Favourite Books of 2014


I read too many good books this year to decide on a Top 10 list like I did last year. So, instead, I’m looking back on my favourite books of the year, month by month. (That way I can mention as many books as I want!)

If you want to check out my first year of blogging survey that I posted in November, it’s here. It contains only the Canadian content of my blog for the year, minus December.



The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – Leo Gursky is worth getting to know.

Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl , and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.

The Empty Room by Lauren B. Davis – This is a dark book about alcoholism. Not for everyone, but so well done.

She was always five minutes away from being the person she wanted to be.


Want Not by Jonathan Miles – I loved all the diverse characters in this book, and the writing will pull you right in.

How much easier it would be, he thought, if people were merely good or bad, as in comic books and television dramas, instead of suspended in the hoary in-between, goodbad creatures swerving from acts of valiant decency to craven negligence in the very same day/hour/minute.

Our Daily Bread by Lauren B. Davis – Another dark and disturbing book, but I couldn’t pull myself away.

You keep your secrets to yourself and you keep your weaknesses a secret and your hurts a secret and your dreams you bury double deep.


The Good Lord Bird by James McBride – A surprisingly entertaining book about the adventures of the famous abolitionist, John Brown.

The Good Lord Bird don’t run in a flock.  He flies alone.  You know why?  He’s searching.  Looking for the right tree.  And when he sees that tree, that dead tree that’s taking all the nutrition and good things from the forest floor.  He goes out and he gnaws at it till that thing gets tired and falls down.  And the dirt from it raises the other trees.  It gives them good things to eat.  It makes ‘em strong.  Gives ‘em life.  And the circle goes ’round.

Swarm by Lauren Carter – A smart and scary look at a near future that is way too possible.

I knew I was cornered, but I was convincing myself I could make that corner comfortable: wallpaper it, drag in a comfy chair, feed the fire, have friends over.  Like I still had choices.


The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway – A glimpse of life in a city under siege, and a beautiful tribute to the people of Sarajevo.

If this city is to die, it won’t be because of the men on the hills, it will be because of the people in the valley.  When they’re content to live with death, to become what the men on the hills want them to be, then Sarajevo will die.

George and Rue by George Elliott Clarke – A close look at two men in 1949 who didn’t really have a chance. Would they fare any better today?

The boys were not hanged; they were felled./ They were not conquered; they were quelled./ Their deaths will last as long as life itself.


The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris – Chani has no idea what is going to happen on her wedding night. Worse still, neither does the groom. A look inside the world of an Orthodox Jewish community in London, through several central characters who are at major turning points in their lives.

… to love is to give even when the giving feels like a burden.

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews – Two sisters; one who wants to die, and one who wants her to live. What does it really mean to love someone? An intimate look at mental illness.

It was the first time that we had sort of articulated our major problem. She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other.

Wake by Anna Hope – Three women with three different stories in the aftermath of WWI.

Bearing witness. This is what they are doing. They are witnessing one another, all of them. This is why they are here.


The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman – A romp around the globe with a cast of quirky characters and a search for identity.

People kept their books, she though, not because they were likely to read them again but because these objects contained the past – the texture of being oneself at a particular place, at a particular time, each volume a piece of one’s intellect, whether the work itself had been loved or despised or had induced a snooze on page forty.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey – A woman fights to hold onto her memories as she tries to puzzle out what happened to her friend.

I suppose she must be right. I have no recollection of Saturday, but I have no recollection of not recalling it either. The thought makes me breathe in sharply. These blanks are worrying. More than worrying. How can I not remember last Saturday? I feel the familiar skipping of my heartbeat, the flush of embarrassment, fear.

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Euphoria by Lily King – A compelling love triangle between Anthropologists, set in the Territory of New Guinea.

Nell and Fen had chased away my thoughts of suicide. But what had they left me with? Fierce desires, a great tide of feeling of which I could make little sense, and ache that seemed to have no name but want. I want. Intransitive. No object. It was the opposite of wanting to die. But it was scarcely more bearable.

The Confabulist by Steven Galloway – Things are not always as they seem, especially in the world of Harry Houdini. This is truly a book that anyone would enjoy.

How is it we can be so sure that we’ve seen, heard, or experienced what we think we have? In a magic trick, the things you don’t see or think you see have a culmination, because at the end of the trick there’s an effect. But if life works the same way, and I believe it does, then a percentage of our lives is a fiction. There’s no way to know whether anything we have seen or experienced is real or imagined.


Sweetland by Michael Crummey – The government is trying to move a community off an isolated island in Newfoundland, but Moses Sweetland doesn’t want to budge. You have to read this book just to experience Moses Sweetland, one of my favourite characters of 2014.

