My Year In Books: Top Ten Titles of 2014

What a fabulous year in books! I’ve compiled my top ten choices from last year’s “books I’ve read” titles- not all were published in 2014, some I wrote reviews on, and others I just simply savored. I definitely notice a leaning towards women writers telling the stories of strong willed, independent women – and lots of historical fiction. I’ll miss these women, but I’m eager to start my discoveries in 2015- my shelves are groaning with new titles!

I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

A fabulous novel by a northern California ex-teacher-turned writer – after years of research, Erin Lindsay McCabe’s tells the love story of Rosetta, a strong willed young woman who follow her new husband into battle during the Civil War. I had the most wonderful time getting to know Erin this year – I love it when a great author is living right in my backyard! You can buy her terrific novel here: I Shall Be Near to You: A Novel.

Cover of "These is my Words: The Diary of...

These Is My Words/Sarah’s Quilt/The Star Garden by Nancy Turner

I fell in love with Nancy Turner’s stories last summer – I couldn’t put down her thrilling stories of Sarah, a tough willed woman living in the 1900s Arizona Territory. This trilogy was the type of story that sucks the reader in, riding the prairies alongside her as she shows us how very hard it was to be a strong woman at the turn of the century. You can purchase her stories here: These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.)

Mitten Strings For God/The Gift of an Ordinary Day/Magical Journey by Katrina Kenison

I must say, finding the books of Katrina Kenison was a true highlight to my year. I first read her blog, and fell in love with her simple yet poignant stories of the changing landscape of motherhood, and what it means to keep in touch with our selves during it all. I found myself savoring each word of each book, knowing how much they would be missed when I came to the last page. My books are highlighted and flagged, and in her words, I found so many quotes to include in my own writing. If you’re a mother, start with Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry and relish each word through The Gift of an Ordinary Day and Magical Journey. You’ll be glad you did.

The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson

I discovered this book through From Left to Write, an online book review group I’ve been writing with for the past few years. Maddie’s story of 44-year-old Rosie, who suddenly discovers she is pregnant, made me think a lot about motherhood and how simple, yet not always easy, parenting can be. You can buy Maddie’s book here: The Opposite of Maybe: A Novel

Mom and Me and Mom by Maya Angelou

Oh, the sadness of losing the brilliant voice of Maya Angelou in 2014…only tempered by her heartwrenching story of her relationship with her own mother. One of my role models, mentors, and most cherished writers of all time, Maya’s words of love and her stories of being raised by Vivian remind me of the importance of showing our daughters how to be strong, confident, and fiercely loyal to our ideals. You really should read this book – you can purchase Mom & Me & Mom here.

Impatient with Desire: The Lost Journal of Tamsen Donner

In keeping with my fascination with strong women in history, picking up this title was a natural. When I read stories of the Donner Party, particularly as I’m spending my weekends in the Sierras, I’m endlessly fascinated by their sheer determination to not only survive, but to maintain a ‘normal’ family life amidst the complete devastation of all they knew to be true. If you enjoy historical fiction, fiesty women and stories of survival, pick up a copy of Impatient with Desire: The Lost Journal of Tamsen Donner this winter.

If you’re looking for more titles, you might find some additional ideas on lat year’s post, My Year In Books 2013. If you’re a book nerd like me, I’d love to connect with you on Goodreads – I love adding books to my shelves and reading and writing and chatting about books!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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My Year In Books, 2013

In 2013, I set a goal to increase my reading this year, despite all the other events that take up my spare free minutes. I met my goal, and have some great titles to share with you! Thanks to all the wonderful authors that shared their stories with me this year – here’s to 2014 and many more great books!

January, 2013

I wasn’t sure if I would like (or finish) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot but finish I did-I was fascinated by the story behind HeLa cells, and the idea that racism could be entwined with medical science in such an unfair manner.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje, beautifully written and lyrical, shares the story of 1970s northern California – my own backyard.

Divisadero (novel)
Divisadero (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here I Go Again: A Novel by Jen Lancaster is a delightful read you’re looking for a good, funny escape-my-life chick-lit novel; check out my review of Here I Go Again!

Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Livesby Becky Aikman is a book that shows us how life has a funny way of taking us on a different path than we might expect; Becky Aikman’s novel was a great reminder for me to live in the moment and love what I have. Read my post, “When Life Doesn’t Turn Out The Way It’s Supposed To” inspired by her story.

February, 2013

I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and adored A Good American for that reason – but also, because of the author, Alex George. Tweeting with him while I was reading was such a thrill-and I cannot wait for him to finish his next novel! Read my review of A Good American here.

Another brilliant historical fiction novel, The Kitchen House: A Novel by Kathleen Grissom, recounts the story of a white Irish servant girl and her attempts to survive  as she lives and works with the slaves in a plantation house during the 1800s.

March, 2013

Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives by John Robison Elder helped me understand some of my students who have Aspbergers in a touching story of a father-son struggle to love each other.

April, 2013

Afterwards: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton – oh, I loved this book, despite the constant stream of tears rolling down my face. You know what I mean-those books that touch you deeply? This one triggered volumes of emotions about motherhood, as I reflected on my post “Forever Afterwards”.

