My favorite books of 2014

It’s award season and best of 2014 season, and so I am weighing in. Here are my favorite books of the past year. No money, no gold statue, just my sincere thanks for hours of reading joy.

five books

Nest. Middle-grade fiction by Esther Ehrlich. Set on Cape Cod in 1972, Chirp survives a difficult year through the healing power of family, the natural world, and her growing friendship with the irresistible Joey. Nest is real, touching, true, and wise.

All the Bright Places. YA fiction by Jennifer Niven. This beautifully written book allows us into the worlds of the smart, dark Violet and the boy who teaches her to live while he plans to die. A gorgeous book with fascinating characters.

Tiger Queens. Historical fiction by Stephanie Thornton. Lengthy, detailed saga of the women who supported Genghis Khan and strengthened his kingdom.  I was immersed in his world for days and loved it.

The Goblin Emperor. Fantasy by Katherine Addison. After a tragedy strikes, the half-goblin youngest son of an emperor has to learn whom to trust, how to rule, and how to survive, in a hurry. I loved the world building and Maia, the goblin emperor, who is much smarter and more lovable than he thinks he is.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth. Fiction by Christopher Scotton. A boy grows in courage, understanding, and forgiveness during a summer he spends in a small Kentucky coal town with his grieving mother and beloved grandfather. The end is riveting and life affirming but I hated to see the book end.


Have I got a book for you!

NestHere’s Karen’s advice for today: stop whatever you’re doing and read Esther Ehrlich’s Nest, middle-grade fiction from Random House Children’s Books. It is quite simply splendid. Salt Marsh Lane on Cape Cod in 1972 is home to eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein and her family. The year brings terrible changes to the Orensteins. Chirp survives through the healing power of family, her relationship to the natural world, and her growing friendship with the irresistible Joey Morell (Joey is a terrific character—I hope he gets his own book so we can be sure everything turns out okay for him). I challenge you to get through the book without laughing, mopping up a few tears, and scolding a few hurtful adults. Nest is real and true, touching and wise. The prose is lyrical, the characters lovable, the tragedy heartbreaking. I recommend it highly and plan to read it again right away.