2014 was a good year.
2014 was a good year in writing. My second teen novel, MY BEST FRIEND, MAYBE came out in June from Bloomsbury. I also finished writing and sold my third teen novel, TUMBLING, which will come out in summer 2016 with Viking. And I wrote and sold my first middle grade, MY LIFE WITH THE LIARS, which will come out in winter 2016 with Harper.
2014 was a good year in life too. I took an epic trip to India which I will never, never forget. I was acting principal and founder of a summer school. I continued to teach and to force kids to read until they love it. I celebrated book releases with Jessica Verdi, Corey Ann Haydu, Mary G. Thompson, Amy Ewing, Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, Dahlia Adler and more great authors. I traveled to Vermont for a tiny writing retreat and to Tennessee for a huge one, both incredibly fun and productive. I celebrated with two of my lifelong friends when they each gave birth to two adorable daughters. I celebrated with another lifelong friend when she chose to move to New York (woo hoo!) And I finally got to celebrate my bestie as she earned her PhD in immunology and microbiology and officially became The Real Dr. Hu. My husband and I attended 5 football games, relaxed at the Jersey shore for a week, and put our apartment on the market in search of more space.
2014 was also a good year in reading. For the first time I committed to keeping track of what I read. It turns out I read 76 books. I don’t know if this is a lot or not because this is the first time I’ve kept track, but I’m going for an even 100 in 2015.
I read adult, teen and middle grade. I read fiction, non-fiction, memoir and graphic novels. I read published books and ARCs and beta-ed for some great books to come. I read on trains and planes and subways and couches.
Good things come to those who read.
Here are my top 10 books that I read in 2014. They are in the order in which I read them. They are all over the place in terms of category and genre and actual publishing year because that’s how I read.
(Also, I did not include books written by my friends for the sake of impartiality. But you should read them all too!)
To know me is to know I love Wally Lamb. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on his newest! This isn’t my favorite Wally Lamb but I did love it. He manages to wind damaged characters together into damaged families that still leave you feeling good about the world when you turn the last page.
There are not enough books written about transgender teens, but I think I have a good number of them. This one is my favorite, ultimately, because I read it as a love story. Gabe’s crush on Paige rang so true and painful and joyful and so utterly teen.
I was not one of the many who were fangirl-ing over Eleanor & Park. I liked it, but straight-up love stories aren’t my thing. So I thought this one blew it out of the water. Ultimately I loved this book because it’s about WRITING. Also, I kept thinking I should skip the Simon Snow sections in case they contained spoilers. I had to keep reminding myself that Simon Snow wasn’t a real book. But now Simon Snow IS going to have his own book, which is SO exciting, and I better not have read any spoilers!
To be honest, I picked this book up so that I’d be able to pass it onto my students. But I ended up loving it myself. It has great characters, great family dynamics, and great sports scenes. But it made this list because it has one of the most clear and engrossing arcs I’ve read in a long time.
And now a break from the happy, beautiful books. This one is not that, but it is important. It’s a revealing inside look into the George Zimmerman trial and it paints a terrifying—though I’d say realistic—picture of our legal system and our country’s race relations. A hugely important read.
This one is just beautiful writing. Sometimes that’s all you need.
I read this as soon as it hit shelves and I was thrilled when it won the National Book Award. There were so many little tidbits so wise and beautiful I wanted to cut them out of the book and wallpaper my walls with her words. (Alas, the house is on the market. Oh well.)
This was hands down my favorite read of 2014. I always used to joke that I have a Caela’s Top Five Books of All Time List, but that I could only commit to putting two books on it. Well, this is the third book to ever make Caela’s Top Five of All Time. Read it!
As I was reading all of these books, I was also writing and revising TUMBLING which features five main characters. It was incredibly difficult. But somehow Kekla Magoon managed 17 narrators in this book, each with a distinctive voice and arc. Even more impressive: this story is so brilliant and timely it’s easy to miss how hard it must have been to balance all of these characters.
I loved the larger story in this book, but I also loved the smaller reminders. I taught sixth grade boys for four years and would have loved a book like this to speak to them about their place in their families, their burgeoning identities, the unfairness of the world, and also to remind them to use deodorant and clip their toenails.
It was hard to narrow down 76 books to the ten I enjoyed the most. There are so many great ones! And there are so many more I’m looking forward to in 2015! It’s going to be a good year.
Happy New Year and happy reading!