Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite Reads of 2014 & A Year-End Wrap-up

It does not seem possible that today is the last day of 2014. The calendar pages really seemed to turn quickly for me this year. Did you find that too?

I had quite a successful year of reading. I read 106 books this year. This is actually the most I've read since the first year I blogged. In 2008 I read 112. It's a pretty big accomplishment for me considering how many non-fiction books I've read this year--they always take me a little longer to read than fiction.

But here are the statistical breakdowns, for those who might be interested.

Total books read: 106
Number of different authors read: 102
Number of new-to-me authors: 70
Number of debuts: 12
Number of audiobooks: 35
Number of fiction works: 85
Number of non-fiction works: 21
Number of male authors: 72
Number of female authors: 37
(note: the overlap in gender numbers comes from books with multiple authors)

I've enjoyed the variety of books I've read and my year-end list surely reflects it. While I often feel like there's a lot I'm missing, I know it isn't realistic to think I can read it all. I'm quite content reading what makes me happy, though. My approach will probably go in a similar direction for 2015 but you never can tell what interesting twists may arise. In the mean time, a look at my favorite reads of 2014.

A drumroll please....

10. Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn - I started to include this one on my debut list, but since it's not really a debut, just the first book under the pen name, I opted not to include it there--that's kind of like cheating, right? But it's been awhile since a historical novel grabbed me the way this one did. My review of it will be forthcoming (after it appears in Shelf Awareness) but it snuck in under the wire with a Dec. 30th release date. I enjoyed the blending of genres, the characters and the mystical element of the book. Boy, you don't hear me say that often, do you?

9.   All Day and a Night by Alafair Burke - I'm kind of running out of stuff to say about Alafair Burke's work without repeating myself, since she shows up on this list year after year. The areas I praise her in she only improves with each book. This is--in my opinion--her best work to date. She keeps it fresh, fun, fast and engaging (did you think I'd use another f-word there?).  As you can see from my stats, I read a large number of books by authors who are new to me each year, so I don't end up reading a lot of the same people continually. But Alafair Burke is one of the few I anxiously anticipate and make time for, regardless.

8.   All the Truth is Out by Matt Bai - I found this book to be so vital to the understanding of our consumption of news in this era. We're so caught up in things that don't actually matter or only searching out the things we want to hear or even manipulating the truth so it becomes what we want it to be. Eye opening, honest and challenging. Bai did his homework and delivers it superbly. This is really an important issue and one we'd all benefit from examining a little closer.

7.   Roosevelt's Beast by Louis Bayard - First of all, Louis Bayard used one of my favorite words in this book -- Bwana. I've christened him Bwana Bayard and it's a perfect fit. This book is smart, funny, brilliantly constructed. Not many people can plop you into the South American jungles with a monster and make it enjoyable. Reading a book by Louis Bayard always ends up being a sweet treat, Roosevelt's Beast was no exception.

6.   Morgue Drawer: Do Not Enter by Jutta Profijt - Really I have to say all three of Profijt's books should be included here. I chose Do Not Enter because it's the book that was published this year in the U.S. but I just feel as though I've discovered secret treasure with this series. Of course, it was secret to me, but now I've unearthed it and that makes me very happy. Don't worry, a gushing review of all three books is forthcoming, I promise!

5.   The Global War on Morris by Steve Israel - Somehow I completely missed this book as a debut--I should have included in yesterday's list as well, but when Israel decides to hang up his political hat, he's got a real future in publishing. Heck, he doesn't even need to give up the day job, I guess. In this case his insider perspective helped as The Global War on Morris is a political satire. This is another under the wire December 30th publication and my review is forthcoming. Rapier wit, intelligent argument and an absurd reality.

4.  Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado - Linda Tirado blew me away. She's smart, witty, brutally honest and this book is a scary reminder for us all of how close we are to poverty. More than that, it's a wake-up call to the fact that we are not better or more deserving than the working poor...or those in deep poverty for that matter. Tirado has written in such a way as to let us walk in her shoes for awhile. And they're rather uncomfortable. Tirado has an important message to share but she also has a gift with writing. I hope there will be more from her in the future.

3.   Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson - With the year's national headlines related to race issues in our country, this book was even more powerful than anyone really could have anticipated. Just Mercy emphasizes the massive miscarriages of justice that happen every day that never make those headlines, the ones many people remain happily ignorant to. It's startling, mortifying and it's something every single person in this country needs to be aware of. It's beautifully written and reads like fiction. If only it were.

2.   Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson - I adore Craig Johnson's full-length novels, but I chose the collection of shorts because I was reminded while reading them how endearing, touching, humorous and so densely packed with wonderfulness each one is. It's a small package, but boy howdy is it a priceless gem.

1.   A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Brackman - I gushed over this book yesterday, so you probably don't need me to do so again today. I'll simply say that if you haven't checked this one out yet, I highly recommend you do. There's simply so much to love in it--everyone needs an Ove!

And there you have it. My favorite reads of 2014. It was certainly a great year for reading. How about you? What knocked your socks off this year?

Also, a last little correction for yesterday. I included The Secret Wisdom of the Earth on my favorite debuts list and it IS in fact one of my favorite debuts. However, it doesn't officially come out until 2015. I read it in advance to cover it for Shelf Awareness and lost track of its publication date--January 2015. It's a wonderful book but it isn't a 2014 debut. Sorry!


Shelleyrae December 31, 2014 at 10:42 AM  

A Man Called Ove was probably my favourite. I just finished Things Half in Shadow today and really liked it.

Happy New Year

BethFishReads January 2, 2015 at 4:13 PM  

I clearly have some reading to do! I swear I'm going to keep good stats this year.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) January 2, 2015 at 5:51 PM  

I read 74. A Man Called Ove is still on my reading list. I haven't really kept any stats. Sometimes I think I will and other times I'm good to just get reviews posted!

jen_forbus January 5, 2015 at 11:11 AM  

Holly, I'll be interested to hear what you think about Ove! My stat-keeping has evolved over the years, mostly just for my own curiosity. I started out keeping track mostly of just how many books I read and then as each year ended I discovered there was something else I wanted to know a tally on. So I say, stats are only for what YOU are interested in knowing about your reading habits. :-)

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