He found himself enjoying it almost, to be the one knot they couldn’t untangle. Holding on like grim death and halfways invigorated by the effort. Twisted, Ruthie used to say of him, and Sweetland couldn’t argue her assessment. Or change his way in the world.

Life Drawing by Robin Black – Owen is dead, but why and how? Quietly suspenseful, but also an insightful look at a marriage of many years.

There are often two conversations going on in a marriage. The one that you’re having and the one that you’re not. Sometimes you don’t even know when that second, silent one has begun.


Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese – A big book to get lost in, set mostly in Ethiopia, and spanning 3 decades. Read my review for all the reasons I love this book.

We come unbidden into this life, and if we are lucky we find a purpose beyond starvation, misery, and early death which, lest we forget, is the common lot.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood – A collection of 9 tales. Smart as a whip, as ever.

It’s a lifelong failing: she has never been prepared. But how can you have a sense of wonder if you’re prepared for everything?


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – This is everywhere right now, for good reason. If you are looking for something apocalyptic, choose this book!

Because survival is insufficient.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – The subtleties of family relationships is where this book stands out.

You loved so hard and hoped so much and then you ended up with nothing.

Malarky by Anakana Schofield – Read this book if you’re looking for something “off the wall”. I loved the absurdity of it.

It’s beautiful when it all makes sense, so it is. Occasionally it makes sense, just for a moment.

Infidelity by Stacey May Fowles – The best book I have read so far about infidelity. Definitely worth a read.

This, with all the lies that keep it together, is more truth than you have ever known.


Deafening by Frances Itani – A quiet, but powerful novel that is set in small town Ontario in the years before and during WWI.

If only he did not have to look at the hands. In death they told more than the face; he knew that now. It was the hands that revealed the final argument: clenched in anger, relaxed in acquiescence, seized in a posture of surprise or forgiveness, or taken unawares. Clawing at a chest, or raised unnaturally in a pleading attitude. “How can this be? My life pulling away?


Black Snow: A Story of Love and Destruction by Jon Tattrie – A fast-paced love story set during the time of WWI and the Halifax Explosion. Devastating.

Those who have lost a little wail and cry; those who have lost everything are silent.


I’m hoping with this one last effort, I can convince someone to read one of these books. If you had to read one, which one would you choose?

If I had to narrow it down to 5 books: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, The Confabulist, Sweetland, Station Eleven, and Cutting For Stone.

What were your favourite books of 2014?


Happy Holidays Everyone!



46 thoughts on “Favourite Books of 2014

  1. rivercityreading says:

    Love seeing so much Can Lit that has either just come out here in the US or is on it’s way. I’m still waiting on the library list for All My Puny Sorrows and can’t wait to read it. And Sweetland is out here in January, so I’m excited to get to my copy.

  2. Cedar Station says:

    Wow, what a fantastic list! You’ve definitely convinced me to try a few of these. The Cellist of Sarajevo has been on my radar for a while, and The History of Love sounds good, too.

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks for taking the time to go through them all! I was having a hard time narrowing it down, so I decided to just include as many as I wanted!

  3. whatmeread says:

    You have several on your list that I also liked. Euphoria will probably be on my best books list for this year, although I don’t do that until the anniversary of my blog in January. I am interested in Sweetland. Stone Mattress was also really good.

  4. The Paperback Princess says:

    You read some fantastic books this year! I LOVED Cutting for Stone. Such an immense book. I really want to read Everything I Never Told You and The Marrying of Chauni Kaufman. And The Confabulist. See? You’re singlehandedly responsible for making me read CanLit.

  5. eileendandashi says:

    I’ll need to check this list out carefully. You’ve done a terrific job. So tell me, Naomi, how many books did you read in 2014? I haven’t tallied mine yet. I started my blog in November 2013, so haven’t been at it for long. I reviewed earlier, but didn’t keep track. Definitely, there are books that I’ve read this past year that deserve another read and if part of a series, to catch the beginning of it. Have a most blessed holiday season.

    • Naomi says:

      Right now I’m at 78. I might get another one or two in before the end of December. I think that’s a record for me, actually. I must have felt inspired by my blog (which I also started in November 2013!). Are you going to put up an end-of-year list? Happy Holidays to you, too! 🙂

  6. My Book Strings says:

    I finished The Cellist of Sarajevo last week, and I definitely want to read The Confabulist. I already have The History of Love on my list for next year, and once the hype dies down a little bit, I will read Station Eleven, too. Oh, and Black Snow is now on my Kindle, too. So you’ve done a great job convincing me to pretty much read everything you read. 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      Yay! I just hope you like it all! The Cellist and The Confabulist are completely different, so I’ll be curious to know which you like better. I can’t decide. The Cellist was more emotional, but The Confabulist was more entertaining. I’m hoping to read one of his first two books, too, at some point. And, as for Black Snow, I now have another book on the way, that came out a couple of months ago, also set during the explosion. I’m anxious to read it, so I can compare the two!

