Favorite Books of 2014

Favorite Books of 2014I had a really difficult time picking my favorite books this year, so I eventually settled on picking the books I most highly recommend to others, or the ones wish I could still experience for the first time. And because picking was so difficult, I added some runner-ups.

(Links go to my reviews if I’ve written one, Amazon if I haven’t yet)

Velma Still Cooks in LeewayVelma Still Cooks in Leeway by Vinita Hampton Wright

If I had to pick one single favorite book of the year, it would probably be this one. I think I need to reread this one next year, just so I can more fully appreciate the way she wove this story together.

A Tree Grows in BrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I was convinced this book would be boring. I was wrong.

Crossing to SafetyCrossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Surprised myself by liking this one as much as I did, and describing it does not do it justice. Wonderful characters who stay with you long after you’ve finished reading the book.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing GoodBurnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn

I’ve loved Flinn’s other books, and loved how this one brought to life her family’s stories, and led into the events in her first book. Did I like it more because I now live in the Midwest? Possibly, but I don’t think that was the only appeal.

Mastering the Art of French EatingMastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah

Armchair traveling at its best. Mah allowed me to come along with her as she spent a year in Paris and traveled throughout France experiencing it’s most iconic food. Prepare to be hungry as you read it.

Buried in the SkyBuried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2′s Deadliest Day by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

The focus on the Sherpas is what makes this book so wonderfully fascinating. If you’ve liked other Everest accounts, don’t miss this one, with its unique perspective on the events of that deadly climbing season.

The Queen of AttoliaThe Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, from The Queen’s Thief series

I’ve been holding off on reading book #4, because then I won’t have another one to look forward to for the forseeable future. And that’s a very sad thing.

CressCress by Marissa Meyer, from the Lunar Chronicles series

Can’t wait to read the final two in this series!

Etiquette and EspionageEtiquette &Espionage, Curtsies & ConspiraciesCurtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School Book 2) by Gail Carriger, and Waistcoats & WeaponryWaistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3) by Gail Carriger by Gail Carriger, from the Finishing School series

Super fun series, although book #3 took a more serious turn that I wasn’t completely expecting. The final book come out next year.

The Runner-Ups

Parnassus on WheelsParnassus On WheelsParnassus On Wheels by Christopher Morley by Christopher Morley

Another one where the descriptions don’t convey how enjoyable the book is. Sweet and gentle and very easy to read. I only just read it last week, which is why I hesitate to say that it would have the staying power to be a favorite for the year. I may regret not including it.

The Mislaid MagicianThe Mislaid Magician by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer, from the Cecelia and Kate series

Epistolary + fantasy + historical fiction = my kind of fun.

Women Heroes of World War IWomen Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics and Women Heroes of WWII: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue both by Kathryn Atwood

If you like one you’ll like the other, and if you’re at all interested in brief biographical accounts of fascinating individuals, you should give these a try.

Eiffel's TowerEiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World’s Fair That Introduced It by Jill Jonnes

I’m already second-guessing myself for not including it above, but I think it just misses out on being a “must recommend to everyone I know” type book. It really was a great book though.

The Professor and the MadmanThe Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

Like the Eiffel’s Tower book, this is another fascinating look at a small slice of history. I loved it.

The Night Circus
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Another one I may need to reread, to see what clues the author drops throughout the text as to what will be happening later.

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Women Heroes of World War I

Women Heroes of World War IWomen Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and MedicsWomen Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (Women of Action) by Kathryn Atwood by Kathryn Atwood

Earlier this year I wrote about the book Women Heroes of World War II, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I was very excited to learn that Atwood had another book coming out soon, focusing on World War I. The only thing I like better than finding a great book is discovering more great books by the same author, and I expected that I’d enjoy the new book just as much.

And I did. The format is similar – there are brief chapters about each woman, giving the outlines of their story and providing additional sources if you want to discover more. There is also an excellent overview beginning the book, and each section includes its own introductory material (sections are arranged thematically: spies and resisters, medical personnel, journalists, and soldiers). I was only familiar with one of the women featured, and had never even heard of the Russian Women’s Battalion of Death, so I learned a lot from the book.

Highly recommended if you’re at all interested in World War I, women’s history, or biographies. It would also make for an excellent homeschooling resource (or traditional schooling supplement) for students covering this time period.

Publisher’s Description:
A commemoration of brave yet largely forgotten women who served in the First World War

In time for the 2014 centennial of the start of the Great War, this book brings to life the brave and often surprising exploits of 16 fascinating women from around the world who served their countries at a time when most of them didn’t even have the right to vote. Readers meet 17-year-old Frenchwoman Emilienne Moreau, who assisted the Allies as a guide and set up a first-aid post in her home to attend to the wounded; Russian peasant Maria Bochkareva, who joined the Imperial Russian Army by securing the personal permission of Tsar Nicholas II, was twice wounded in battle and decorated for bravery, and created and led the all-women combat unit the “Women’s Battalion of Death” on the eastern front; and American journalist Madeleine Zabriskie Doty, who risked her life to travel twice to Germany during the war in order to report back the truth, whatever the cost.

