July 2, 2014

The Best Books of the Year (So Far)

Mad About the Boy squeaked in under the wire to become my 60th read of 2014! I'm well ahead of my target of 104 books for the year, which is great, since inevitably my reading rate declines a lot around the holidays.

For my "best of 2014 so far", I decided to narrow my choices down to six books: the top 10% of what I've read this year. 

I opened my Goodreads and scrolled through my 2014 list, writing down the books that really stood out in my memory. So my shortlist was:
(The last four books on my list I read in the last 10 days of June. I think it's less a matter of recent reads influencing my memory, and more a matter of a coincidental selection of better-than-average books in that timespan.)

That list of 12 is fantastic as is; but I still really wanted to narrow it down to the cream of the crop. So, without further ado, the Best Books of the Year (so far). 

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - This book has gotten tons of hype; deservedly so. Ursula Todd is born on a snowy night in 1910, and dies immediately. On that same night, Ursula Todd is born, and lives. As Ursula grows up, she dies and starts over again, repeatedly.  Some of her lives end dramatically, others violently, others quietly. I was obsessed with reading Life After Life, because I couldn't wait to see what would happen with Ursula's next life.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion - Don Tillman is a social awkward professor (probably with Asperger's, although he doesn't have a clear diagnosis). Don is tired of being alone, and embarks on "the wife project" -- a scientific survey which theoretically ought to find him a perfect wife. But then he meets Rosie, who doesn't conform to the survey at all; and yet who enchants Don, and turns his life upside down. I listened to this one on audiobook; it was a superb production.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - I had to put at least one Harry Potter on this list, since I just reread them all this year for the Young Adult Book and Movie Club. And this book is just irresistible. Finding out some of Voldemort's history, the teenage hijinks as Harry, Ron, and Hermione all flirt with love, and the darkening of the series atmosphere make book 6 fantastic.

Persuasion by Jane Austen - I've been re-reading Jane Austen this year for the Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club, and I was surprised how much I liked this one. I read it about 15 years ago, and I think I was too young to appreciate how much hope there was in the story. (All I saw were the eight wasted years.) But this time around I'm old enough that a second chance at love at age 28 still sounds pretty youthful, and I appreciated Anne Eliot's character immensely. I think she gives Lizzie Bennet a run for her money!

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley - I've loved Flavia de Luce for a while now, and I just caught up on the series, devouring this one in one evening. And oh goodness, SO MANY THINGS I want to say about this book, but I can't, because SPOILERS. So I'll just wait here while you quickly breeze through the series. Because who doesn't want to read books about a feisty, snarky, brilliant 11 year old chemist with a penchant for solving murders?

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer - This one reminds me how much I like a good true crime book. It details the murder of Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter by her Mormon fundamentalist brothers-in-law. And it provided some fascinating insight into Mormon history. I've read a few other Mormon books, and I had a Mormon roommate at one point, so I had heard snippets of a lot of it, but it was interesting to read such a sweeping saga all together.

Phew, I always feel slightly stressed out when narrowing down my "favorite" reads. But I think that's a pretty stellar list. Stay tuned for my best kids' books of 2014 next week! Eleanor and Juliet and I have been reading some great books.

What are the best books YOU have read this year?

P.S. Don't forget that the next #bookwormproblems link-up is THIS Friday.

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