It’s here finally: the list of my 10 favorite books I read in 2014! I held off on posting this as long as I could, thanks to a last-minute contender I flew through just before year’s end. Now I feel confident about which books made the final cut – and to be honest, my pick for #1 was a super-easy choice. 😉
With one exception, each entry contains a link to my full review and an excerpt from said review that best explains why I enjoyed the book. I was going to write a new paragraph for each entry, but then I realized I didn’t have anything new to add apart from what I had already said before. So, why repeat myself?
One important note: This list contains books I read this year, regardless of the year they were originally published. I didn’t read enough novels that were published this year to create a Top 10 solely of 2014 releases.
So, here they are, starting with…
10. A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin (Epic Fantasy)
Review Excerpt: “… I’m relishing the Westeros smorgasbord again. A Feast For Crows has renewed my interest in “A Song of Fire and Ice.” And even though it’s missing some of series’ most exciting characters, I welcome most of the new additions and can see their potential significance in the slowly unfolding plot. It’s fascinating to see how wide the net of impact has been cast beyond King’s Landing. To me, that hints at universal implications of the saga’s eventual ending – and at Martin’s unprecedented writing genius.”
9. Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith (Urban / Dystopian Fantasy with Science Fiction and Horror Elements)
Review Excerpt: “I came away from [Radiant] feeling as battered as Xhea did (Sumner-Smith isn’t afraid of making her characters go through hell to achieve their goals) and with wide-eyed wonder. The world that Sumner-Smith has created here is riveting, with its mix of terror and beauty and the stark disparity between the City’s haves and have-nots. Plus, it’s impossible to not root for Xhea and Shai. Radiant allows both characters – especially Xhea – to evolve, and their teamwork is unlike anything I’ve read about before. Fans of adult and YA fantasy shouldn’t let this book slip under their radar. It’s a darkly immersive read with an ending that steals your breath and stays with you for days afterwards.”
Here’s that little mischief-maker that snuck its way onto the list when I finished it on December 29th. Expect a review in the next week or so. All I can tell you for now is – Wow! What a breathtaking, beautiful, and unique fantasy story. It may have started off slow, but the second half gripped me at my heart.
7. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (YA Fiction)
Review Excerpt: “… I wanted to reach through the pages and hug the protagonist – on multiple occasions, and for different reasons. When a story elicits that kind of emotional reaction from readers, you have to applaud the author. That’s the ultimate reason why Perks is a must-have for every YA lit lover’s bookshelf (though the subject matter requires an open mind) and deserving of its recognition as a timeless classic in its genre.”
6. Tales From Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (Fantasy Short Story / Novella Collection)
Review Excerpt: “[W]hen an author you love continues to surprise you each time – or spark possible short story ideas for your own work (*raises her hand high*) – you know they’re a master of their craft. Tales From Earthsea is yet another jewel to add to Le Guin’s writing crown. She offers new glimpses into the people, settings, and conflicts of Earthsea, while maintaining the spirit that makes this beguiling universe – and Le Guin’s writing in general – so unique and beautiful. Long-time “visitors” of Earthsea will relish this volume and its insights.”
5. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman (Fantasy / Magical Realism)
Review Excerpt: “… [O]ne of the most haunting and resonant novels I’ve read in a while. It’s also a relatively short read, at less than 200 pages, and one that rushes by if you get engrossed in the story. I also agree with the publisher describing the novel as “elegiac.” By that, I don’t mean that The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is unhappy or depressing. Rather, it’s a brilliantly told allegory about outer and inner darkness, and how – at some point in our lives – we’ll all have to face such a conflict.”
4. The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Science Fiction)
Review Excerpt: “[It] makes the reader think about how behavioral and cultural differences are trivial details in the end. I’ll even repeat what I’ve said to friends recently when I described this book: ‘You know a science fiction story works when you the reader can sympathize with one of the alien characters.’ This and other discoveries haunted and resonated with me well after the book ended. Even if you’re not a fan of science fiction, I implore you to reconsider and let The Left Hand of Darkness be your introduction. Because sometimes, we need an alien perspective to learn what makes us human.”
3. Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Nonfiction / Behavioral Psychology / Self-Help)
Review Excerpt: “This comprehensive resource radiates with conscience, empowering the quieter, thinking types without tearing down their more gregarious counterparts. Cain isn’t just an author here; she’s an articulate, compassionate guide who dives into the heart of her subject matter and writes in a way that’s easy for all readers to follow. If you’re an introvert, you’ll love and relate to Quiet. If you’re an extrovert who wants to better understand introverts, you should also read Quiet. Regardless of your temperament, make sure you take your time with this book to let its messages sink in. It’s that informative, and that profound.”
2. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (YA Fantasy)
Review Excerpt: “Even days after I’ve finished the book, my mind wanders back to the story and I find myself picking it up and re-reading certain passages. I guess I’m going to have to read the entire story again! By the way, don’t let Poison Study’s classification of YA Fantasy fool you. The emotionally raw subject matter – and the deft, graceful manner in which Snyder handles it all – transcends the expectations of typical YA literature. Yes, fans of YA fantasy will love Poison Study, but this book has enough cross-over appeal that I’d recommend it to adult readers of fantasy as well.”
1. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Historical Fiction)
Review Excerpt: “I may read mostly fantasy, but when I read any book I always look for a compelling story, believable characters, and a fluid writing style. Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See is a stunning example of all three elements. It’s so well written, and so urgent and successful in convincing you to read another scene, then another, and another, until you lose all track of time. It’s also a prime example of the power of words on a reader. It makes you laugh, cry, hold your breath, bite your fingernails. Most of all, it shows us the impact of life-changing choices that must be made in seconds, and the uncanny ability some people have to see the light – be it compassion, beauty, or potential – in darkened hours and places when others cannot.”
- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (YA Fantasy)
- Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising, Book #1) by Susan Cooper (YA / Children’s Fantasy)
What were some of your favorite reads of 2014? Do our lists have anything in common? Let me know by commenting below.