I always enjoy reading book recommendations from other people, so I thought I would share some of the better books I read in 2014. I actually read scores, so this is a very small sample. I hope you find something in here that interests you.
The Goddess and the Bull, Michael Balter. An interesting look into an archeological dig.
Herbs and the Earth, Henry Beston (because The Outermost House is not available here.) Such a tender book, written with real love for nature.
The Art of the Commonplace, Wendell Berry. So wise and beautifully articulated. I especially love what he writes about ... well, everything, really.
The Wild Places, Robert MacFarlane. One of my top ten of the year, beautiful and soulful.
The Old Ways, Robert MacFarlane. Equally beautiful. I would read anything he wrote.
Holloway, Robert MacFarlane. This poetic little book is just sheer magic. It also provided me with deep inspiration (and the title!) for Driftways.
Roanoke, Lee Miller. A lot of people complained about the writing style of this author, but I didn't mind it too much. We were on a Roanoke bender for a month or so, and this was a helpful addition to our learning.
Wild, Jay Griffiths. Aptly titled, this wonderful book was fierce and searing and sat heavy on my thoughts for a long time afterwards.
To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis. We read almost all her books this year (for me, it was the second or third rereading) and can not recommend them highly enough. This will probably always be my favourite one.
Dawn Light, Diane Ackerman. Not as rich and luscious as MacFarlane, and I struggled a little because I am a night person and do not love the morning, but can still say this was beautifully written.
Tower, Nigel Jones. A delicious read for any history buff.
Rosa Gymnocarpa, Sylvia Linsteadt. A wild and fragrant story, it leaves magic dust all over you.
The Summer Book, Tove Jansson. Simply exquisite.
The Moral Lives of Animals, Dale Peterson. A powerful read.
Mortal Fire, Elizabeth Knox. Although the novel doesn't quite live up to the promise of the short story, this was nevertheless fabulous - perhaps because I know that house, that valley (not literally, but in my own experience of childhood in New Zealand.) I could smell the air, see the landscape, hear the footsteps on the floors.
The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram. Wonderful.
Alphabet of Thorn, Patricia McKillip. I reread several McKillip books this spring, and this was the best of them. I'd not liked it much when I first read it, but this time was better. I still feel McKillip's earlier books are her best, from before she became overly stylised. But McKillip fans have long debates on that subject!
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. This was my third reading of the book, and I had to wait for my daughter to finish it first. As always, I skimmed portions of the story (I'm never interested in Bailey's story, not matter how many times I pick up this book), but the bits I did read, mostly involving Celia and Marco, I absolutely loved.
This year I actually read less than usual, as I was writing my own books. I feel quite bad about the novels I enjoyed but didn't add to this list, but if I didn't stop somewhere I'd be typing all day!
Oh, but I can not let this list stand without mentioning one more book I've been reading this year. It's a serialised story written by a friend of mine and distributed privately. I've just now finished the latest chapter and had tears come to my eyes. Such a beautiful story, so perfectly told. I will respect her by mentioning no details, but how I wish I could tell you all about it!
I'm mentioning it because I feel it's true that so many of the very best stories are never published. My own best ones are told once a year to my daughter on her birthday. And then there are family heritage tales, and friends' memories, and bedtime stories wove from the magic in mothers' hearts, and the private diaries of people ...
And the stories told by light and fragrance on an afternoon in the woods ... and by the storming ocean ...