Top Ten Reads of 2014

And here's my legit top ten reads for 2014!

I read about 50 books for 2014, which is a huge drop from my typical year (almost by half!). Pregnancy, and the resulting baby, are to blame, and while I'm a little disappointed, the aforementioned baby -- our Little Reader -- is so frickin' cute, I kind of can't care.

I still walked away with some stellar reads for 2014, and once again, had a challenging time identifying the top ten of this year.  In the end, I picked the books I still talk about obsessively, that I purchased (for myself and/or others), and that I want to reread or force others to read.

Seven of the ten novels are historical fiction. Four are penned by men and two are collaborative efforts, which is fascinating -- I've never had novels with multiple authors make my top ten before, and now two have! In terms of other diversity, I did badly, and it's a 2015 goal of mine to read more authors of color and non-US/UK/CA-based authors.

Here they are!

Sally Beauman, The Visitors

I haven't gotten around to reviewing this one (although I did blurb it for Bloggers Recommend, and if you want a great review, see Historical Fiction Notebook.) Ultimately, the book's heroine, Lucy, captivated me, and despite the novel's slightly disjointed feel, her voice was so strong, I sucked up every page just to be with her.



Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, The Tilted World

Penned by a married couple, a novelist and a poet, this novel swept me away, much like the flood central to the story. A little love story, a murder mystery, a historical snapshot of a forgotten disaster, this novel has it all. I expected the story to feel disjointed, but Franklin and Fennelly created a lyrical, cohesive story I haven't forgotten.


J. Boyce Gleason, Anvil of God

This was one of my first reads for 2014, and I still think about the story and characters. Set in the 8th century, this novel has flavors of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Phillipa Gregory, and mixes romance with battle easily and convincingly. I'm dying to read the next book.


Elaine Neil Orr, A Different Sun

I was astounded by this novel -- by the premise, by the narrative style, by the deft handling of white privilege, slavery, women's rights in a historical context. Inspired by the real life diary of the first Southern Baptist missionaries in Africa, Orr explores marriage, faith, and colonialism in a compassionate, captivating manner.


Mallory Ortberg, Texts from Jane Eyre

I'm madly in love with this smart, snarky volume of classics "retold" in the form of text messages between characters. Books about books are a perennial favorite of mine, and this one takes the best of more than sixty classics, both ancient and contemporary, and distills them to their silliest and most sublime.


Laura Purcell, Queen of Bedlam

This novel represents what I love about historical fiction: a well-researched story that entertains. Focusing on the wife and daughters of "mad" King George III, Purcell evokes the tumultuous and tragic events of the Hanoverian royals without overdoing the drama or loading on the unnecessary research. At the heart of this novel, a story of family and loyalty.

Deanna Raybourn, Night of a Thousand Stars

This was my first experience with Raybourn, and I fell madly in love. This was a splashy, historical rom com with exotic locales, a winsome heroine and a dreamy hero, and plenty of drama. There were laugh-out-loud moments, a romance I rooted for, and smart narrative styling that kept this from being rote or cheesy.


Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation

This creepy, sinuous speculative novel captivated me -- so much so I had nightmares inspired by it! A poetic novel with a sci-fi plot, this is a slender book that invites one to  linger but I couldn't help racing through it. Supremely original.



Various, A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii

Six fabulous historical novelists tackle the eruption of Mount Vesuvius with a series of intertwined stories. The intentional collaboration pays off in this cohesive novel; there's no jarring misstep, dropped thread, or narrative shift to distract from the tragedy of the story.


Ann Weisgarber, The Promise

This is one of those reads I can't seem to review well; I need to just make a video of myself flailing in hopes of conveying my love. A novel of the 1900 Galveston hurricane, it is also the story of emotional storms. Weisgarber's writing is just wonderful, and she makes the novel's triad -- two women connected to one man -- rich, fascinating, and heartbreaking.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! So happy to see The Promise and A Different Sun on this list - they were among my top reads of 2014, too!

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    1. So glad to "see" you -- been wondering about you and hoping things are well! And hope you have been reading something good -- I've got an exciting HF queue ahead of me, if I can figure out my reading schedule!

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    2. Happy New Year Audra! I went into a pretty big reading slump in the last half of the year and my focus shifted to work and other things. Hoping to come back big in 2015 :)

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  2. Happy New Year, Audra! All the best to you and your family in 2015.

