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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Buried in the Sky by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

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

Last year I recommended No Way Down, a journalist’s account of the tragic 2008 climbing season on K2. As much as I enjoyed that account, 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 is even better. If you are at all interested in stories of mountaineering or survival, this is a fantastic and fascinating account.

Zuckerman and Padoan do an outstanding job of making the events understandable for non-mountain climbers. My one complaint with No Way Down was that occasionally it got too technical and it bogged down the narrative. That’s not an issue with 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.

I especially appreciated the focus this book puts on the Sherpas and their history. Most of the books in this area that I’ve read have been written from a Western perspective and a with a focus on the Western climbers. This one instead gives a broader perspective and brings to life the men who risk their lives to help adventurers reach the summit of the world’s highest peaks. Despite having recently read that other account of the same events, I hadn’t fully appreciated the heroic measures undertaken by some of the men, and definitely hadn’t gotten to know the workers as anything more than a list of names.

Sometimes books with more than one author suffer from not having one clear authorial voice. 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 is smoothly written, and the two authors make a great writing team. The back-story behind why and how the book was written was also interesting, and their passion for the story shows.

Highly recommended. This isn’t just a great book if you want to know more about that K2 season. It’s simply a great book.

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Publisher’s Description:
When Edmund Hillary first conquered Mt. Everest, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was at his side. Indeed, for as long as Westerners have been climbing the Himalaya, Sherpas have been the unsung heroes in the background. In August 2008, when eleven climbers lost their lives on K2, the world’s most dangerous peak, two Sherpas survived. They had emerged from poverty and political turmoil to become two of the most skillful mountaineers on earth. Based on unprecedented access and interviews, Buried in the Sky reveals their astonishing story for the first time.

Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan explore the intersecting lives of Chhiring Dorje Sherpa and Pasang Lama, following them from their villages high in the Himalaya to the slums of Kathmandu, across the glaciers of Pakistan to K2 Base Camp. When disaster strikes in the Death Zone, Chhiring finds Pasang stranded on an ice wall, without an axe, waiting to die. The rescue that follows has become the stuff of mountaineering legend.

At once a gripping, white-knuckled adventure and a rich exploration of Sherpa customs and culture, Buried in the Sky re-creates one of the most dramatic catastrophes in alpine history from a fascinating new perspective. 16 pages of illustrations; 8 maps

Book Details

Title: Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest DayBuried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan
Authors: Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan
Category: Nonfiction
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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