Bust out the glitter and champagne—it’s time to ring in the new year and celebrate all the books that made us laugh, cry, swoon and yearn for adventure! Here are some highlights from last year’s mountainous reading list! I should note that not all of these books dropped in 2014, but they were new to me and therefore they made the list. It’s my blog, dammit, so I get to call the shots!
What were your memorable reads of 2014? Did any books in particular sing to your soul, make you want to change your life for the better, or transport you to another dimension through space and time? Post a comment and tell me all about it!
Best All-Around Book of 2014: Orphan Train by Kristina Baker Kline
This is one of those traumatic coming-of-age stories that sucks you in and keeps you glued to the pages until the very end. The tragic characters were so real, it felt like I was right there on that train as it trudged its way to the Midwest, hungry, belittled and afraid of the unknown. Even when I wasn’t reading, I found my mind drifting to little orphan Niahm, wondering how she was going to survive her current horrifying foster-home situation. I would also think of Molly’s unlikely friendship with a 91-year-old widow, wondering how they would eventually help each other overcome their hardships and find closure in the end. The author did a fantastic job unfolding both Molly’s and Niahm’s narratives as the chapters jumped from present day to the Great Depression. It was almost impossible setting down the book because I was dying to see their stories converge.
Memorable quote: So is it just human nature to believe that things happen for a reason – to find some shred of meaning even in the worst experiences?
Best Wanderlust Book: Following Atticus by Tom Ryan
Oh man, I don’t even know how to even begin describing how much I adore this book. I just want to climb to the top of one of Tom’s beloved mountain peaks with a bullhorn and tell the world to read Following Atticus. It’s that good, people!
This is just a beautiful story about the bond between a man and his dog, and how they both found inner peace in the enchanting New Hampshire Mountains. In defiance of what’s expected of an overweight middle-aged man and a 20-pound dog, they achieved the impossible. Not once, but twice, they conquered all 48 of the great White Mountain peaks in one winter.
I can tell you from experience that animals have a way of making us live in the present. Like standing atop a majestic mountain and looking down at nature’s splendor, seeing the world through a dog’s eyes can allow us to take in the bigger picture. All those trivial things—the office pettiness, the family melodrama, the overloaded inbox—seem so insignificant when you can truly understand the broad scheme of things. That’s why this book really hit home.
Memorable quote: In the mountains Atticus became more of what he’d always been, and I became less—less frantic, less stressed, less worried, and less harried. I felt comfortable letting him lead, and he seemed to know what I needed. He always chose the best route, if ever there was a question, and my only job was to follow.
Best Beach Read: Five Summers by Una Lamarche
My happiest childhood memories took place at Camp Marston, a sleepaway camp nestled in the mountains of Julian, California. This book rekindled so many memories of the deep friendships that were forged over burnt marshmallows and capture-the-flag games. In this book, the four girls were lucky enough to stay in touch throughout the years and help each other through the trials and tribulations of young adulthood. Each girl is holding back a deep, dark secret and it all comes to a head when they reunite at their beloved Camp Nedoba. I really liked how the author used the third-person narrative to weave each of the girls’ past and present summer camp experiences in every chapter. I loved getting to know all the characters and reminiscing about my carefree summers at camp, where I only had to worry about hiding contraband candy from the counselors and getting caught on a night raid to boys hill!
Memorable quote: The way you act can sometimes be totally different from the way you actually are.
Best Inspirational Memoir: Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
Confession: I bought this book for my husband without any intention of reading it myself. Just the thought of reading a memoir penned by a vegan ultra-marathoner made my eyes roll. But yet, the curiosity got the best of me when I read his inscription: “Dear Jarred, just do things.” Do things? Huh? Intrigued by this simple, yet provocative sentiment, I peeked into the first chapter and soon found myself totally enthralled by Jurek’s voyage into the unimaginable realm of ultra-marathon running. This book completely changed my perception of human limitations. At the risk of sounding trite, this incredibly gifted man shows that you can train your mind into believing –and proving—that anything’s possible. Example: the book opens with Jurek tossing his cookies on the side of the road in Death Valley with 60 more miles to go. Death freakin’ Valley! At this point any rational person would stick a fork in it and head back to the hotel. Not Scott Jurek. He not only completes the race—he wins it! This isn’t just a book about running; it’s a story of perseverance. When the going gets tough, I’m going to keep his mantra in mind: Sometimes you just do things.
Memorable quote: I’m convinced that a lot of people run ultramarathons for the same reason they take mood-altering drugs. I don’t mean to minimize the gifts of friendship, achievement, and closeness to nature that I’ve received in my running career. But the longer and farther I ran, the more I realized that what I was often chasing was a state of mind – a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.