My Year in Books: 2014

31 December 2014

“Without the high and noble the simple and vulgar is utterly mean; and without the simple and ordinary the noble and heroic is meaningless.”
j.r.r. tolkien

Coming into 2014 twelve too-short months ago, I had the sensation of girding myself for battle. In some ways, that sentiment did not prove false as the year progressed. Our family faced numerous financial setbacks. The present state of our nation grew bleaker. My sister and I traveled alone for the first time and came face to face with the grittiness of sin at one o' clock in the morning. In Flannery's words, though, “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.” It seems too trivial to capture the Lord's mercies in mere faltering words, but I must, for they have been great. In the space of a year, we have not lacked for food, shelter, or company. We've made the simplest, silliest, and most wonderful memories that I will take with me as mementos when I move away. I've trundled through the end of my junior year, begun my senior year, and come to grips with the reality of living several hundred miles from the people I love best next year. Relationships have been shaken, reformed, and built together once more. The thrum of it all comes back to this: great is His faithfulness.

I couldn't manage to effectively sum up an entire year in one post: for that purpose, there are blog archives (sparse though they may be). Still, I wanted to make an acknowledgment of this year's passing with a bit of reminiscence, and that seemed as good a reason as any for some list-making. (Bring on the bullet points!) 

top five domestic posts

These were the posts that received the most interaction on Literary Lane this year. Thank you for taking the time to share your hearts and participate in discussions: you make my life richer.

On Christian Sincerity. Is it a denial of Christ to avoid that cliche conversion scene?
March Chatterbox: You Were the One Next to Me. "We're held to the only standard the world can see. It doesn't mean there isn't more."
Sweeter Than Wine. When writing romance, can you achieve authenticity without compromising your conscience?
You Were Meant to Be Right Here All Along. The world is bent on discovering itself: I want to know my Lord.
September Chatterbox: Willa-My-WillaShe was the beam of light that slanted across his life, but she brought shadows with her.

top five international posts

These were the words that shook me, challenged me, and pushed me ever further up and further in. "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend."

Troubling Stories by Anna Graham.
How to Balance Your Literary Diet by Suzannah Rowntree.
Success With a Third-Grade Diploma by Rachel Heffington.

read in 2014
* indicates a favorite

Of books, there were plenty. The titles I read this year are listed en masse below. 2014 was a rewarding year for the bookcase, and I savored the variety of literature that I was able to sample. In American literature I discovered new favorites such as My Antonia and Our Town. The second half of the list grows decidedly British: blame it on the happy overlapping of my assigned and personal reading lists. English literature is truly a wonderful thing.

my antonia* - willa cather
till we have faces* - c.s. lewis
the great gatsby - f. scott fitzgerald
fly away home - rachel heffington
anon, sir, anon - rachel heffington
the sound and the fury - william faulkner
of mice and men - john steinbeck
the eagle of the ninth- rosemary sutcliff
the letterbook of eliza lucas pinckney
the glass menagerie - tennessee williams
death of a salesman - arthur miller
our town* - thornton wilder
farenheit 451 - ray bradbury
shadow hand - anne elisabeth stengl
starflower*- anne elisabeth stengl
the faith - charles w. colson
kingdoms in conflict* - charles w. colson
the fault in our stars - john green
a prayer journal* - flannery o'connor
the lamb of God - nancy guthrie
david copperfield- charles dickens
hamlet* - william shakespeare
emma*- jane austen
jane eyre*- charlotte bronte
a christian manifesto - francis a. schaeffer
plenilune* - jennifer freitag

My top three favorites from 2014 — one would be too cruel — in no particular order are David Copperfield, Plenilune, and Jane Eyre. (I may or may not rank books based on how much they tangle with my emotions.) Assigned reading quickly dominated pleasure reading, as is its wont, so it was rewarding to check off some Dickens, Sutcliff, Lewis, and two more Tales of Goldstone Wood in addition to the bleaker Fitzgerald and Steinbeck. In the nonfiction category, I discovered Charles Colson, particularly his Kingdoms in Conflict, which has inspired me to pick up more of his books in 2015. (If you have the chance to read his personal testimony, do so: it's riveting.) The Sound and the Fury and Beowulf, though short in length, were probably the most daunting of this year's haul. (Beowulf was ultimately more enjoyable — the kennings!). I finally finished Emma after years of dabbling in the first few chapters, which was fun, if not terribly surprising; perhaps next year I'll take on Mansfield Park or Persuasion

