The Best Books I Read in 2014

1) Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert – I never realized what a deep thinker, eloquent speaker, and articulate writer Churchill was.  The biggest surprise was his sense of humor.  I burst out laughing many times when he said things like, ” We are all worms.  But i do believe that I am a glow worm.” OR “Even in homeopathic doses, responsibility is an exhilarating drink.” AND “Still the best is to be true to oneself – unless you happen to have a very tiresome self!”

2) Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – The Amazon editors’ top pick for 2014.  Hard to believe this is a debut novel.  It is so deftly and dexterously written.  Immigrants will see themselves in this book…in the struggle to fit in, especially when your face belongs to one culture and your way of thinking and cultural values belong to another.  Poignant and haunting.  The twist at the end redeemed the sense of despondency for me.

3) Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead – What a mind Selfridge had!  You can see how he revolutionized the retail shopping experience and was forever brimming with startling ideas for mounting “productions” to be staged in his store.  As i read this book, a constant frisson of excitement ran through me – the product, I think, of encountering a highly kinetic creative mind!

4) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – Riveting story about two American sisters who were abolitionists and feminists.

5) Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant – Superb historical fiction about the life and reign of Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia, and his children, Cesare and Lucrezia.

6) Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel – Sequel to Wolf Hall.  Brilliantly written and compelling historical fiction.  Shakes you out of a one-dimensional picture of the “wicked” Thomas Cromwell and helps you to see him as a husband, father, and flawed (like us) human being.

7) Dear Leader by Jang Jin Sung  – North Korea’s senior propagandist exposes shocking truths behind the regime.  A real eye-opener!  gets your heart pounding.

8) The Book of Souls: A Will Piper Mystery by Glenn Cooper – I didn’t realize this was a sequel to an earlier book called Library of the Dead.  Had I known, I would have started from Book 1 because it would have helped me understand But it was a captivating read and I didn’t want it to end!

9) The Collected Works by AJ Fikry – A sweet book about how unexpected circumstances, responded to with grace and daring, can utterly change a life.  Quick read.  Touching and inspiring.

10) The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks – I LOVED this book.  It’s about a young woman who gets pregnant in the ’60s and consequently loses her job and her father’s favor.  She gets turned out of her home and is left to fend for herself.  She  finds a shabby rental flat that she learns to call home.  It is the L-Shaped Room.  And with it, she finds an unlikely menagerie of true friends, and a second chance at love.  Might sound like a love story, but that would be selling it short.  It is the tale of one young woman who refuses to be beaten down by the circumstances she finds herself in, and learns to create a new family for herself among strangers.

11) The Darcy Connection by Elizabeth Aston – The is a “pretend” Austen novel about the daughters of Elizabeth Bennet’s friend, who married the dull,  social-climbing vicar Collins, now a smug pretentious bishop.  This is such a charming and delightful read that I’ve already read it twice!  The plot is similar to Pride and Prejudice, but with different characters.

12) Citadel by Kate Mosse – Exciting adventure story set in German-occupied France during WW2 as resistance fighters struggle against occupying German forces.  Loved the emphasis on the female resistance fighters and their role in the struggle.  Mixes elements of fantasy. Terrific read!

BEST Spiritual Books I Read in 2014:

The Cup of Our Life by Joyce Rupp – Fantastic spiritual-growth guide.  Draws you deeper into contemplation and stirs up great deep  insights.Loved it and plan to do it again.  You can do it with a group or by yourself.

A Christianity Worth Believing: Hope-filled, Open-armed, Alive and Well Faith for the Left out, Left Behind, and Let Down in Us All by Doug Pagitt – Helped me to realize how the Greco-Roman paradigm of Christian thought hijacked the Jewish paradigm.  This was essential reading for me.  Publishers weekly wrote:  “To Pagitt, humanity’s fallen state as a result of sin should not be emphasized so much as God’s desire to partner with people to do good work in the world. The Bible is not so much about truth and error as it is a picture of God attempting to reconnect, while Jesus represents our potential to live in love and establish the kingdom of God now. Pagitt clearly articulates both the heart and theology of the Emergent movement. Conservative critics will no doubt consider this Christianity subtly twisted out of recognition, but postmodern readers struggling with current expressions of faith will see love and hope.”

Loved Like Never Before by Ken Symington – If you struggle to see God as your father, this book is essential reading for you, I was so blessed by it.  Symington is connected with Ellel Ministries in Ireland.