Chip MacGregor

December 29, 2014

What was the best book you read in 2014?


So it’s the end of the year, and I always try to ask readers to participate in a couple of conversations with me. My question for you: What was the best book you read in 2014? 

It doesn’t have to be new, but I’m interested in what you read this past year. My list was pretty long — longer than normal, I think. I read through Abraham Erghese’s Cutting for Stone, Robert Kolker’s haunting Lost Girls, Ben Mezrich’s interesting Bringing Down the House, Douglas Preston’s fascinating The Monster of Florence, Robert Wittman’s Priceless (a fascinating book about the FBI’s art theft team), John Schiffman’s Operation Shakespeare (about the US government going after illegal arms traders), Les Edgerton’s The Genuine Imitation Plastic Kidnapping  (perhaps my favorite comic read this year), Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Karen Prior’s Fierce Convictions, four books from Malcolm Gladwell, two from Bill Bryson, and two from thriller writer Joshua Graham. All of these would make my “suggested reading list.” I also re-read two from Charles Dickens, two by Mark Twain, two from Henry Nouwen, two from personal favorite Lauren Winner, and Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August (a favorite of mine).

Authors I represent also had several good titles release — and while it’s not fair to name all of them, a handful of favorites were Susan Meissner’s A Fall of Marigolds, Lisa Samson’s Runaway Saint, Maegan Beaumont’s Sacrificial Muse, Bonnie Gray’s Finding Whitespace, Emily Wierenga’s Atlas Girl, and Vince Zandri’s The Shroud Key. Les Edgerton’s Finding Your Voice came out in a special edition on Snippet, and it’s one of the best writing books I’ve ever read (plus you get to listen to Les telling stories in video clips). And Rob Brunet’s Stinking Rich is a hoot, if you like crime capers.

There were others I really liked. Anything from Jessica Dotta is going to be good, and her most recent, The Price of Privilege, doesn’t disappoint. David Thomas helped Mark Schultz create Foxcatcher, which turned into a movie with Steve Carrell that is going to make some noise at Oscar time. Susy Flory collaborated on a great book, Unbreakable Boy, that hasn’t received nearly the attention it deserves. Leslie Gould’s Becoming Bea is a good read in a genre series, and Rachel Hauck’s Princess Ever After shows off her burgeoning talent. And I think readers can look for Susan Sleeman and Dana Mentink and Janice Thompson to really bust out in 2015 — they’re all fine writers, telling good stories in 2014, and have the chops to do even bigger things in the next year.

So if I was going to pick a couple books to suggest everyone read… it would be awfully hard. If you like edgy novels that make you think, by all means pick up Les Edgerton’s The Bitch. (The title is about a “habitual” offender, so don’t be put off by it.) A very satisfying read. If, like me, you enjoy great, insightful nonfiction writing, pick up a copy of Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun, which will simply change you. (No, the book didn’t come out in 2014 — in came out a couple years ago, but I read it in 2014, and found it to be one of those eye-opening, table-pounding sort of experiences.) And, if like many readers who come to this blog, you’re looking for something spiritually moving, have a look at Bonnie Gray’s Finding Spiritual Whitespace, which I found helpful and insightful. Those would be my top picks for the year.

Your turn. What did you read in 2014 that you can recommend? Leave your suggestion in the comments section, with your thoughts as to why it’s good.

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  • Gwendolann Adell Ford Faulkenb says:

    I re-read a book of poetry called Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman. It’s just beautiful. Raw, honest, ultimately hopeful. Loved it.
    Jesus Feminist by Sara Bessey is also nice. Refreshing.
    Found by Micha Boyett helped me to be more present in my life, and to practice His presence.
    Another book that stretched me was The Evolution of God. It made me want to think deeper and be smarter about what I believe.

    In fiction, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is finally off my bucket list. I actually miss the characters, Anna especially, now that she’s gone.

  • Janice Thompson says:

    Thanks for the nod, Chip! “Busting out” is high on my list this year.

