2014 Book List

Oh, my. I waited until NOVEMBER to post my 2014 book list? Holy smokes, that's pretty bad.

Well, let's not delay any further. In 2014--that would be LAST year--I read 53 books. Most were pretty decent. The big gems were The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver. They were amazingly wonderful.

Honorable mention went to Foreign Affairs by Allison Lurie and Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I loved both. 

2015 is shaping up to be an even bigger reading year. If you're good, I might post that list by, say, SPRING. If you're good.

Without further delay, here's the list of books I read last year:

1. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown         
509 pages  Rating: 3.5
For all intents and purposes, Da Vinci Code set in DC. 

2. Foreign Affairs by Allison Lurie       
280 pages  Rating: 4.5
A stuffy lit professor falls for a rough-around-the-edges American in England. Pulitzer winner.

3. The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day           
271 pages  Rating: 4
What's the circus like during the off-season? This set of stories explores the carnie lives. 

4. Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor                  
240 pages  Rating: 4
My kind of parenting book. Irreverent and witty. 

5. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen            
389 pages  Rating: 4
YA novel, first in a series, set in the 1920s. Lots of fun.

6. Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer   
 384 pages  Rating: 3.75
Archer can plot a book. Compulsive reading.

7. The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer   
339 pages  Rating: 3.5
Second book in Archer's series; not as good as the first and believability gets threatened.

8. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey          
386  pages   Rating:  5
OMG it's amazing. A childless couple in creates a child of snow. 

9. Gold by Chris Cleave       
321 pages  Rating: 4
Bicycling, Olympics, and a child with cancer.

10. The Dark Enquiry  by Deanna Raybourn            
387 pages  Rating: 3.5
Another mystery by Raybourn. My least favorite so far.

11Beautiful Ruins  Jess Walter         
337  pages   Rating: 4.25
Such great writing here. Set in Italy and Hollywood across 50 years, a quasi love affair.

12. Contented Among Strangers by Linda Schelbitzki Pickle   
230 pages   Rating: 4
Excellent research and digging into the lives of German-speaking women (women!) on the Northern Plains frontier. Very thoughtful treatment of the subject. Fascinating stuff.

13. Up High in the Trees by Kiara Brinkman  
328 pages  Rating: 4
Oh, tear your heart out. A young boy with autism copes with the death of his mother. Excellent use of voice. 

14. The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin        
288 pages   Rating: 4.25
Weather made interesting! FASCINATING account of the 1888 blizzard that came out of nowhere and killed many children walking home from school on the Northern Plains.

15. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple    
335 pages  Rating: 4.5
Is this book actually that hilarious, or is it because it's set Seattle that I find it so good? So witty, so funny, so creative. Read it.

16. The Bones of Plenty by Lois Phillips Hudson       
435 pages   Rating:  4
Grapes of Wrath set in the Dakotas. Actually, arguably better than Steinbeck.

17. Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer    
496 pages    Rating: 3
Third book in the Archer series. Predictably fast paced, with Dickensian plotting.

18. Unravelling by Elizabeth Graver              
298 pages   Rating: 4.75
Beautiful novel of a mother-daughter relationship. Highly recommended.

19. Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories by Joan Silber           
247 pages        Rating: 4
A collection of stories, each very different and very solid. Recommended.

20. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck        
288 pages     Rating: 3.75
A Carolyn Hax recommendation. Super interesting.

21. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout                 
320 pages    Rating: 4.5
Another example of subtly amazing writing that demonstrates why Strout is so good at what she does. Recommended.

22. A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk       
212 pages    Rating: 4
A writerly autobiography on motherhood. Very intelligent and thoughtful, very well written. Recommended.

23. Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan        
416 pages   Rating: 4
A tale of Smithies--four college friends at Smith. I enjoyed it more than I think I should've. It's not spectacular, but . . . I liked it. A lot.

24. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams             
351 pages   Rating: 4
At a Rhode Island summer spot, we get intrigue and romance in the 1930s. A great summertime read.

25. Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong  Edited by Jessica Bacal 
An uninspiring mish-mash of essays about making mistakes.     
304 pages   Rating: 2.5

26. The Cage and the Key by Amy Abrams      
220 pages   Rating: 3
Heavy in the metaphor and symbolism, in a rather obvious way. Okay.

