • Ngaio Marsh – 1. I may have read all the Inspector Alleyn mysteries now. If so, that’s a sad milestone. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the series.
  • Catriona McPherson – 1
  • Margery Allingham – 5. Allingham comes off more dated than Christie or Marsh, but she still writes a rousing tale.
  • Charles Todd – 1. I’ve stuck with this series through thick and thin. The release for 2014 was stronger than the previous year’s.
  • Elizabeth Peters – 7. While none of these were as good as the Amelia Peabody series, they’re still jolly good fun ranging from intriguing (The Murders of Richard III) to farcical (Legend in Green Velvet)
  • Josephine Tey – 1
  • M.C. Beaton -1
  • Anne Perry – 1
  • C.S. Harris – 1
  • A.A. Milne – 1
  • Dorothy Sayers – 7. The Master. Sayers turned series mysteries into an art form.
  • Robert Galbraith – 2. Too long, incredibly violent and profane, yet strangely old fashioned in style.
  • M.R.C. Kasasian – 1. Intriguing but definitely grosser than my usual mystery fare.
  • Jill Paton Walsh – 1
  • Alex Grecian – 1
  • Catherine Aird – 1
  • Agatha Christie – 8. I am in awe of how she churned these out. Some are brilliant and others are just entertaining, but the output alone is impressive.
  • John Lawton – 1
  • Sophie Hannah – 1.The Monogram Murdersis a decent mystery but it is not Poirot.
  • Nicola Upson – 2
  • Elizabeth Speller – 2


 

Booklist #12 – Best Book / Movie Combos:

  • North and Southby Elizabeth Gaskell. In honor of the 10th anniversary of the miniseries release I re-read the book (this time on my Kindle) and my husband re-watched the series with me. I can’t express how much I love the source and the adaptation. Just so very perfect.
  • Other adaptations we enjoyed: Miss Marple and Poirot. I went on quite a Christie reading binge near the end of the year and we also started watching through the Poirot series. (We’d seen several but we hadn’t seen many of the older episodes)
  • I watched the movie adaptation of Les Miserables for the first time (I did read the unabridged book a few years back) and I reviewed 52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables.

What were your favorite books of 2014?



To find other 2014 reading lists (100+) be sure to check out Semicolonblog.
Resources for Readers:
Dover Books


12 booklists 2014

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Comments

  1. I didn’t have a fantastic reading year, but I did love Lewis’ Space Trilogy and Susan Hill’s two memoirs: The Magic Apple Tree (which I read entirely too quickly) and Howard’s End is on the Landing (fascinating even though I often hadn’t read the same books or disagreed with her – she doesn’t love Austen!).

  2. I think I would like Yes Chef and Booked. I love memoirs. I am glad I haven’t bothered to read Allegiant. I liked Divergent, but the second one was pretty meh for me so I never read the third.

    • I think you would definitely love Booked. ONe of my favorite memoirs, ever.

      You definitely aren’t missing anything with Allegiant. Whatever ending your own imagination cooked up after Divergent (and forgetting the worst parts of Insurgent) would be better than what Roth wrote. (Sorry to be harsh but it was REALLY awful.)

  3. You have some really great suggestions here! Quick question… do you watch Downton Abbey, and if so, what do you think of it?

    • I watched the first few seasons of Downton Abbey. After the major character deaths and changes, I decided I was done. I still keep up with pictures (and sometimes re-caps) of the episodes, mostly because I love the costumes, but I don’t watch any more.