My Year in Books – 2014

1557522_10202304540750770_392068234_nAnother year of reading is done. I’m a little OCD about tracking my reading. I love being able to look back at the end of the year and see what I’ve read. I started keeping an excel spreadsheet again this year in addition to my Goodreads account. I’m already planning my 2015 reading – I stumbled upon a reading challenge that has my wheels turning, plus I have all the books for Grade 8 piling up on my shelf…I probably need an intervention.

Part of my reflecting is coming up with my Best-Of in different categories. I’ve been doing this in some form, either on a blog or homeschool forum, for at least 6 or 7 years now. It’s a fun way of looking back over my year.

Best History: 
Year of Impossible Goodbyes – I find myself thinking about this book quite a bit lately, especially with North Korea being in the news. It’s a quick, riveting read about the aftermath of WWII and the beginnings of the Korean war.

Best Parenting/Homeschooling:
Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading – I had heard about this book probably a dozen times before I finally picked up a copy. It was a nice read about discussing books with children. Some of it I had already been doing for years, but I picked up some new ideas too.

Best Non-Fiction:
360 Degrees Longitude: One Family’s Journey Around the World – This book awakened my wanderlust. Imagine taking a year long trek around the world. Exciting, right? Now imagine doing it with 2 young children in tow. Now it’s sounds crazy, but also like the most amazing experience ever. I would love to be able to do something like this with my children.

Best New-to-You Author: 
This is a hard one to answer, as I read a few new-to-me authors this year, so I’m going to make this a tie between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Yes, I know, where have I been? I read three of the Discworld books and Neverwhere this year and they were so good! Just the right mix of funny and cynical and fantasy.

Best New Book in a Series:
The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One – I stumbled upon the Chaos Walking trilogy when I saw it on a list of not-to-miss YA novels. The kindle version was on sale so I bought it on a whim. It was probably some of the best science fiction/fantasy I’ve read this year. I quickly got my hands on the sequel and I’m reading the final book in the trilogy right now. The premise was enough to catch my interest – a planet where you can hear the thoughts of men and animals can talk, a settlement of only men, because all the women have died. I loved the unfolding of the mystery, the characters, the cliff-hangers. I could almost add Patrick Ness to my favorite new-to-me authors.

Book That Made You Laugh Out Loud:
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened I’ve been reading Allie Brosh’s blog for years and was excited when I spotted this book at my local library. Funny, insightful, it made me laugh til I cried.

Book That Made You Cry:
The Book Thief – I read it three times this year, it was that good. I cried so hard reading this book that I had to take a break. I thought it would be easier my third time through when I read it aloud to the kids, but no, I choked and struggled to make it through the end without bawling.

Best Series:
The Color of Magic (Discworld series) – I’m going to have to give this one to the Discworld series, even though I’ve barely scraped the surface. I’ll definitely be reading more of them this year.

Best Plot Twist:
The Ask and the Answer: Chaos Walking: Book Two – the first book was great, and this one really steps it up to the next level. There are so many plot twists, I was never really sure what was going to happen.

Best Historical Fiction:
The Flowers of War – I saw this movie (which is beautiful and harrowing) before I knew it was a book, so of course I had to hunt it down and read it. The book was just as beautiful and just as harrowing, but very different from the movie. It takes place during the rape of Nanking in 1937 and it’s based on a true story about an American priest protecting schoolgirls within the church grounds.

Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi:
Neverwhere: A Novel – this was my introduction to Neil Gaiman, and it was so good. I love dark humor and quirky stories and this has both.

Best Children’s/YA Book:
Walk Two Moons – It was a re-read, but I love this book so much. It’s beautiful and quirky, and the characters are all drawn so well. They feel like they could walk right off the page and talk to you face to face.

Best Read Aloud:
Nightmares! – this book caught my eye because it’s written by Jason Segel. I was curious, and it had good reviews, so I thought we’d do it as a Halloween read aloud. I didn’t have very high expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised. And my picky twins LOVED this book. My teenager who listened along, really enjoyed the story. And the story is really, really good. It keeps you riveted, anxious to see how everything turns out. We’re hoping that there is a sequel in the works and that it’s released in time for next October.

Worst Read of the Year:
Here I Go Again: A Novel – I really wanted to love this book. Jen Lancaster’s blog is hilarious. It’s about time traveling to the 80s, it was compared to Mean Girls…I had high hopes. But it was bad. So bad. The main character was so horrible and unlikeable that I just couldn’t bring myself to care if she righted her wrongs. I just wanted to not have to read about her anymore.

Best Read of the Year:
The Book Thief – Did I mention that I read this three times? If you haven’t read it yet, please, find yourself a copy and read it. It’s probably one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking books I’ve ever read.

So what books did you enjoy this year? Feel free to use this list – or even add your own categories!   Share your list in the comments section or link to your blog.


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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