Monday, November 24, 2014

My Best Books of 2014, for Your Reading and Gift-Giving Pleasure

According to Amazon and Wal-Mart, Black Friday alone cannot contain our Christmas shopping zeal, and the season has begun just about...now!( I'm not sure why anyone would pick on those two alone, since heaven knows the stores barely throw the Halloween stuff in the clearance bin before they set up the Christmas trees.)

If you're a wretched gift-giver like me, my annual list of Best Books to Give will come as a welcome relief. And if you're also mall-allergic like me, much of your shopping will happen online. But please do make an exception for a book!

This Saturday, November 29, is Small Business Saturday--a time to pour moola into your local economy and support those stores owned and operated by your friends and neighbors in the community.

Not only does my local bookstore University Book Store Bellevue offer free gift-wrapping and shipping, but I'll be there on Small Business Saturday from 2-3 pm to sign my books and recommend others (from this post) for everyone on your list!

Hanging out at University Book Store Bellevue
So come on by on Saturday, November 29, and keep me company. Rumor has it you'll find other cool authors there like Justina Chen (one of my 15YO's favorites) and Robert Dugoni!

What will you buy that day? Well, consider some of these suggestions, all taken from my 2014 readings...

Best Book for Your Weekend Warrior or Kid's Coach. Try Mark McClusky's Faster Higher Stronger.



Great overview of elite sports performance from all angles, from genetics to diet to training techniques and equipment. And fascinating, start to finish. Not every performance enhancer is illegal! This one is going to my son's swim coach.

For the environmentalist and climate doomsayer on your list. Who ever heard of a book about the environment that left you feeling hopeful and excited? I loved this one. It made me want to grab a patch of land and start building soil, for Pete's sake, and I can't even keep a houseplant alive. All is not lost, people.




For the armchair survivor and Arctic-o-phile. A tie in this category, since I fall in this bin and read at least 4-5 mountaineering/catastrophe/freezing-to-death books per year.


Shipwreck and exploration and freezing and starving to death! One-stop shopping.


And, for variety, a plane wreck and freezing to death and WWII and a 70-year-old mystery.


For those who love period pics and historical fiction and Jane Austen. Lots and lots in this category, since "we are Legion." Of course, there's my latest traditional Regency, which Austenprose.com and AustenesqueReviews gave five stars:


And there's also this lovely, casual-ish bio of Austen:


and, for Downton Abbey fans, this fun memoir written by a woman who was in service in the early part of the 20th century:



Best Fantasy Book goes to Joe Abercrombie's Half a King, which is actually shelved with Young Adult, I think, but that just meant it didn't have 57,000 sex scenes in 42,600 combinations of partners like Game of Thrones. For plot and adventure and world-building, however, my 13YO son and I gave this five stars.



For the future Jeopardy! champ in the family, I recommend any of Ken Jennings' Junior Genius Guides. They're aimed at Middle Grade, but my husband even read the one on Presidents, and I read all three!



For those who prefer TV, and, in particular CSI, may I recommend this memoir by a medical examiner. Not a great book to read while you're eating your breakfast cereal, but start-to-finish fascinating and informative. As a bonus, you can garner great tips if you're trying to plan the perfect murder.



For those Catholics who are sick of all the Catholic-bashing that goes on in the world. I enjoyed this lovely biography of Junipero Serra--of whom I knew little than he founded lots of missions which California schoolchildren still have to recreate in class projects.


A good, good man. (Bonus points for the beautiful cover, too.) And speaking of all the good Catholics who serve quietly, while the few, the fringe, the pederast Catholics get all the publicity, several of the good guys show up in this excellent biography:


The author spins a heartfelt, thorough, heartbreaking story of a smart young man with a rough, rough life. Christmas is a great time to donate to schools and programs for youth. We couldn't save Robert Peace, ultimately, but we are helping others. Here are two of my faves, Eastside Academy and Jubilee Reach Center.

And, finally, for those trying to stave off aging and cognitive breakdown by doing crossword puzzles, learning another language, or taking on new challenges, try


A quick, funny read. Alexander is actually fairly hopeless at learning French, which should be encouraging to the rest of us.

There you have it, folks, the 2014 list. If these don't float your boat (or your to-read list still has things like The Guernsey Literary and Potato-Peel Pie Society moldering on it, you can also try my 2013 list or even 2012.) Get one title or two at your neighborhood bookstore and everyone wins!

Hope I see you this Saturday, peoples!

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