These and other suspense-filled stories of brave girls and women are told through the use of engaging narrative, dialogue, direct quotes, and document and diary excerpts to lend authenticity and immediacy. Introductory material opens each section to provide solid historical context, and each profile includes informative sidebars and “Learn More” lists of relevant books and websites, making this a fabulous resource for students, teachers, parents, libraries, and homeschoolers.

Book Details

Title: Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (Women of Action)Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (Women of Action) by Kathryn Atwood
Author: Kathryn Atwood
Category: Nonfiction / History / Biography
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I was offered a review copy of the book, but actually read a library copy instead. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Women Heroes of World War II

Women Heroes of World War IIWomen Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and RescueWomen Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action) by Kathryn Atwood by Kathryn J. Atwood

Like Women’s History? Enjoy biographical sketches? Fascinated by World War II? If any of those sound like you, Women Heroes of World War IIWomen Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action) by Kathryn J Atwood is a book you should try.

Atwood has assembled brief accounts of twenty six women from eight countries and their efforts to defeat the Nazis. The entries are just enough to whet your appetite to learn more about each woman profiled, and a bibliography is thankfully included.

Coincidentially, I started this book shortly after finishing Code Name Pauline, and the books not only share an author, but Pearl’s story that is told more completely in Code Name Pauline is also one of the entries in this book.

As much as I enjoyed this book, I was very excited to learn that the author has a new book coming out later this year with a very similar theme – Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics.

Publisher’s Description:
Noor Inayat Khan was the first female radio operator sent into occupied France and transferred crucial messages. Johtje Vos, a Dutch housewife, hid Jews in her home and repeatedly outsmarted the Gestapo. Law student Hannie Schaft became involved in the most dangerous resistance work–sabotage, weapons transference, and assassinations. In these pages, young readers will meet these and many other similarly courageous women and girls who risked their lives to help defeat the Nazis.

Twenty-six engaging and suspense-filled stories unfold from across Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, and the United States, providing an inspiring reminder of women and girls’ refusal to sit on the sidelines around the world and throughout history.

An overview of World War II and summaries of each country’s entrance and involvement in the war provide a framework for better understanding each woman’s unique circumstances, and resources for further learning follow each profile. Women Heroes of World War II is an invaluable addition to any student’s or history buff’s bookshelf.

Book Details

Title: Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and RescueWomen Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action) by Kathryn Atwood
Author: Kathryn J. Atwood
Category: Nonfiction / Biographies / World War II
My Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Code Name Pauline by Pearl Witherington Cornioley and Kathryn J. Atwood

Code Name PaulineCode Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special AgentCode Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent (Women of Action) by Pearl Witherington Cornioley and Kathryn J. Atwood by Pearl Witherington Cornioley and Kathryn J. Atwood

A fascinating look at an amazing woman. After slogging through a World War II book that had me feeling a bit burned out on that topic, I was happy to read this one that was very engrossing. Pearl (whose code name was Pauline, hence the title of the book), was a British subject who grew up in Paris – making her an ideal candidate for working in occupied France.

The book is a translation from a series of interviews that Pearl did in French, and Pearl’s requirement that her story be told as she shared it precisely made for some structural challenges for Atwood. However, I think Atwood does an excellent job of arranging the interviews in a coherent arc, and of including introductory material for each chapter to set up the story that Pearl tells in that chapter. I also enjoyed Henri’s interview in the appendix – he also had some amazing experiences!

If you liked the fictional book Code Name Verity and would like a nonfictional look at events, I think Code Name Pauline would be an excellent choice. While “Pauline” isn’t a pilot, her intelligence work in France is still close enough to some of the events in Verity that it provides a fascinating counterpoint.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
One of the most celebrated female World War II resistance fighters shares her remarkable story in this firsthand account of her experience as a special agent for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). Told through a series of reminiscences—from a difficult childhood spent in the shadow of World War I and her family’s harrowing escape from Paris as the Germans approached in 1940 to her recruitment and training as a special agent and the logistics of parachuting into a remote rural area of occupied France and, later, hiding in a wheat field from enemy fire—each chapter also includes helpful opening remarks to provide context and background on the SOE and the French Resistance. With an annotated list of key figures, an appendix of original unedited interview extracts—including the story of Pearl’s fiancé Henri who escaped a German POW camp to become Pearl’s second-in-command—and fascinating photographs and documents from Pearl’s personal collection, this memoir will captivate World War II buffs of any age.

Book Details

Title: Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special AgentCode Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent (Women of Action) by Pearl Witherington Cornioley and Kathryn J. Atwood
Author: Pearl Witherington Cornioley and Kathryn J. Atwood
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!