Top 7 books I read in 2014

With only two days left in 2014 It’s that time of year when blogs are filling up with “best of” or “top ____” lists. Lately I have been obsessed with reading. My to-read list is a mile long and I managed to devour five books in December. The most I read in one month all year. I think a lot of this has to do with starting to listen to the Book Riot podcast recently. I swear every episode I listen to I jot down 3-5 more books I want to read. I requested five books from the library the other night and purchased two more on my kobo. I can’t keep up with my TBR (to be read) list anymore.

Anyways, I thought I would do another top books I read post this year. In 2013 I included all the books I gave five stars to on Goodreads (thank god for goodreads or I swear I wouldn’t remember books I read at the beginning of the year) so I’m doing the same thing this year. In 2013 I gave five stars to 11 out of 30 books I’d read. In 2014 I only gave five stars to 7 out of 33 books I’ve read this year. I think I’m getting a little stingier with my five star rating ūüėČ

Disclaimer: for me five stars goes to a book I can’t put down or a book where I feel really connected with the characters to the point that I will miss them once the book is over.¬†

Disclaimer #2: These books are in the order that I read them not in order of preference. 

Pillars of the Earth 

Pillars of the earth

From Goodreads:¬†The spellbinding epic set in twelfth-century England,¬†The Pillars of the Earth¬†tells the story of the lives entwined in the building of the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known‚ÄĒand a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.

I had a really slow start to the reading year in 2014 as the first book I gave five stars too wasn’t read until May! No wonder I was feeling uninspired by books. Anyways, this description really doesn’t do this book justice. Pillars of the Earth is one of the most elaborately written stories I’ve ever read. At over 1,000 pages it’s not for the faint of heart but I promise if you can devote yourself to such a long book you won’t be disappointed. This book was heart wrenching at times, laugh out loud funny at time and maddenly frustrating at times. The character development was amazing and I was obsessed with the characters by the end of the book and thought about them for weeks afterwards. I actually JUST started reading Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants which is the first book in the Century Trilogy and so far I am loving it. This man is a master storyteller!

Every Last One 

Every last one

From Goodreads: In this breathtaking and beautiful novel, the #1 New York Times bestselling author Anna Quindlen creates an unforgettable portrait of a mother, a father, a family, and the explosive, violent consequences of what seem like inconsequential actions.

Mary Beth Latham is first and foremost a mother, whose three teenaged children come first, before her career as a landscape gardener, or even her life as the wife of a doctor.  Caring for her family and preserving their everyday life is paramount.  And so, when one of her sons, Max, becomes depressed, Mary Beth becomes focused on him, and is blindsided by a shocking act of violence. What happens afterwards is a testament to the power of a woman’s love and determination, and to the invisible line of hope and healing that connects one human being with another.

Ultimately, in the hands of Anna Quindlen’s mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the the things we fear most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel, to live a life we never dreamed we’d have to live but must be brave enough to try.

I had a hard time getting into the first half of this book but the second half I couldn’t pull myself away. I kept waiting for a twist I was sure would come at the end of the book but it never did. This book is about normal, every day people dealing with a horrific tragedy that rocked their lives. This book really hammered home the lesson that no matter how much you prepare or try to stay in control of things sometimes life can and will take an unexpected turn simply because that’s life.

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell 

Pearl broke shell

From Goodreads:¬†Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi’s literary debut novel, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one’s own fate that combines the cultural flavor and emotional resonance of the works of Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See.

In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.

But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?

Anyone who enjoys Khaled Hosseini’s books should read this. It is a heartwrenching and uplifting story about two women living through hard and suppressed times in Afghanistan, approximately 100 years apart. The things these women go through remind me not to take my life for granted. A very beautiful debut novel and I will definitely read more by Nadia Hashimi.

A House in the Sky 

A house in the sky

From Goodreads:¬†s a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, Alberta, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia‚ÄĒ‚Äúthe most dangerous place on earth.‚ÄĚ On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.

Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda converts to Islam as a survival tactic, receives ‚Äúwife lessons‚ÄĚ from one of her captors, and risks a daring escape. Moved between a series of abandoned houses in the desert, she survives on memory‚ÄĒevery lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity‚ÄĒand on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark, being tortured.

Vivid and suspenseful, as artfully written as the finest novel, A House in the Sky is the searingly intimate story of an intrepid young woman and her search for compassion in the face of unimaginable adversity.

This was the BEST book I read in all of 2014. I could not put this poignant and beautiful memoir down. I remember reading it and thinking to myself “this really happened to this woman”. The horrific things Amanda Lindhout has overcome floors me and humbles me. The part about this book that moved me the most, and that is so hard to explain without you reading it yourself, is the compassion Lindhout had for her captors despite the horrific things they were doing to her. What I really took away from this book comes down to the old saying ‘mind over matter’. Lindhout describes perfectly how she used her mind to take her out of her physical body when she was being tortured or raped and how she used that to help her survive something that many people would not.

I think everyone should read this book!