  7. Carole Besharah says:

    Excellent list! I have reserved Station Eleven at the library (still waiting, I’m next on their list) after reading your review. I also need to find a copy of Infidelity. I always look forward to reading what you have to say about the book you have read. Happy Holidays! Looking forward to your book blog posts in 2015!

    • Naomi says:

      Thank you, Carole! I love reading your thoughts on books, as well. They tend to be ones I’ve had my eye on. I hope you enjoy Station Eleven. To get Infidelity, I had to put in a special request at my library( I have to do that quite often, actually). Happy Holidays to you, too! And, Happy Holiday reading!

  8. Amy Sachs says:

    This was such a great way to do your favorites list! 10 was hard for me so I squeezed in some “bonus” picks anyway. Everything I Never Told You is on my list too, but I really can’t wait to read Wake! You had a great year in books!

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks, Amy! I was just looking at your list last night. Looking at all the lists gives me a good idea of what I should definitely be putting on my to-read list, if I haven’t read them already. If you read Wake, let me know what you think! I haven’t seen that one around as much.

  9. Cecilia says:

    Hi Naomi! I’ve missed your blog and you 🙂 This is a wonderful post and I love how you didn’t restrict yourself to a certain number of favorites! From your list I read Elizabeth is Missing and Life Drawing, both thanks to your reviews! I have Cutting for Stone on my shelves and I should pick that up. I’ve also been intrigued by Infidelity ever since I read your post about it. When I have time I am going to go through your list more slowly and look the books up!

    • Naomi says:

      Hi Cecilia! It’s good to hear from you! I hope things are going well for you these days! I have also missed you and your blog. 🙂
      It’s funny that a lot of people seem to like the way I did my list, even though, while I was doing it, I felt like I was cheating, because I was able to mention so many books this way. Although, believe it or not, there were still others I would have liked to include, but didn’t.
      I would love to hear what you thought of Life Drawing! That was one of the ones that I would have chosen for you. Cutting For Stone and Infidelity are others that I think you would like. I enjoy hearing which books people like, because everyone is drawn to different ones. I find it so interesting!
      I wish you lots of happiness and reading over the holidays, Cecilia! 🙂

      • Cecilia says:

        Good to hear from you too, Naomi! I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday and got some good books for Christmas?! ‘See’ you soon!

  10. Rory says:

    Seeing Euphoria on so many lists may just convince me to read it. I had skipped over it because my undergraduate degree is in Anthropology and I did a lot of research on Margaret Mead. I was worried I would nitpick the book to death if I read it. But the consensus seems to be that it is very good.

    • Naomi says:

      I heard the same thing from another blogger who studied Anthropology, but I really think the link to Mead is very loose. I found my interest in Anthropology draws me to these books, rather than the other way around. Knowing that you studied Anthro makes me more curious to know what you think of it! Maybe you could just forget that it’s based on anyone, and read it as pure fiction. And, if you still don’t like it, well, it’s short! 🙂

  11. Nish says:

    You have such great books on your list. I will definitely be adding a couple to my TBR list – The Stone Mattress, and The Marrying of Chani Kaufman sound especially intriguing.

  12. LR says:

    This is such a great list of books and I really enjoy that you broke them down by the months that you read them. Here’s to a great year of reading for you in 2015!

    • Naomi says:

      I hope you like Station Eleven after all this hype!
      And, Wake was just so good. I was surprised I didn’t see it around much. It was written in a style that I love (alternating stories that eventually have a connection), and the stories were moving. Have fun with Jazz Age January!

  13. Trish says:

    So so so many great books here!! I LOVED The History of Love and I’m looking forward to reading Station Eleven. Euphoria wasn’t on my radar until recently and I’ve been seeing it everywhere! Happy new year Naomi!

    • Naomi says:

      The History of Love was my first read of 2014 and it started my year off right. Here’s to another great reading year! Thanks for visiting, Trish!

  14. JacquiWine says:

    I loved The History of Love. I read it when it came out in paperback so the details are a little fuzzy now but I recall being captivated by it. Have you read Great House by Krauss? if not, I’d recommend it. She’s a wonderful writer. I also liked Elizabeth is Missing, very impressive for a debut novel.

    I’m glad to have discovered your blog (via My Book Strings and Naomi at The Writes of Women).

    • Naomi says:

      Oh, that’s good to hear about Great House! I have it in my piles but haven’t read it for fear of disappointment.
      Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m going to go have a look at yours right now!

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