    The only two books on your list I've read are Texts From Jane Eyre (which I didn't like) and A Different Sun (which I didn't finish) -- 2014 was an off year for me reading-wise, and many books I figured I would really like ended up not working well for me. That's okay though! I have a couple of others on my TBR pile and I'm pretty sure I'll get along well with them :-)

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    1. I hate when my reading doesn't satisfy -- and I had to laugh that my two favs were duds for you!

      Hope you get some good, gripping reads in -- need to start off 2015 with a bang!

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  3. Ah yes, those little ones are time suckers, lol. Thank goodness they are so adorable!

    I really liked a few that you have listed here, especially The Tilted World. All in all my year was a little wonky. I read half of what I usually do and I didn't have many of those OMG books.

    I have high hopes for 2015! I hope you and yours have a wonderful one!

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    1. I also only read half my usual amount, and was glad I had 10 I loved -- but more than one person has said their reading year was underwhelming. :/

      Happy New Year's to you -- hope you kick off the year with a fab read or two!

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  4. Great list! I'm adding several of these titles to my to-read list. The only one I currently have in my TBR is Annihilation - I think now I need to add it to the top of my list.

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    1. Come back and tell me what you think of Annihilation when you get to it -- I'm obsessed and just trying to find time to read the final book in the trilogy. The 2nd book was good -- not great -- but had one truly leap-out-of-your-skin moment.

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  5. Texts from Jane Eyre was just what I needed a week or so ago!! Happy New Year, Audra!

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    1. sometimes you need silly -- we took a copy of it to the hospital while I was in labor, and it had me, my wife, and the hospital staff in stitches.

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  6. Wow. Thank you Audra. You've already made 2015 memorable. Now I need to read your other 9 Top 10; well 8. I've read Jane Eyre! Happy New Year.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Ms. Orr -- I appreciate it! So very glad to help your 2015 :) and I hope you enjoy some of these reads!

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    2. Thank you for placing Elaine Orr's book on your list! It was one I couldn't put down. I still think about it. And her memoir, Gods of Noonday. Elaine and I will be having a literary conversation in the NC Literary Review that comes out late this spring. I bet you will like that, too.

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  7. Happy New Year!
    This is a great list of books - I've added The Visitors and A Different Sun to my wishlist, hopefully I can get them from my library.
    Happy reading in 2015 :)

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    1. I hope you get them, too -- those are both rich, complicated novels that I think you might enjoy -- if you do get to them, come back and tell me what you think!

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  8. I've been meaning to read The Visitors, The Promise A Different Sun! Tilted World was a fave I'd read in 2013, and Day of Fire and Queen of Bedlam were also fabulous. Happy New Year to you, your wife, and Little Reader!

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  9. Happy New Year!!!

    What a great list! I really enjoyed Night of a Thousand Stars but have The Visitors, Tilted World and Queen of Bedlam on my wish list. I've got Day of Fire already but have only had the chance to read the first story so far. Here's to many more wonderful reads in 2015!!!

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  10. I haven't read any of those books and think I only own one of them. I need to get to work! Happy New Year!

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  11. I've not read ANY of the books! And I've not even heard of several of them. Many thanks for bringing them to my attention.

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  12. I know all 6 of us are thrilled to make the list Audra :)

    Your little sweetie-bear make keep you from reading as much as you are used to in the short run, but in the long run I can see you on the couch curled up reading together.

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  13. Great list..also like your monthly list of books read..contemplating Day of Fire which is a good deal today on Amazon Kindle ( 99 cents)..love your blog..always look forward to it.

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  14. I didn't do a top ten post for 2014, but Men We Reaped was my favorite and the best book I read in 2014. My year-end post lists books I loved in 2014, and there were way more than 10!

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  15. I haven't read any of these, but I agree, Little Reader is a definite cutie!

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  16. I've got to go add Queen of Bedlam to my list; I keep forgetting!

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  17. Happy New Year Audra! I've seen "Texts from Jane Eyre" is other best-of lists and it seem right up my alley :)

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  18. Audra! Thank you so much for including The Promise on your list. You've been a supporter of my work from the get-go, and I'm thrilled. I'm also wowed you read 50 books this year when you had so much going on. I'm pushing my luck here but any chance you and your family will come to the Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver?

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  19. I haven't read any of these. I feel so out of the loop sometimes. Like, I am in my own little reading world.

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