  • Laura Jensen Walker says:

    The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian (Riveting. As Kirkus Reviews says, ‘A soulful whydonit’)
    Finally read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Now I see why everyone raves about it. Haunting and beautiful.

    The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. Funny, moving and charming with a great unassuming sixtysomething antihero
    Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Fascinating look at a little-known part of American history.
    The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin (Excellent historical fiction about Anne Morrow Lindbergh)
    Anne Lamott’s Small Victories (Although some of the pieces were taken from other books and columns I’d already read, I always love her hilarious honesty and spiritual insights.)
    I also reread my favorite novel of the past few years, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. (England. World War II. Charming. Delightful. Filled with literary references. Eccentric characters. A great heroine. And all of it told beautifully in epistolary form.) A must-read!

  • Susan Meissner says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Chip! My fave read from 2014 has been mentioned here already but it was a great book so no surprise there – ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. The alternating POVs the, the placement of the the right-now chapters and the back-then chapters, and the delicious prose made were the things that made it stellar.

  • sarahbates says:

    The Orphan Master’s Son was the best book I read this year. The prose stuck with me for its evocative language proving why “show don’t tell”is a caution writers should not ignore. Throughout all the other books I read, including The Goldfinch and Gone Girl, I continued to compare the writing with this memorable novel.

  • Lynn Leissler says:

    The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman — decisions have consequences and sometimes there are no easy answers, no “right” ones. Incredibly well written.

  • Erin Bartels says:

    The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabella Wilkerson was fantastic. Right now I’m reading and enjoying Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower.

  • A variety stick out in my mind. Unwritten by Charles Martin. He’s always a fav. Kisses From Katie. The beautiful story of Katie Davis who’s saving children in Uganda reminds me of how shallow my life can sometimes be. For fun, I loved the Kincaid Brothers series by Mary Connealy. We’re talking laugh out loud.

  • Julie Surface Johnson says:

    I read some great books this year and reviewed many of them on Goodreads, but my favorites were: The Paris Wife (McLain), Unbroken (Hillenbrand), The Reunion (Walsh), Girl in the Glass (Meissner), Sarah’s Key (De Rosney), The Giver (Lowry), and Leslie Gould’s Courtship series.

  • Jamie Chavez says:

    I usually do a “My Favorite Book” post, too, so I’ll pick a couple and follow up later: Barbara Brown Taylor’s “Learning to Walk in the Dark was excellent; I bought copies to give as gifts and talked about it so much on Facebook I think I influenced a dozen other sales. I also loved Phyllis Rose’s “The Shelf.” I had declared 2014 My Year of Reading Nonfiction, which is why these are at the top of my list. (Final—well, the year’s not over yet—tally: 37 nonfiction, 27 fiction; pace 5.6.)

  • Terri Kraus says:

    All The Light We Cannot See; The Invention of Wings

  • Shelia Stovall says:

    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was beautifully written, mesmerizing, thought provoking, and simply wonderful. I’m sure I’ll read it again in a few years.

  • Barb Eimer says:

    The Shoemaker’s wife was the best book I read (actually listened to!) this past year. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction but was captivated by the book from the start and fell in love with the characters.

  • Ellen Gee says:

    A Land Remembered, by Patrick D. Smith. After moving from Northern Virginia to Florida, I missed all the rich history I had grown up around. Compared to the Washington DC area, Florida’s history seemed so dull and new. Then I read this book and discovered what the locals refer to as “Old Florida.” I’ve since learned how much Florida’s history gets overshadowed by theme parks and beaches. For anyone planning a trip to Florida, I encourage them to read this book.

  • Edwina Cowgill says:

    Most outstanding book: “Before Amen” BY Max Lucado. This book changed my prayer life completely!

  • danfrances says:

    Echopraxia Peter Watts

  • Lisa McKay says:

    Station Eleven and Gone Girls both really stuck with me, freaked me out, and made me think!! Station Eleven is especially timely in light of (way overblown, but very real to many people) Ebola fears. And Gone Girl just messes with your head.

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