to read in 2015
[among others]

the fellowship of the ring - j.r.r. tolkien
winter's tale - mark helprin
anna karenina - leo tolstoy (do I dare?)
the complete stories - flannery o'connor
the space trilogy - c.s. lewis
the importance of being earnest - oscar wilde (not to be read with muffins unless desirous of buttered cuffs)
several lord peter wimsey mysteries - dorothy sayers
mansfield park - jane austen
orthodoxy, the ballad of the white horse, and the man who was thursday - g.k. chesterton

what did you read in 2014?

17 epistles:

  1. I did a similar post on my blog, and guess what - we read quite a few of the same things! Cheers! Happy new year and fresh start with reading. You've got a few of my favorites on your TO READ list. Hooray!

    1. I just read your post: so happy to see our reading lists collide! Wasn't My Antonia wonderful? I need to read more of Willa Cather's books now.

  2. Your blog is ever so lovely, and I had great delight in spending some of my morning time here. Your words truly captured the best describtion of 2014... how great indeed is His faithfulness <3 Looking back, I see His hand in *everything*, guiding, leading, pruning, and strengthening my heart ever more. I wouldn't trade anything for the memories of this year.

    May the Lord fill your 2015 with overflowing joy and new adventures. Its so exciting to watch His plan for our lives unfold!


    1. Thank you, Shannon. I'm glad it was a blessing to you. May the same joy and adventure fill your 2015 as well!

  3. I read Our Town this year too, and it lived up to nearly everything I'd heard said of it. I couldn't help being a little conflicted over the theology (or lack thereof) of the third act, but otherwise, it was magical.

    Yes, do dare Tolstoy, do. :) And as for The Importance of Being Earnest, "I defy you not to roar."

    1. Yes, the theology is a bit strange at the end of Our Town, but I appreciated the image the earlier portions painted of the value of simplicity. I also love Emily's words: "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?"

      I'm trying not to overthink Anna Karenina and unnerve myself about it. XP

    2. Exactly. I think that line is probably the theme of the play in a nutshell. And the humorous, loving portrait of small-town life in the early parts is just my cup of tea too.

  4. Hooray! I'm glad my post inspired you. I love your reading list. Chesterton is always wonderful. I liked Anna Karenina too, and Mansfield Park is one of my favourite novels ever :)

    1. I've heard good things about Mansfield Park from both you and Abigail Hartman, so I can hardly ignore it any longer. You're making me excited to dive in. =)

  5. Elizabeth Rose, your Willa-My-Willa post was beautiful. I didn't comment at the time, but it has lingered in my memory in the months since as a sweet fragrance. :)


    1. Thank you, Schuyler! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Willa and Michael are two of my favorites. Perhaps they'll make a reappearance one of these days...

  6. Oh my goodness, you must read Lord Peter Wimsey. And Persuasion. And Earnest. And I'm right there with you on Anna Karenina.


    1. Earnest, being assigned, will definitely happen. As for the others, I struggle to pick and choose between them. So many good books to read, so little time!

  7. I really enjoyed "Mansfield Park". It's one of the less comedic books written by Austen and focuses more on questions of morality and human nature. I didn't read as many books as I had hoped to this year, but I really enjoyed the ones I read! IA couple of my favorites from last year include "Wives and Daughters" by Elizabeth Gaskell and "Middlemarch" by George Elliot. This year I plan to finish "Little Dorrit" by Charles Dickens. I'm also hoping to read "Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton and "The Space Trilogy" by C.S. Lewis. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on all of these books and keeping up with your progress! God bless.

    1. Orthodoxy and Lewis' Space Trilogy are both on my list as well: it seems our tastes have collided. ^.^ Best of luck with your reading! I look forward to hearing your thoughts as well.

  8. Oh, do read Anna Karenina. You'll be thankful you did, it's a beautiful book.

    1. Years ago, in a pool of comrades naming Lewis and Tolkien's works as the most influential in their lives, one person chose Anna Karenina instead as the book that impacted him the most, and I was so intrigued I knew I had to read it one day. (Plus, my English teacher offered serious extra credit to anyone who could finish it before the end of the second semester, so that helps too. ^.^)


"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body." —Proverbs 16:24

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