May, 2013

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel by Anthony Marra wasn’t at the top of my 2013 book list, but I did enjoy the story of the father and daughter in war torn Chechnya and how it reminded me of playing Risk as a child.

June, 2013

Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff, a beautifully written story about motherhood and change, left me teary and happy I was introduced to Lee’s writing. While her autobiography detailing the horrific accident endured by her husband, reporter Bob Woodruff, established her talent, this novel will solidify her ability to evoke emotion within her reader in this story of a fictional tragic accident.

The Binding Chair; or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society: A Novel by Kathryn Harrison satisfied my need for more historical fiction, this time a story set during turn of the century Shanghai combined the pull of the past with the push towards the future – really a good read.

The Samurai’s Garden: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama didn’t catch my attention-maybe it hid in the shadows of Harrison’s novel-I’m not sure why I didn’t get into it.

I was introduced to the mystery novels of J.A. Jance years ago by my friend and author, Dawn Wink (see below for her novel Meadowlark) and fell in love with the character of Arizona sheriff Joanna Brady – think of Judgment Call: A Brady Novel of Suspense (Joanna Brady Mysteries) as a story to satisfy your need for a  grown up Nancy Drew

Home by Toni Morrison – what can I say about a novel by one of my all time favorite novelists? Simply beautiful, haunting and a must-read.

English: Graffiti de Toni Morrison en el front...
English: Graffiti de Toni Morrison en el frontón del barrio de Aranzabela-Salburúa, en Vitoria-Gasteiz. Imagen tomada el 30-12-2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

July, 2013

If you haven’t read Ann Patchett, you’re certainly missing out and you should certainly add Run, a story set in a New England snow storm,  to your 2014 book list!

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton: A Novel by Elizabeth Silver combines a mother’s love, a murder mystery, and the death penalty into a gripping novel. Reading it reminded me of  the power of memories, and as children when we feel powerless over our future.

This Is Paradise: Stories by Kristiana Kahakauwila is a beautiful collection of short vignettes about the author’s homeland, Hawaii. I loved her stories about making choices and growing up, especially as I was helping my daughter navigate the college application process. Kristiana Kahakauwila is not only a gifted novelist, but her ability to connect with her readers (me!) over social media made the reading experience really come to life.

August, 2013

The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison – I can’t really recommend this book unless you’re SERIOUSLY into cheese. I’m not.

Meadowlark was written by my friend, confidante and a wonderfully amazing woman, Dawn Wink. Elegantly written, Meadowlark is simply a beautifully heart-wrenching story of her great grandmother’s life on the South Dakota prairie that you MUST read! After being one of the first ‘editors’ of her story many years ago, seeing her first novel birth into the world was one of the highlights of 2013.

September, 2013

“Parenting is hard as hell” – that quote resonated with me, even though my parenting experience is vastly different than the author, Lori Duron’s. Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son is an eye-opening read for modern day parents and educators – see my reflection here.

Mother, Mother: A Novel by Koren Zailckas was the first in a series of stories surrounding the theme of motherhood that I read this year as part of the blogger’s book club From Left To Write. This psychological thriller left me wanting to hold tightly to my own children, and savor every momenet with them.

October, 2013

The Funeral Dress: A Novel by Susan Gilmore Gregg was a story that captured my attention and kept me up late for a few nights-I couldn’t get through the story of love, motherhood, and marriage fast enough. Can’t wait for her next novel!

The Dinner by Herman Koch wasn’t my favorite read of the year, but I was intrigued by the narrative technique used by the author as he shares the mystery story of a mother’s love.

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land: A Novel by P.S. Duffy takes the reader back in time to World War 1, but for me, it reminded me of my summer travels and the Pull of Nicaragua.

November, 2013

I was haunted by The Last Winter of Dani Lancing: A Novel in part because of the skillful mystery writing of author P.D. Viner, but also because it brought back memories of a horrible childhood memory when I first felt the horror of murder in my community.

I devoured Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (30 Minute Spiritual Series) by one of my all time favorite writers and life-guides, Anne Lamott. I spent this month hunkering down and preparing for big change; read my thoughts about Help Thanks Wow here.

Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGrory was a sweet memoir by the editor of the Boston Globe….reminded me of finding my own very first buddy.

December, 2013

Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by Fiona Carnarvon tells the story of the REAL Downton Abbey-if you’re a fan, you’ll love this one.

I’m wrapping up the year with Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin – enjoying parts of her story, but not all.

Yes, I’m one of those people who has ongoing novels on my bedside table:

I’m slowly rereading The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav, which reminds me that every day should be infused with reverence.

Cover of "The Seat of the Soul"
Cover of The Seat of the Soul

I started reading The Merry Recluse: A Life in Essays by Caroline Knapp after reading blogger Lindsay Mead’s recommendation-I love savoring an essay a little bit at a time!

Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers by Kate Hopper is another blogger recommended book that I dip into, chapter by chapter, as I attempt to describe this glorious time of my life.

Have you read any of these great books? What was your favorite book of 2013? What’s your reading goal for 2014?

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Show Me The Glint of Light

English: Moon

Don’t tell me the moon is shining;

show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Anton Chekhov

For all who toil as writers, and for those who can only dream of it.
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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp