Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ten Favorite Books of 2014

I read 46 books in 2014, which rather astounds me.  That's almost four a month!  Wow.  I've decided to do a quick post about what my top ten favorites were this year, and I'm breaking it up into two sections, new-to-me books and re-reads.

My favorite new-to-me books were:

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster -- so adorable!  Funny and sweet and quirky, an instant favorite.

Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson -- another for my list of absolute favorites!  Which I need to revise one of these days.  I loved how this wasn't focused on romance so much as friendships.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger -- I never knew what to expect next from this book.  And I could only read it a chapter or so at a time because I had to digest every new twist and turn before I could move on.

The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley -- I love the Zorro story, and I was delighted to find that the original story was crammed with the happy-go-lucky bravery I was hoping for.

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool -- I found this book so useful for understanding 19th-century life that I asked for (and got) a copy for Christmas.

Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright -- sweet and heart-warming, with some of the most believable sibling characters I've read in a long time.


My favorite re-reads were:

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien -- yeah, yeah, I read The Fellowship of the Ring last year, but I read the other two this year, so I'm counting it as a whole for this year.  This was my sixth read-through, and it continued to astonish me with new nuances and depths I hadn't found before.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by A. Conan Doyle -- my favorite canonical Sherlock Holmes story.  It's unparalleled in its use of atmosphere and location to build suspense.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King -- my favorite non-canonical Sherlock Holmes story.  It has several mysteries and great character development, and the series that follows is very dear to my heart.

A Family Affair by Rex Stout -- my favorite Nero Wolfe mystery, with a shocking solution that makes me think of Joss Whedon.


And I've decided that 2015 will be My Year with Robin Hood.  You may recall that I spent 2013 (and into 2014 because I didn't start until March of 2013) in the company of Sherlock Holmes, and I focused on Jane Austen in 2012.  I really missed having an overall theme to my reading this year, so that's my challenge to myself for 2015:  read at least 6 books that involve Robin Hood.  You can see in my sidebar that I've already begun -- I started Angus Donald's Outlaw yesterday and immediately knew I'd found my theme for 2015.  I've loved Robin Hood stories since I was a little kid, but it's been a while since I read anything about him.  Time to remedy that!  I kind of collect Robin Hood books and movies, so I have several retellings I've never read, and I bet my enthusiasm will once again bleed over into my movie watching, like it did for Austen and Holmes.  So don't be surprised if I start reviewing Robin Hood movies on my other blog!


Happy New Year!

43 comments:

  1. I love that picture of Robin Hood and his band, my brother has it as a poster in his room. :)

    xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. And here I think I may have only read 4 or 5 books this year total. And I used to be able to read a paperback in a single evening. Sigh. This is what happens when your day job exhausts your eyes so you can't use them for close-up work in the evenings. :-(

    Dig the Robin Hood theme for next year! I've also loved him from a very early age. Can't wait to see what books and movies come from that!

    Also, love the header!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your job is evil :-( Have you considered large-print books?

      I'm very excited about all the Robin Hood-ness too :-D

      And thanks! I started reading a book of quotes by Fitzgerald about writing and decided I wanted to celebrate him and Hemingway a little. Plus I've been really wanting to watch "Midnight in Paris" again. Need to get myself a copy. They were so delicious in that!

      Delete
  3. Yay for Sixteen Brides!!!! Man, I love that book SO terribly much. (I was almost about to say 'bloody' much, but then thought that might be too indelicate-- I've been hanging around my cousin too much. ;-P) Anyway, I'm SO glad you read it and even more glad you loved it as much a I did-- er, DO. And ever will. AND THE FRIENDSHIPS. Totally made it.

    Daddy Long-Legs is at the top of my list now. I'd heard lots of good things about it, but your verdict confirmed it for me. :-) Now if I can just find it....

    Happy New Year!!! :-)

    ~Emma

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're going to get a kick out of DLL -- it's quite amusing.

      Happy New Year!

      Delete
  4. P.S. Is that supposed to be Ernest Hemingway on your header? IS IT?

    ;-P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is! It is! I really like the way Corey Stoll and Tom Hiddleston portrayed Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald in the movie Midnight in Paris, and I've been slowly working my way through a book of Fitzgerald quotes about writing and being a writer, and of course my blog title comes from a Fitzgerald quote, so... I decided to celebrate the two of them with my header, with pics of them from that movie and real life. Admittedly, the big picture of Tom Hiddleston isn't from the movie, but it worked really well with the blog title, so I used it.

      Delete
  5. Yeah, your header is awesome. I love Midnight in Paris. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. If you liked Daddy-Long-Legs, I bet you'd enjoy the sequel Dear Enemy too—to be fair, it juggles around some pretty strange topics like eugenics and hereditary insanity, but the heroine's letters (she's Judy's college friend Sallie) are even more sprightly and hilarious than in the first book.

    Which Robin Hood retellings do you have? I've read Roger Lancelyn Green's and Paul Creswick's (with the Wyeth illustrations!), but I also love Ivanhoe, in which Robin Hood and Friar Tuck play memorable supporting parts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually picked up Dear Enemy at the library book sale in November, so I hope to get to it soon!

      Straight retellings, I have Roger Lancelyn Green's, Howard Pyle's, and Henry Gilbert's, which is the one I grew up with. I'd like to get Paul Creswick's cuz I haven't read it yet. Annnnnnnnd I totally just found it on Amazon for a penny, so I'll have it soon too :-) I also have Ivanhoe, which I haven't read since 1999, so I am hoping to include that this year :-D I also have an "Eyewitness Classics" version for like elementary school-age kids that I might try to get to as well. And then I have two reimaginings: Outlaw by Angus Donald and Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest by Nancy Springer, which is junior fiction about Robin Hood's daughter (?!).

      Delete
  7. Yay, your Robin Hood theme year sounds amazing! I've seen many of the films as well and will be eager to read your blog posts on them! I got a bit ambitious and settled on _three_ reading themes for 2015: the rest of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories (I'm almost halfway through I think), Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey & Stephen Maturin series, and all the Shakespeare plays, which might take me a couple of years to finish because I want to go through in a nice, leisurely pace. I look forward to your 2015 posts and wish you another great year with reading :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was considering rereading all the Aubrey/Maturin books this year! But felt in more of a Robin Hood mood. Maybe next year! I really love that series. All three of your goals sound like such fun :-D Happy new year!

      Delete
  8. Sounds like you found some great reading this year! And Robin Hood will be fun! You know, I don't think I've ever read a full story about Robin Hood. Lots of movies, but no books. Hm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did! It was a good year, book-wise.

      I had an abridged version of the story of Robin Hood when I was a kid that I read so often that you can't read the words on the spine anymore :-) Then I got Gilbert's from a yard sale when I was like 9 and read it over and over and over too. Been a favorite hero of mine for just about ever.

      Delete
  9. #1 - I consider Robin Hood a thoroughly splendid idea! ;) Incidentally, I think we have about three or four versions at our house. Have you ever read the chapter adaptation by Rosemary Sutcliff? It's quite good, but I think hard to find....

    #2 - Your Persuasion copy is gorgeous. I really like it! (And I've been meaning to tell you for a couple days.... :))

    #3 - And I wanted to ask again as it had been awhile....but are you still planning to do a Little Women read-along in March?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rosemary Sutcliff sounds familiar, but I don't think I've read hers. As a kid, I just had the Henry Gilbert, and then I think I got the Pyle from the library a few times. I'll keep my eye out.

      Thanks! It has those page edges that look like they're hand cut. I'm exceedingly pleased with it, and I happened to have a pen the same teal color that's on the cover, so I'm using that for my notes :-)

      And yes! Still planning to do a LW read-along in March. Need to make some badges for it one of these days.

      Delete
  10. I read 'The Beekeeper's apprentice' for the first time this year, thanks to a good friend who gifted me the book. It was a very interesting reading. I didn't get along very well with Mary Russel, but I absolutely loved the depiction of the historical context and I have a soft spot for retired Sherlock Holmes.

    'What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew' sounds absolutely awesome ! It goes straight to my wish list !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you didn't like Mary Russell? Interesting! Any reasons you'd care to share?

      WJAA&CDK is soooooooooooooo useful!

      Delete
    2. In fact, I found her extremely rude, disdainful and way too self-confident. She is young and has a brilliant mind, for sure, but I really didn't appreciate the way she speaks of Watson as if he were completely stupid, for example. In fact, I was very uncomfortable with the way she acts toward adults in general.

      That's a really personal view of her character, I know but that's the impression she made upon me at first and I didn't manage to get rid of it, all through my reading.

      I still intend to read the following books in the series, because I guess she will get older and that may tame her character a bit... (or I simply will be in a totally different mood and much more patient and accepting toward her. My mood at the time of my reading has a great importance on my appreciation of a book and its characters)

      Delete
    3. How interesting! I have to say "rude" is not a word I'd use to describe Mary Russell, though I can agree with the "overly self-confident" assessment, especially in the early stages of the first book. But my reading of her is also very personal, because when I was a teen, I was very bothered by the way that many adults assumed that any contribution I made to a serious conversation would be trite or unimportant, that I should be smiled at and humored and then blithely ignored as soon as they'd given me a metaphorical pat on the head. So I do know that one of the thing I love best about this book is the way Holmes treats Mary as an equal in so many ways from the get-go, that he never assumes she is stupid because she is young. It wasn't until I got to college (and by then was legally an adult anyway) that I found grown-ups who thought I could have serious things to say about serious matters. One of them was the professor who first recommended this book to me, as it so happens.

      But anyway, by the end of the book, I don't think Russell sees Watson as stupid. Before she met him, she got the impression that he was a bumbling idiot from the stories she had read -- because her mind worked the same way as Holmes' mind, she assumed anyone who was continually befuddled by Holmes must be a moron. And then, when she met him (quite prepared to hate him, as I recall), she realized that he was as intelligent as any normal person. Just not super-intelligent like herself or Holmes. And she discovered what a warm, wonderful person he is, and became very fond of him -- even to the point of calling him "Uncle John."

      So I'd be interested to hear what you think of later books in the series if you read more! I'm happy to hear you're giving the series another shot, at least.

      Delete
  11. I took a glance of some of your LOTR read along posts, no wonder it become your fave again and again. Tolkien was indeed a genius.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The word "epic" gets tossed around a lot these days, but LOTR is one thing that deserves that description.

      Delete
  12. I'm really looking forward to what you will write about your Robin Hood reading on your blog. I'm quite fond of him (and of medieval books in general), so it'll be interesting to maybe discover some new gems?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, so far I've only discovered one dud, but I'm much more hopeful about the rest :-) I think I'll start the Pyle next, once I finish off some of the things I'm currently in the middle of.

      Delete
  13. Yay again for Daddy Long Legs! I just never get tired of Judy. :) And another yay for Sixteen Brides! I really love that one as well. I've loved several of Ms. Whitson's older books and not as many of her newer ones, but this one is a keeper for sure. You said it correctly, the friendships are what make the story. Those ladies are awesome!

    And I may actually get to The Lord of the Rings this year! A friend gave me the audiobooks and I found that that worked really well for The Hobbit, so I'm thinking it'll be the same for these. I hope anyway! You can be sure I'll have thoughts to share with you, since I know you love them so well. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read any more of Whitson's books, but the library has a bunch of them. Any recommendations?

      And that would be so cool if you got to read/hear LOTR! I can't wait to hear what you think of them. You could even go back to my read-along posts if you have specific chapters you want to discuss! That would be super fun :-D

      Delete
    2. I've had more luck with the audiobooks, too, Kara! I decided to start with The Silmarillion, though, which has been...interesting.

      Delete
    3. Wow! I have not attempted the Silmarillion yet. I'm kind of daunted by it.

      Delete
    4. It's fantastic as an audiobook, because you can immerse yourself in the story without struggling to pronounce everything yourself. It feels like storytime! :) The language in parts is very like reading a KJV Bible. That being said, several of the characters have multiple names, so it takes a little bit to get used to that and keep track in your head who is who. I'm waiting to get it back from the library, and then I just have two more CDs to finish, I think!

      Delete
    5. Very cool! I must admit when I encounter hard-to-pronounce names, I'll end up making up an pronunciation in my head and zooming past them. Did that a lot in parts of the Eragon books, esp the parts with dwarves.

      Have you seen this 3-minute synopsis of The Silmarillion? It's made me think I could handle reading it after all, hee.

      Delete
    6. I do that sometimes, too. Never finished the Eragon series, though. I read the first one and promised my husband I'd read the rest sometime but still haven't gotten to it. I tried listening to the second one on audio but couldn't stand the narrator's voice for the dragon, so I had to stop.

      I hadn't seen that synopsis of The Silmarillion, but it's pretty funny. That's the main storyline all summed-up.

      Delete
    7. The Eragon books improved as they went along, I thought. And yeah, the narrator can make or break an audio book.

      Delete
    8. I really like The Prairie Winds' trilogy, as well as Keepsake Legacies trilogy, Hamlette. Those six are the ones I reread a great deal. :)

      And what a great idea! I'll definitely have to do that. Because I really do think I'll have lots of things I'll want to talk about. I found it that way with The Hobbit and the LOtR is SO much bigger and better than that one! ;)

      Delete
    9. That's great to hear that I'm not alone with that, Hannah! It just seemed hearing the story worked better for me. I couldn't seem to make myself pick up the book, but I always looked forward to driving when I knew I'd get to hear more. And I so agree! It's definitely like storytime! :)

      I'll be doing good to get through the LOtR, I think! The Silmarillion is for sometime in the distant future. ;) But I'm glad you're enjoying it!

      Also a question. So you ladies would recommend the Eragon series? I haven't read them. I did see the movie, but I know it's supposedly vastly different and hardly anybody actually liked it. (I did like it, for the record, but I'm weird that way.)

      Delete
    10. Oh! And one more thing. I loved getting the email updates every time y'all commented on here. Made me grin!

      Delete
    11. I think the library has the Prairie Wind series, so I'll try one of those out sometime. Thanks!

      And you know I would absolutely love to discuss LOTR with you. Whenever, wherever! We took it chapter-by-chapter to wring as much from it as we could.

      I quite liked the Eragon series. People complained that it was "Star Wars with dragons" and whatever, but honestly, I thought he did a great job of using classic myth tropes and creating something new with them, just like George Lucas did to create Star Wars. They are chunksters, but I like them so much I've bought all 4 at used book sales over the years. I felt like they improved as they went along. My favorite character wasn't Eragon, though, it was Roran Stronghammer. And I actually liked the movie okay -- I saw it on TV, in a hotel while Sam was napping when he was like a year old, so not an ideal viewing (sound turned way low, etc), but I thought that Jeremy Irons was a fantastic Brom, and the guy playing Eragon wasn't awful either.

      I don't put the books on a level with Harry Potter, much less LOTR or Narnia, but they were really enjoyable and I look forward to reading them again in a few years.

      Delete
    12. I know exactly what you mean about looking forward to driving and listening! As for The Silmarillion, I read The Hobbit a while back but decided to listen to LOTR on audio because, like you, I just never picked it up. So, while I was looking for the CDs at my library, I found The Silmarillion and thought, "I'll just listen to them all in order!" It wasn't so much a great feat as an attempt to preserve the timeline of the books. So, after I finish that, I'll probably listen to The Hobbit as a review of sorts.

      I've only read the first Eragon book and seen the movie (which I thought was alright--not amazing, but it didn't disappoint me). The language and ideas of the book are very simple. It definitely reads like a middle grade book (which it is), but I enjoy reading those, so it didn't bother me. I know I'm rambling, but my point is this: The writing style was nothing to write home about, but the plotline was pretty good.

      I love getting those e-mails, too!

      Delete
    13. I like simple language, to be honest. It's one of the reasons I've switched to writing YA -- my own writing style is very suited to it, because I tend to favor very straight-forward and uncomplicated writing.

      Delete
    14. Ok then! I'll definitely add the series to my tbr. I enjoy middle grade/YA stories. And that actually makes so much sense, Hamlette. About your writing, I mean. I've contemplated the same thing with mine. (Although I should note that I have written very, very, very little. But writing for younger people intrigues me. :)

      And I hope you enjoy the series, if/when you get the chance to read them! I was going to say the first book (Walks the Fire) is my favorite, but the third one is pretty great too! So I won't pick a favorite.

      I confess to still being impressed that you're reading/listening to it, Hannah. I saw where you said listening is making it easier to understand some of the words or names. I found that same thing with The Hobbit. I didn't have a clue how to say several of the names there and was so glad to hear them! :D

      Delete

What do you think?

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)