As we head for the New Year, I am counting down the ten best books I read in 2014. This is always a challenge because some books that could have made the list have to be left off.There are four books on this year's list that make my list of all-time favourite books. This year I also found the book for the very top of my list of all-time favourite books. Six of the ten books on my list this year are nonfiction.
Here is my top ten list for 2014:
10. Careless People: Murder Mayhem and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell–Churchwell sheds a whole new light on the modern American classic The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. Anyone who has lingering doubts about the real occupation of Gatsby needs to read this book. Using newspaper stories and other records of the day, Churchwell gives modern readers the social and cultural information that readers would have known in the 1920s.
9. Your Life Calling by Jane Pauley–Journalist Jane Pauley presents a compelling case for rethinking life after retirement. Arguing that retirees often have 20 to 25 good and productive years ahead of them, Pauley presents stories of people who re-invented their lives at 40, 50, 60 and beyond. Some of the people in this book had a wake-up call from health issues that caused them to re-think what they really wanted to do in life. This is also an excellent audio book narrated by the author herself.
8. Wolf: The Lives of Jack London by James L Haley–London is one of the most endearing and enduring American authors. His adventures are unbelievable. His real-life adventures rival his novels.
7. Izzy and Lenore by Jon Katz–Known for his books about the animals on his Bedford Farm, Katz presents the story of two of his dogs that he turned into hospice therapy dogs. This is an incredibly uplifting story that makes readers think about having a purpose in life and appreciating every moment we have on this earth.
6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak–There is never a shortage of World War II stories, but this story of nine-year-old Liesel Meminger and her relationships with books, a foster family and Jewish man hiding in her home is special. Book Thief is a beautiful tribute to the power of love and the power of books. Be prepared to cry.
5. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C Morais–On the surface, Morais's novel looks like it's about food, but food is merely a metaphor for following your dreams as Hassan Haji finds out in his quest to be a top chef. This is a book filled with tastes, smells and sights that evoke deep emotions in readers. It is one of those unusual books that can be a fun, light read or a deep, philosophical journey. Readers can fall in however deep they want to go.
4. The Elephant Whisperer by Anthony Lawrence–When South African conservationist Anthony Lawrence takes in a herd of rogue elephants, he is not prepared for the challenges or the feelings that come with the territory. The elephants teach Lawrence and readers about life on a whole new level. This also is an unbelievable audio book. I found myself screaming "Don't do it!" in one part of the book. This is the one and only time I ever yelled at an audio book.
3. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson–By far the funniest book I ever read, Jonasson's witty political satire–which also doubles as a hilarious adventure story–stars Alan Karisson, who escapes from an old people's home on his 100th birthday. Laughed out loud for the entire book. The writing is brilliant.
2. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing–This book is pure tension from the first line of the book when Shackleton's crew must abandon their ship caught in the Antarctic ice. The tension never lets up. Each stage of the journey back to civilisation is more amazing than the next. Shackleton's leadership skills are awesome.
1. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic by Daniel James Brown–There is no book that I have ever read that celebrates, trust, perseverance, sacrifice, humility and competition better than this book. When Brown decided to write the story of Joe Rantz, the dying man told him, only if he tells the story of the boat. This novel is incredibly well written. There is much to learn and much to celebrate in The Boys in the Boat.
It was an unbelievable year for great books to read. Here's hoping next year will be even better.