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.