Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014 in review: the 10 best books I read in 2014

In 2014, I read 105 books. I'm not sure if I've ever read this many books in a year (I read a lot as a child and teenager, but I didn't track the exact numbers), and it even didn't feel like I spent all my free time reading. I read at night before falling asleep, I read in the plane (something I always do) and every now and then I'd spend a Saturday afternoon in the park finishing up a book.

I've read fiction and non-fiction. I've read digital books, print books and a good number of free e-books taken from blogs that I like.

At the end of the year, my Kindle of only 18 months old broke down, and somehow I can't seem to get a replacement from Amazon - only sales-pitches trying to sell me a new Kindle. Yes, I can read my Kindle books in the Kindle app, but it's not the same, it's not like digital ink. I also made the mistake of storing a number of books (blogger e-books, books from project Gutenberg, ..) only on my Kindle. Gone, gone, gone... But anyway, I'll keep my disappointment in the Kindle to myself or for another post, and focus on the lovely books I read this year.

You can find the full list of books I read on Goodreads.

Some other day, I will write a post on how to read this many books in a year, but today I'd like to highlight the 10 best books I read in 2014. The vast majority of these books were published in the last 10 years, but the publication dates are random.

Here's my list.

10. Wild - Cheryl Strayed



An easy read, anything but great literature; but it made me dream of lacing up my hiking boots and exploring some grand trails.

9. The China Study - Colin T. Campbell



This book focuses on the health benefits of a plant-based diet. The academic rigor in the (second half) of the book went missing, but nonetheless, it's a thoroughly referenced work.

8. Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer



Even though there is not much advice in this book about how to stand your ground in our extrovert world as an introvert, I did learn to understand introversion better by reading this book.

6. Guns, Germs and Steel - Jared Diamond



I must say, this book was maybe not my best choice to read in bed before sleeping, and at times (as a non-native English speaker) it took me some courage to chew through the English in this book. But very interesting reading material - it was surely worth the effort of plowing through this massive book.

5. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth - Chris Hadfield



I dreamed of becoming an astronaut when I was younger, and that certainly pushed me into the direction of engineering. So I might be biased and by default like a book that is a mixture of a memoir, self-help book and non-fiction book about space travel - but, seeing the rave reviews on Goodreads, I'm not the only one.

4. The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff



There's something in the poetic quality of Groff's writing that makes me an entire fangirl of this book, as well as Arcadia, which I read in 2013.

3. Einstein - Walter Isaacson



Physics and pacifism and much more - this biography is a thrilling introduction to the world of one of the greatest scientists ever. I never thought I'd read about quantum physics in a hammock on the beach of the Pacific Ocean, but Isaacson dissected complex theories into very logic work.

2. The Orphan Master's Son - Adam Johnson



A deserved Pulitzer Prize winner. Maybe it's our curiosity towards North Korea that makes this book even more fascinating, but I was genuinely intrigued by this story.

1. The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls - Emilie Autumn



Partially a piece of art, partially a memoir, partially a work of fiction. At times it was deeply unsettling to read, but by lacing this book with the fictional story of Emily, there was always enough space to breathe. You can't read this book on a Kindle - if you ever felt an appreciation for the darker arts and anything gothic, this book/artwork will make your heart sing.

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