My {Favorite} 2014 Reads {And A Giveaway!}



I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: end of the year and booklist/reading posts are some of my favorite reads in the blogisphere!  {And its always fun to link up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy.}

I was surprised when I checked my yearly reading list in my journal, and discovered that I  read the same number of books this year as last year.  {My grand total this year was 35 Read about my 2013 reads here.}

I’ve divided my 2014 reading list into my absolute favorites and runner-up-faves.   I honestly could probably have switched the lists depending on when you asked me.  All of the books I read this year were truly fantastic.  My favorites weren’t necessarily better than the other books.  They simply struck a chord, or came into my hands at the exact moment I needed to read them.

All of my reads were at least 3 stars, but mostly 4, with the occasional 5 stars.  I am not one to stick with a book if it fails to captivate my attention.    If a book didn’t hold my interest, I stopped reading it and moved on.  Chalk it up to ADD and good taste. 

I also started and stopped reading many a book this year that was fantastic in its own right, but didn’t speak directly to me at the time.  Until I read a book cover to cover, it doesn’t appear on this list.

I’m also giving away a book I loved this year and a journal to one reader who comments below!  Don’t let the long list of titles deter you – its so easy to enter this giveaway–I’d love for you to win!  {See the end of the post for details!}


{This post is chalk full of affiliate links.  If you purchase something through any of these links–at no additional cost to you–I may receive a small compensation that will go directly back into running this blog.  Thanks so much for supporting All Manner of Inspiration!}

My Favorite Reads of 2014 

{Not all of these books were written in 2014, but I read them all this calendar year, and listed them in the order I read them.}

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber:   I started off last January by flying through this book  I couldn’t stop nodding in agreement at points Nadia made, marveling at her wisdom and underlining passages like mad.   I’d never read a memoir like this before, and that’s no doubt due to Bolz-Weber’s incredibly unique voice.  The book’s chalk full of colorful metaphors {meaning f-bombs and the like}, and while its not my everyday normal kind of read, it was one of the best books I read this year.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman:  This book is a GAME.CHANGER.  {I raved about it here.} This book reminds me at times of Walking On Water, my favorite book in the world.   If I get the privilege of writing a book someday, I can only hope its half as good as this one.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful  by Myquillyn Smith:  Thank goodness for the blogging sisters Emily & Myquillyn!  {Emily, mentioned above, is Myquillyn’s sister}.  The Nesting Place is the only home design blog I read almost everyday, and that’s absolutely because its about so much more than that.  Her blog’s tag line became the title of this bestselling book for good reason.  This is the only home decor book I’ve devoured cover to cover.  While the suggestions,  advice and pictures are gorgeous and right on pointe, its her heart and soul message of seeking beauty and loving what you have and where you are that resonate so deeply with me.  If you only read one home decor book, make it this one.

Still Writing: The Perils & Pleasures of the Creative Life by Dani Shapiro: I found this book through friend and author Michelle DeRusha. {Her book, Spiritual Misfit is listed below–a fantastic read.}    I felt like Shapiro was both schooling me as a writer in the best ways, and sharing her heart and intimate feelings and experiences about the written word at the same time.  A must read for both aspiring and seasoned writers.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett: I knew I would enjoy reading a memoir by Micha in part because she’s a fantastic writer, but that’s not why I loved this book.  I loved that this book followed the Benedictine rhythms, that it made me slow down and breathe every time I picked it up, and that it bore her heart and soul about motherhood so beautifully without alienating someone like me who hasn’t been able to have children.  This prose sings with poetic beauty–don’t miss it.

Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg:  I read Wizenberg’s first book, A Homemade Life, a few years ago and loved it.  I devoured this book as soon as it arrived in my mailbox.  A continuation of her story that chronicles opening her celebrated Seattle restaurant Delancey with her husband, I think I liked this book even more than her first one.

Breathing Room: Letting Go So You Can Fully Live by Leanna Tankersley:  I first heard about this book from an editor at Revell books, which made me excited to read it from the start.   {I also love that two of my favorite writers, Emily & Myquillyn LOVE Leanna and this book.  They podcasted with her with their Hopeologie site.}.  I carried this book around in my purse for 3 solid months, highlighting and devouring its sentences.  When I went through some unexpected health challenges, the truth in these words sank deep down into my bones.  Leanna shares her experiences as a military wife in Bahrain, and her everyday challenges, and the wisdom she’s gleaned–but really, my words don’t  come close to captivating the beauty of this book -please just go read it, it will do your soul and spirit good!

Favorite Fiction:

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead:  This book took me by surprise at how un-put-downable it was!  Centered around a ballerina and the people in her life, I thought Shipstead did an incredible job of getting into the mind and psyche of a dancer.  I only danced for a brief time, but I had friends who were professional dancers.   The culture, the extreme discipline and environment in the dance world really does breed the kind of mental anguish and perfectionism that these characters struggled through.  I couldn’t put this book down when we were on vacation in Colorado, and the feeling and the voice of the characters stayed with me long after I finished reading.  I hope I can find more fiction this captivating to read next year!

Runner-up Faves

{Translation: Just as amazing as the books above.   If I wrote this post on a different day, they may have landed in my favorites list too.  So many amazing books, so little time!}

A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration & Encouragement edited by Barbara Abercrombie:  I’ll be coming back to this book again and again for sure.  Editor and writing professor Abercromie writes a page a day on various aspects of the writing life.  Its chalk full of wisdom, amazing quotes from a plethora or writers and exercises to use in your writing process.

Diamond In The Rough: A Memoir by Shawn Colvin:  Shawn Colvin is one of my FAVORITE musicians.  I found her music in college, and have loved it ever since.  Colvin’s lyrics are full of beauty, wit and story, and her book felt like an extension of her talent and creativity in the same vein.  This memoir is her story, and I loved reading it.

Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith by Michelle DeRusha:  This fantastic memoir by one of my first friends in the blogisphere was one I had looked forward to reading for some time.  I have followed Michelle’s writing and publishing journey through her blog, and loved connecting with her at various conferences.  I absolutely love Michelle’s honesty about her struggle with unbelief.  She doesn’t mince words, and she shares truths and feelings we all think, but maybe don’t have the courage to voice out loud.  Michelle’s words always give me hope, and help me remember I am not alone.  This is a book with a genuinely authentic voice and bounds of beauty and clarity.

Unnaturally Green: One Girl’s Journey Along A Yellow Brick Road Less Travelled by Felicia Ricci:  I found this memoir on Amazon, while researching the apparently elusive ‘musical theatre memoir’.  Ricci is an extraordinary writer {with a degree in journalism from Yale to boot}, and shares her journey as a musical theatre performer who attains the coveted Elphaba understudy/stand-by job in the San Francisco company of the musical Wicked.  She is hilarious, witty and at times profound in her assessment of working in the wackadoo world of musical theatre that I love so much.  Reading this memoir made me want to take her out for coffee, perform with her in a musical, and beg her to write another book!

An Altar In The World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

I had heard of BBT in years past, but this was the year I discovered her writing for myself.  Of her two books I read this year, this was by far my favorite.  {Though I copied numerous quotes from her book Leaving Church into my journal, and marveled at the beauty of her writing.}  I had the privilege of writing a discussion post about this book for SheLoves.  Her words are reminiscent for me of a modern Madeleine L’Engle.   {And I don’t throw that type of compliment out lightly!}  This book helps me see the beauty and the spiritual in the mundane everyday, and her writing schools me with every sentence.  A must read.

The Rest of My 2014 Reads:  

{There’s truly not a bad one in this bunch.  A good handful of these books were almost in my favorites pile, and many listed below were in other blogger’s favorites lists.  I was truly blessed with the fantastic writing I read this year.}

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Crowded Skies: Letters To Manhattan by Tara Leigh Cobble

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

A Year of No Sugar: A Memoir by Eve Schwab

Phantom {musical theatre script} by Arthur Kopit

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Travelling With Pomegranates: A Mother & Daughter Journey to the Sacred Places of Greece, Turkey & France by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of A Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

At Least You’re In Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have by Annie F. Downs

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge & Found Self-Help That Actually Works: A True Story by Dan Harris

Tables In The Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost & Found Again by Preston Yancey

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed

A Short Guide To A Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott


What I’m Reading Now

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff,  The Fringe Hours: Making Time For You by Jessica N. Turner, The Martian by Andy Weir, Small Victories by Anne Lamott,  On Being A Writer by Ann Kroeker & Charity Craig & The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski.

Leave me a comment below to be entered to win one of the books I read this year, and a journal to start writing out your own year!
What were your favorite reads of 2014?

18 comments on “My {Favorite} 2014 Reads {And A Giveaway!}

  1. All of Barbara Brown Taylor’s books which I read, Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee, Let’s All Be Brave by Annie Downs, Playdates With God by Laura Boggess. I also read Spiritual Misfits by Michelle DeRusha & loved it 🙂 Pursue the Intentional Life by Jean Fleming, Atlas Girl by Emily Wierenga. I just don’t want to leave any book out as I read so many good ones. Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. I better stop. Love your list & just added a few to my “to-read” list!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by the blog Joanne! I have Playdates with God on my to-read list–Laura is so great! It sound like we are book kindreds for sure–I’ve read and loved a lot of books on your list. Did you know Shauna has a devotional coming out in March called Savor – looking forward to it!

      1. Sarah, I did not know that Shauna has a devotional called Savor coming out. So excited! Thank you for letting me know as I will keep an eye out for it. I LOVE her writing! Enjoy your weekend!

  2. Hi, I have never seen your blog before. I saw you on Twitter and clicked over. I put 3 of your favs books on my to read list, so thanks for that (“Still Writing”, “Breathing Room”, & “A Year of Writing”). I don’t know what my favs are for the year, but I am really enjoying one that I am almost finished with “Make it Happen, surrender your fear, take the leap” by Lara Casey It is a great book to leap into 2015 with. Thanks for hosting the giveaway. It is great meeting you.

    1. Hi Janet- I’m so glad you stopped by the blog! I’ve been previewing Lara Casey’s book on my kindle, and think I need to read that book this year. I’m working through her power sheets this month, and they are FANTASTIC. Happy New Year!

  3. I read the Harry Potter series, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, several books by Fannie Flagg, and many, many more. I love the Nesting Place. I reread that this week and may have to buy my own copy soon. Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. thanks so much for commenting, Rachel! I love the Harry Potter series! I haven’t read the Fannie Flagg books, though I have heard great things. Oh, and purchasing ‘The Nesting Place’ would be a great idea–I underlined in my copy. (Never thought I would do that in a home decor book! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog Margaret! I’m with you – I LOVE books on creativity. I have a post that I’ve been meaning to finish forever on my favorite creativity/artistry books.

  4. This is a very helpful and challenging list. Thanks for your input. My favorite for this last year was God’s Joyful Surprise: Finding Yourself Loved, by Sue Monk Kidd. An older book but so worth reading. I’m anxious to read the new one written with her daughter.

  5. Wow! What a lot of books I want to read!!! I only heard of Barbara Brown Taylor this year from a Time magazine article. Then I searched for her sermons on Youtube. She certainly has different ideas and makes you think!!! Can’t remember the best book I’ve read. I think I need to be more purposeful about my reading. Thank you for the inspiration! And a blessed new year to you! patsy

  6. That is an absolutely amazing list of books. So many good ones, and so many more I want to read! My favorite book of the year, that I haven’t really heard many people talking about, is Shotgun Lovesongs.

    1. So glad you liked the list Sarah! 🙂 I haven’t heard of your favorite book at all – I’m intrigued! (So many amazing books, so little time, right? 🙂

  7. Wow, I’ll be bookmarking this page so I can come back and get some of those books, they all sound so good. I loved Where’d you go Bernadette and anything by Liane Moriarty is always a delight. My favorite book of the year was The Collected Works of A J Fikry, such a wonderful read.

  8. my pen was flying writing down loads of titles! Like you, these best book lists are my bread and butter for the coming year! Favorites, though, are hard for me… depends what genre I’m feeling like at the moment……did have a nice romp with some Swedish detective books in translation for awhile!!!

  9. I enjoyed reading your list and reviews! I too adored Astonish Me. It was truly compelling, and what I admire about it was how the author used words so efficiently. So many books are longer than they need to be. She told the story well and left out pages of filler that I think too many fiction books contain.

    I hope to read My Salinger Year this year!

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