“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”
It’s time for one of my favorite annual posts — my “best of books” for 2014! I always look forward to compiling this list each December. There’s something special about having the chance to reflect back on all the stories that have touched my heart over the past twelve months, the characters and anecdotes that have resonated far beyond their pages. It’s proof, I think, that each book holds a world of possibility and a twinkle of magic somewhere inside its spine — and inside its words. And so, without further ado, here are some of my favorites from this year:
The Baker’s Daughter – Sarah McCoy: I’ve written about this book before, so you already know how much I adore it. Even though I read this story back in April, I’m being completely honest when I tell you that it still runs through my mind often. Reba and Elsie, they are the kind of characters you root for. The kind of characters you care about. The kind of characters that inspire you. I have a soft spot for books that feature a dual narrative, and it was such a joy to hear not only about Reba’s and Elsie’s individual journeys – in present-day Texas and WWII era Germany, respectively – but also about the one they forged together after Reba visits Elsie’s German Bakery to interview its owner. The lessons she learns are profound, and the feelings this beautiful story evokes are the kind that positively fill you up as a reader.
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend – Matthew Dicks: I was absolutely captivated by this book. It is so special, so clever, so tender and enlightening and poignant. It’s different from the type of story I normally read, but oh my gosh, you guys, I couldn’t put it down for anything. I sped through it faster than any other book this year, because I simply had to know what happened next for sweet, creative, brave little Max and his imaginary friend Budo. Watching them both come into their own, seeing them grow and spread their wings … it’s a gift for the reader. This might be a story about a child, but when you look at the world through his eyes – and through the eyes of the imaginary friend who pushes him to have more courage than he even thought possible – I promise, you’ll learn a lot about your own world, too.
You Knew Me When – Emily Liebert: This book has been on my to-read list for a long time, and I’m so glad I finally dove into its pages this year. I truly loved every word. This is a story about life and love, but mostly it’s a story about friendship. Getting to watch as Katherine and Laney’s friendship grows – they meet when Katherine moves two doors down from Laney as an eleven-year-old – and then dissolves when a massive roadblock wedges its way into the journey of their sisterhood, it is a treat. Emily does such a lovely job of writing about both the past and present, and tying them together in meaningful ways. I was rooting for Katherine and Laney from start to finish, and I adored the presence of the neighbor who lived between them. Luella was an important part of the girls’ past, and I love that, even though she’s passed away, she gave them one final gift — a hope for their future.
Catching Air – Sarah Pekkanen: For those of you who have been reading my blog over the years, it’ll come as no surprise that Sarah’s on this list. She is every year, because her books are the kind that take us directly into her characters’ homes … hopes … hearts. This story is one of my favorites of all of hers. It’s such fun to join Kira, Peter, Alyssa, and Rand as they open a B&B in Vermont — to see them not only navigate the ups-and-downs of this new business venture, but also the ups-and-downs of their personal lives, including the possibility of adding not one, but two little heartbeats into the fold. And then there’s Dawn, the woman who seeks shelter in their bed and breakfast. These characters are so real, so true. One of my favorite things about Sarah’s books is that they invite you in and let you experience their magic. That’s exactly what happened here, and it left me feeling inspired to catch some air of my own.
Yes Please – Amy Poehler: This is, hands down, one of my favorite memoirs I’ve ever read. Amy’s book is full of humor and wit, but also grace and intelligence. I’m not exaggerating when I say I had six different passages bookmarked within the first two chapters. Hearing about Amy’s life, about her plethora of amazing experiences, was so cool, but what I loved most was her insight into the writing world and her advice on saying “yes, please” to a life full of inspiration. She is strong, she is determined, she is confident … but she’s also not afraid to admit when she’s wrong, to acknowledge that there will always be so much more to learn. I listened to her words of wisdom in the audiobook version, and if you guys like those at all, I highly recommend it. Amy narrates the book herself, and there are some special extras thrown in, too. It adds another dimension, because not only is Amy a wonderful writer, but also a fabulous storyteller.
The Longest Ride – Nicholas Sparks: Would you believe this was my first Nicholas Sparks novel? It won’t be my last, though! This is another dual perspective book, the story alternating between Ira – an elderly man who has gotten into a car accident and is relying on a lifetime of memories with his dear wife Ruth to keep him holding on – and Luke and Sophia, the couple who find his car off the side of the road. Ira’s sections, in particular, had me spellbound. What a fantastic character Nicholas created in him, and oh my gosh, what a heartwarming love story he had with Ruth. It’s the kind of bond that brings tears to your eyes. And when the two stories intertwine at the end? It’s in such a fitting, beautiful way. I’ve stayed away from Nicholas’ books in the past because I know they often have sad endings, but this one was different. There was hope woven through every page, love threaded through every word.
Okay, now it’s your turn: what are your favorite books of 2014?