In 2014 I read 83 books. This included listening to 31 audiobooks, which I consider a kind of reading.
Here is my favorite audiobook AND my favorite print book of 2014:
I went to my local bookstore the day the print version of this third book in “The Raven Cycle” came out and I bought a copy for myself to hug. I haven’t looked forward to new titles in a series this much since the Harry Potter books were dropping. I haven’t felt this involved with a set of characters since Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, which I started reading in my late teens, back in 1979 or so.
I thought I would gobble Blue Lily down but instead I savored it, taking almost a week to finish reading it.
When the audiobook on CD arrived for me at my library, I sat listening to it in my car, talent-crushing on Will Patton all over again. Then I went back and listened to him read The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves on downloadable audiobook again.
If you don’t know this series, it is about five misfit teens in contemporary Henrietta, Virginia that seek an ancient Welsh king they believe sleeps somewhere underground on the ley line (energy line) that runs through their town.
Three of the boys go to Aglionby Academy, an exclusive boys’ boarding school in an otherwise working-class community. One is on scholarship. A fourth boy has been dead for seven years. Blue Sargent, the one girl in the group, is a psychic’s daughter but she is not psychic herself.
The story is as much about these five teens and their friendships and families, and about class differences and other things, as it is about the search for the the sleeping king. As the Kirkus reviewer said, this is “simultaneously complex and simple, compulsively readable, marvelously wrought.”
One favorite for the year is not enough for me so I decided to add a few more categories:
My favorite print fiction book from 2014 is The Martian by Andy Weir.
This book is available as an audiobook, too, but I haven’t listened to it yet.
Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. His teammates thought he’d been accidentally killed by a pole or some other piece of equipment that pierced his spacesuit, and they had to leave the planet quickly themselves when their mission was aborted due to unforeseen problems.
Fortunately, Mark has useful skills and a great attitude so he MIGHT be able to survive the three years it will take for NASA to a) realize he is still alive and b) send someone back to rescue him.
The story is told through his log entries and some regular chapters that are about the scientists trying to help him from Earth. I confess that I skimmed over some of Mark’s scientific calculations and explanations but reviews by more knowledgeable people than I say they are plausible. Even with all of the science details, this is an exciting survival story.
I wish I could remember who told me on Twitter that she thinks of this as “Robinson Crusoe on Mars.” Because that is exactly what it is, only more exciting than Daniel DeFoe’s classic.
My fav nonfiction read/listen of 2014 is: Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wegenen.
The author is a contemporary teen (an 8th grader in 2012) writing about her year of experimenting in how to become popular by following a book on the subject written in 1951 by a then recently former teen model Betty Cornell.
Maya’s memoir is fun to read because she truly tries to follow all of Betty’s advice, including things like wearing a girdle or putting Vaseline on one’s eyelids to make them sparkle, and because she reflects on her experimenting in funny, intelligent ways.
It is interesting to read about her life with an Autistic younger sister, too, and her whole family’s life in a town on the border with Mexico.
I agree with the colleague that said this is a funny, quick read with truly useful advice for middle schoolers, or really anyone that has ever longed to be “popular.”
My favorite re-read in 2014 was in the form of an audiobook: A Great and Terrible Beauty, written by Libba Bray in 2005, which is when I first read the print version. It is performed by Josephine Bailey for Random House/Listening Library. The audiobook came out in 2005, too, but I only listened to it this year.
Josephine Bailey does an exquisite job of performing the book. Her interpretation highlights aspects of the story that I missed, or at least had forgotten, from reading it myself. And although paranormal romances are now a dime a dozen, this is still one of the best.
The book opens with 16-year-old British girl Gemma Doyle living in India and arguing with her mother about moving to London. Within the first few minutes, Gemma’s mother is murdered, or perhaps kills herself? Anyway, there are mysterious circumstances.
Gemma finds herself in England after all, attending Spence Academy, a school that trains girls into..if not titled English ladies, then at least absolutely proper Victorian wives.
While finding her way socially at the school, Gemma also finds a mysterious old diary that may or may not help her with the strange visions she’s been having.
Meanwhile Kartik, a (yes, mysterious) Indian boy that followed her from Bombay and is now living with a nearby group of Gypsies, says he is also secretly a member of a group called the Rakshana. He says he will be watching to see that she does not abuse her powers, whatever that means.
After listening to the first book I immediately listened to Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing, too. I had never read them in print, although for a while teens were raving to me about the whole trilogy.
Now I love the whole trilogy, too, and look forward to suggesting it to a new generation of teens.
© 2014 Hope Baugh