Excluding rereads, I read 61 books in 2014, exceeding my goal of 40. It was a fiction-heavy year: 51 pieces of fiction and only 10 nonfiction, biography/memoirs, and essay collections. In this year of #readwomen2014, 44 of my reads were written by women, three were co-written by women, and one was an essay collection edited by a woman. #readwomen? Yes, I do.
However, I realized most of the women writers I read are British or American white women, so I sought out some non-white women writers. I finally read Americanah and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, loved Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic, and adored Mambo in Chinatown. I’m adding more Jean Kwok and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to my to-read list for 2015.
Though they aren’t on my favorites list, my 2014 year of reading belongs to Kerry Greenwood and Phryne Fisher. After falling in love with Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (thank you Netflix), I started reading Kerry Greenwood’s stories of the fashionable and incomparable 1920’s Australian detective. Twelve of my 60 reads are Phryne Fisher mysteries, and I have another 8 to go.
2014 Favorite Reads
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai is amazing and inspiring. She has a remarkable spirit and an incredible outlook. Her (first?) memoir should be added to school curriculums across the country.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I finally read Americanah and adored it. This wonderful engaging novel makes me want to read more of Adichie’s work and makes me wish Ifemelu’s Raceteenth blog was real. As I was running out of pages, I worried the story would abruptly end. In a way it does; I’m not ready to leave Ifemelu and Obinze. But the ending is satisfying and it makes me happy. I don’t rank my favorite reads, but if I did, Americanah would be in the top three.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I switched jobs and was driving for nearly two hours every day that first month. The Outlander audiobook saved me. (Yes, I was in love with Jamie fairly quickly.) To call this a romance doesn’t do it justice as there is much more meat and plot than a typical romance story, although there is a fabulous romance. Call it romance, call it historical fiction, call it fantasy, call it whatever you like, but no matter what you call it, add it your to-read list.
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
I heard Ms. Kline speak at my local library and quickly borrowed a copy of her book. When I finished it in May, I knew it would be one of my favorite reads of the year. The two protagonists, Vivian and Molly, are compelling, empathetic, inspiring heroines and I loved both their stories. If you enjoy historical fiction, contemporary fiction, strong female characters, happy endings, good writing, or moving novels, I highly recommend Orphan Train.
The American Mission by Matthew Palmer
I like a good spy novel and while the CIA agents are minor characters in Palmer’s tale of a foreign affairs officer in the Congo, The American Mission is fast paced and meaty, weaving mining, diplomacy, K&R, the US Foreign Service, and the politics of developing countries like the DRC into an engrossing and entertaining novel. Half way through, I added Palmer’s next book to my to-read list.
First Impressions by Charlie Lovett
Subtitled “a novel of old books, unexpected love, and Jane Austen,” this is clearly a novel for me. Part historical fiction, part literary thriller, part romance, part Jane Austen adoration, Lovett’s novel is magnificent. And it spurred me to finally read Persuasion.
Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok
Ballroom dancing! A young woman coming into her own! A little romance! I adored it. And I started taking dance lessons again. Charlie, our heroine, is a protagonist you immediately root for. My one critique is the subplot of Lisa, Charlie’s sister, and her illness; it seemed obvious to me and other readers.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
I picked this up at my local library after I recognized the cover, likely from NPR’s book concierge, and was intrigued by the jacket copy. A retelling of the twelve dancing princesses fairy tale, I started reading this one evening and just kept reading and reading and reading–until nearly 2 a.m. when I finished. I’m drawn to books set in the 1920’s and this one has dancing, happy endings (yes, plural–there are 12 sisters), and women taking control of their own lives. Valentine did a fantastic job creating the atmosphere of 1920’s dancing spots and the personalities of the sisters. I already want to reread it.