I read a lot this year – over 115 books. Here are eight books that I highly recommend plus a bonus of two mysteries that provide an insight into other countries and their politics.
A Life Well Lived
There was a common theme in many of the books I particularly enjoyed this year as the authors attempted to define a life well lived, where one can look backwards and say, “Well done.”
The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, Molly Peacock
Mrs. Delany takes what she has learned over the years and turns it into a collection of art that continues to be appreciated.
Circling the Sun, Paula McLean
Beryl Markham reinvents her life over and over again, bringing passion and determination to everything she does. Deserted as a child by her mother and married off at 16 by her father, she comes into her own when she trains and rides horses and becomes one of the world’s first female aviators.
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, Sy Montgomery
We share this universe with such an amazing diversity of other animals. Montgomery describes her interactions with several different octopuses and each one has a distinctive personality. No question about it, they are extremely clever animals.
Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America, Liz Carlisle
A life well lived can be revolutionary as evidenced by a group of farmers who buck the system, growing small-scale organic crops that will feed the soil as well as people.
The Bookshop that Floated Away, Sarah Henshaw
Sarah Henshaw is another person who refuses to live a conventional life. She buys a barge, stocks it with books, and travels British waterways, opening up shop and hoping to make enough money to survive.
The Year of Pleasures, Elizabeth Berg
The main character’s husband dies and she seeks to create a new life. The emphasis is on the simple pleasures that each day holds.
The Art of Stillness, Pico Iyer
It’s so very, very hard to slow down, but Iyer insists that the “point of gathering stillness is not to enrich the sanctuary or mountaintop but to bring that calm into the motion, the commotion of the world.” He goes on to say, “To me, the point of sitting still is that it helps you see through the very idea of pushing forward; indeed, it strips you of yourself, as of a coat of armor, by leading you into a place where you’re defined by something larger.”
Midnight at the Pera Palace, Charles King
Cities have histories and personalities the same as people. And Istanbul’s life story is remarkable: war and politics, refugees and spies, the fall of one empire and the ascent of the next.
Mysteries are my light reading, when I don’t feel like taxing my brain with non-fiction. But some of the best mysteries help us to explore other countries and the problems faced by their citizens.
Tell No Tales, Eva Dolan
Agriculture is an extremely important part of the economy in Lincolnshire, Great Britain. It has brought with it a large immigrant worker population with all the related issues – poverty, lousy work conditions, and cultural clashes. Dolan explores these issues while also weaving a compelling police procedural.
Blood Med, Jason Webster
The economic crisis hit Spain hard. Unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, and political corruption form the backdrop for Blood Med, which is set in Valencia.
More Book Suggestions
Favorite Books of 2014
Favorite Books of 2013