27. The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister          
272  pages    Rating: 4
Sequel to Bauermeister's admirable School of Essential Ingredients. Totally delivered. And Bauermeister is an Oxy grad to boot.

28. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg               
217 pages    Rating: 4.25
Despite its bad press, this is a relevant, well-argued, insightful book about what it means to be a working woman. Read. It.

29. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins          
372 pages    Rating: 3.25
A fairly decent YA novel set in Paris.

30. We Were Liars   E. Lockhart           
240 pages    Rating: 4.25
Lockhart is fantastic. And so is this book. A great YA summer read.

31. Gift of the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh              
132 pages    Rating: 4
Who knew Lindbergh was such a good writer? A surprisingly insightful, valuable little book.

32. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron     
237 pages   Rating: 3
Okay, I think there IS some value here, if you can get past the total cheeseball factor.

33. The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller    
384 pages   Rating: 4
A well-written twist for the tried and true prep school drama genre.

34. The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen           
371 pages     Rating: 4
A brilliantly written novel that explores loss and marriage. And kids.

35. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin  
448 pages   Rating: 4
Set in Washington State a good 100 or so years ago. First half stronger than the second. But still very good.

36. The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver              
335 pages  Rating: 5
One of my very favorite reads of the year. Spectacularly written, this novel chronicles a family and its island place in Massachusetts in the 1940s forward. Loved it.

37Winner of the National Book Award: A Novel of Fame, Honor, and Really Bad Weather by Jincy Willett        
321 pages   Rating: 4
A deliciously snarky tale of two opposite twins. Recommended.

38. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green         
352 pages     Rating: 4
The YA sensation---two love-struck teens with cancer. It actually IS that good. Recommended.

39. The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin         
96 pages      Rating: 4.5
An imagine narrative of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who says it wasn't worth it. Amazingly written.

40. The Harbormaster's Daughter by Heidi Jon Schmidt            
368 pages    Rating: 3
After enjoying Schmidt's House on Oyster Creek, I had hoped for another good read. Although the writing was good, I was bored. A lot. Not recommended.

41. The Haunting of Cambria by Richard Taylor     
304 pages   Rating: 3
A decent haunted house book, though the sex was gratuitous.

42. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen      
324 pages    Rating: 4
An adorable, witty mystery of a down-on-her-luck quasi-royal in Britain in the 1930s.

43. Dracula in Love  by Karen Essex        
384 pages Rating: 4
A retelling of the story of Dracula. Fantastic.

44. Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris     
422 pages  Rating:  3.75
Another prep school drama, with some unexpected twists. Could've been shorter. Quasi-recommended.

45. A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen        
320  pages   Rating: 4
The second book of royal wit in the Royal Spyness series. Loved it.

46. The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent    
300 pages    Rating: 4
Set in the 1600s in colonial Massachusetts, a servant and outcast become buddies.

47. Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle        
342 pages    Rating: 3.5
Three holiday-themed and interconnected stories written by three YA authors. Two were great; one was totally sucky.

48. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon         
400  pages     Rating: 4
A well-written, absorbing story involving a Vermont farmhouse, in the present and past, with disappearances and a delicious creep factor. Highly recommended.

49. The Confidence Code  by  Katty Kay and Claire Shipman     
256 pages      Rating: 3.5
Explores how confidence is created and executed in girls and women, particularly in a world that doesn't quite know what to do with confident women. Not a perfect book but highly recommended for women in business and those with daughters to raise.

50. Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand               
256 pages    Rating: 2.5
The equivalent of a holiday Lifetime movie. Not recommended.

51. Snobs by Julian Fellowes  288         4
A hilarious tale in which a girl marries up (to and earl) in British society, then runs off with an actor. Oh, the fallout. Recommended.

52. The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have To Be Perfect To Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith                
198 pages   Rating: 3
A decent homemaking and decorating book that is more about how to approach decorating your home than how to decorate. Which is its appeal. Also, the it strongly promotes making rented apartments or homes beautiful too---a hugely important thing, especially in tough economic times. It's the ultimate "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" decorating book and I do think it helped me further shape how I want MY home to feel. The tone is a little saccharine, but I still recommend it.

53. Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins            
304 pages   Rating: 3.5
All of Lydia's friends come over for their annual winter party. Lydia is dying of cancer, so they'll find out tonight. Bit of a downer but pretty decent. Quasi-recommended.


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