Eleanor & Park 

Eleanor and park

From Goodreads:¬†Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds‚ÄĒsmart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

This is a really touching and gripping story about young love. The author does an amazing job sharing these two unique characters and their lives. The characters in this book felt very real and vivid to me and the dialogue between Eleanor and Park was fantastic. This was a can’t-put-it-down book for me and I read it in two days. I’m looking forward to reading more books by Rainbow Rowell in 2015 and I just requested Landline from the library the other day!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry 

The storied life of aj fikry

From Goodreads:¬†Hanging over the porch of the tiny New England bookstore called Island Books is a faded sign with the motto ‚ÄúNo Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.‚ÄĚ A.J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A.J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly. And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming him or for a determined sales rep named Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light. The wisdom of all those books again become the lifeblood of A.J.’s world and everything twists into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read and why we love.

First of all, if you’re a book lover you kind of have to love a book about books. So this book about a bookstore, a bookstore owner and his family is a great book for book lovers! The characters are so loveable and interesting that you can’t help but fall in love with this book and everyone in it. Another can’t-put-it-down book for me and I actually missed the characters when I was finished. This book would make a great movie!

The Martian 

The martian

From Goodreads: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he‚Äôs alive‚ÄĒand even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills‚ÄĒand a relentless, dogged refusal to quit‚ÄĒhe steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Probably the second best book I read in 2014 after A House in the Sky. This is a book I never would have picked up off the shelf on my own but after hearing about it multiple times on Book Riot I decided to get it for Eric for Christmas. Well I started reading it right after giving it to him and four days later I was done. I tore through this book. It was laugh out loud funny and generally just really enjoyable to read and a page turner. When they talked about it on Book Riot they said it’s the kind of book you stay up late reading and that was definitely true for me — good thing I read it during Christmas break ūüôā

Honourable Mention (not quite five stars for me but almost, more like 4.5 stars. Links go to my reviews on goodreads): The Flight of Gemma Hardy | You’re Not You | The Vacationers.

Now please make my to-read list even longer and tell me what was THE BEST book you read in 2014? 

11 Responses

  1. I did my best of list today, too! I read 68 books in 2014 but only gave 6 5 stars! So I included some 4 star books in my post. I also have gotten stingier with 5 star ratings! My favorite book of 2014 was definitely The Storied Life of AJ Fikry. It was just so cute and charming and I really did not want the book to end. I haven’t read 2 of the books on this list so will have to check them out. I already have The Martian on my kindle so just need to get through my nook books so I can start reading it! I also bought it because of how much they raved about it on the Bookriot podcast! Since you liked that Follett book, you should check out his century trilogy. The first book is about WWI, the second is about WWII and then the third is about the 50-80s I think! I read and really liked the first one. It’s long but worth it like you said. I bought the other 2 on my kindle (went on a bit of a book buying spree when I bought it!) so am hoping to read them in 2015!

  2. Lindsey says:

    Love that you put this list together so I can steal ideas for books to read! House in the Sky definitely topped my list too as well as The Rosie Project.

  3. I wish I read that much in 2014 … the only books I read were for school ūüôĀ

  4. I just checked out my ratins and I only gave 4 5 star ratings and the one was like one of the first books of the year that I read and I’m not so sure I’d ahve given it a 5 star hahah. I think I even liked some of my 4 stars better than some of my 5s so it’s all very subjective even within myself hahaha. I loved Eleanor & Park as well. Others I’d recommend to you based on things I know you’ve liked… The Tiger’s Wife, South of Broad, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and When She Woke.

  5. Stephany says:

    I just looked it up and I gave 11 of the 81 books I read 5 stars. I’m definitely stingy with them, too, they really have to be books that stick with me and are hard to put down. I think my favorite read of 2014 was The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

  6. Leigh says:

    I just finished reading The Storied Life of A.J Fikry (can’t remember if I saw you or Lisa talk about it), but it was good! I loved House in the Sky too. I didn’t read much this year, but so glad for Goodreads to remind me what I did read ūüôā

  7. Travel Spot says:

    I very rarely give a book 5 stars; in fact I don’t think I gave any books five this year! However, I did love Pillars of the Earth (I must have read that 20 years ago!) and Eleanor and Park as well as AJ Fikry; the last two were very quick, easy and fun reads! I also enjoyed Fall of the Giants, although it took me a while to get through, as I was studying for an exam at the same time. I will have to add the others to my To Read list, which is way bigger than the number of books I will ever be able to get to!

    I would suggest Phillipa Gregory if you have never read any of her novels. They are Historical Fiction about the Kings and Queens of England.

  8. Laura says:

    The only one I’ve read that you listed was Pillars of the Earth, but I loved that too! Adding the rest to my Goodreads “Want To Read” list.

    My best of 2014: American Wife (Curtis Sittenfeld), Night Road (Kristin Hannah), Partner Track (Helen Wan), Happiness of Pursuit (Chris Guillebeau), Leaving Time (Jodi Picoult).

  9. Shoshanah says:

    I haven’t read any of these yet! But I have been meaning to read something by Rainbow Rowell now for a while. And while The Martian isn’t the type of book I normally read either, the more I hear about it, the more curios about it I become.

    As for my favorite book of the year, it would have to be Somewhere in France, even though technically I read it in the last days of 2013.

  10. […] The high of my week was¬†probably going to see The Martian last night. Both Eric and I read the book last winter and loved it. The movie was really great and they did an awesome job. Though I think it might be a bit boring or harder to understand if you hadn’t read the book. Anyways, I give it two thumbs up! Also if you haven’t read The Martian yet you really should! It was one of the best books I read in 2014. […]

  11. […] favourite books that I read in the previous year. Here you can find my favourite books from 2013, 2014 and […]

Leave a Reply