I love this time of the blogging year, when the lists of "My favorite books of 2014" appear. Even with blogs that I read regularly, I still find authors and titles to add to my TBR lists - just before the TBR Dare kicks in. Usually I enjoy putting my own together, but I'm having trouble coming up with a list that satisfies me. When I look back over the books I read this year, there were new-to-me authors, introduced via blog reviews or recommendations. There were also authors I rediscovered on my own shelves, and other favorites whose books I am still exploring.
In the new-to-me category, Patricia Wentworth tops the list, with her detective stories featuring Miss Maud Silver. I am not the only one asking how I missed her books all this time, particularly as I'm a fan of Golden Age mysteries. I read five of her books this year, starting with The Clock Strikes Twelve, which was a perfect introduction. However, my favorite was The Watersplash (featuring a quite reasonable cat lady and a fascinating old library to be catalogued). If I had any talent for fan fiction, I'd write a story where Miss Silver and Dorothy L. Sayers' Miss Kitty Climpson join forces to solve crime.
Two years ago, tracking down a copy of E.O. Somerville and Martin Ross's The Irish R.M., I realized for the first time that they wrote many other books together. I read two of their entertaining travel accounts and enjoyed them. But it was finally reading Somerville's memoir Irish Memories this year, as well as a selection of their letters, that really sparked my interest in their other, more serious novels. I have their first books written together, An Irish Cousin and The Real Charlotte, on the TBR stacks.
Finding a copy of Emily Kimbrough's Water, Water Everywhere at Half Price Books was something of a turning point in my reading year. I had read another of her travel accounts, which didn't inspire me to read more. But this one, about a trip to Greece, was so good that it made me think I had been too quick to set her aside. Her memoir about finding a career in the 1920s, Through Charley's Door, was also a highlight. There will be more of Emily Kimbrough's travel books to come.
Last year I rediscovered Mary Stewart's books, and this year I read two that are now my favorites of her mysteries, The Ivy Tree and My Brother Michael. Thanks to the Mary Stewart Reading Week hosted by Anbolyn, I have added a few more to the TBR shelves, including another set in Greece, The Moonspinners.
One of my best reading discoveries in 2013 was Margaret Kennedy. The first of her books that I read, Lucy Carmichael, is still far and away my favorite, but I have enjoyed exploring her other books. This year I read two very good ones, A Long Time Ago and The Wild Swan. I owe my introduction to her books to Jane (Fleur), whose Margaret Kennedy Reading Week added even more titles to my TBR list.
I began my reading year with Jane Austen's Emma, and what could be better? Our Houston JASNA chapter met to discuss Sanditon this fall, and I gained a new appreciation of Austen's last, unfinished story. I know I'm not the only Janeite to have many more books about Austen than books by Austen on my shelves. This year I particularly enjoyed Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends, by Constance Hill and Ellen G. Hill, an account of an Austen pilgrimage they took in 1901.
Over the past four years, the United States has been observing the sesquicentennial of our Civil War, which will end in 2015. At one point I had the crazy idea that I could clear all the Civil War-related books off the TBR shelves by 2015. That might have worked, if I had just stopped adding new ones. This year I only managed to read two, Sarah Emma Edmonds's Memoirs of a Soldier, Nurse and Spy (at least partly fictionalized), and Joshua Zeitz's study of Abraham Lincoln and his secretaries, Lincoln's Boys. Marking the centennial of the Great War, I also read a fascinating compact history of it, Michael Howard's The First World War.
Tomorrow begins the TBR Double Dog Dare, hosted by James of James Reads Books. For the next three months, I plan to read only from my own TBR shelves (with a few exceptions like book club selections). Even beyond the Dare, I would like to reduce the ridiculous number of unread books that I have accumulated. I have made that resolution so many times that I feel a bit like the boy who cried wolf in saying it yet again. But I am making it one of my reading goals for 2015. If I stick with that, I will be checking the library catalogue for the enticing books that appear daily on my favorite blogs. My other reading goal for the new year is to continue to read more diversely, in both fact and fiction, with at least twelve books by authors of color - one a month, or about 10% of my usual reading.
It has been such a good year of reading. Thank you to everyone who has read along. The conversation here and on your blogs has enriched my reading life so much, as well as adding books to the TBR stacks. I wish you a very happy New Year, one that brings all good things, especially books to read and share.