a book list

I always enjoy reading book recommendations from other people, so I thought I would share some of the better books I read in 2014. I actually read scores, so this is a very small sample. I hope you find something in here that interests you.

The Goddess and the Bull, Michael Balter. An interesting look into an archeological dig.

Herbs and the Earth, Henry Beston (because The Outermost House is not available here.) Such a tender book, written with real love for nature.

The Art of the Commonplace, Wendell Berry. So wise and beautifully articulated. I especially love what he writes about ... well, everything, really.

The Wild Places, Robert MacFarlane. One of my top ten of the year, beautiful and soulful.

The Old Ways, Robert MacFarlane. Equally beautiful. I would read anything he wrote.

Holloway, Robert MacFarlane. This poetic little book is just sheer magic. It also provided me with deep inspiration (and the title!) for Driftways.

Roanoke, Lee Miller. A lot of people complained about the writing style of this author, but I didn't mind it too much. We were on a Roanoke bender for a month or so, and this was a helpful addition to our learning.

Wild, Jay Griffiths. Aptly titled, this wonderful book was fierce and searing and sat heavy on my thoughts for a long time afterwards.

To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis. We read almost all her books this year (for me, it was the second or third rereading) and can not recommend them highly enough. This will probably always be my favourite one.

Dawn Light, Diane Ackerman. Not as rich and luscious as MacFarlane, and I struggled a little because I am a night person and do not love the morning, but can still say this was beautifully written.

Tower, Nigel Jones. A delicious read for any history buff.

Rosa Gymnocarpa, Sylvia Linsteadt. A wild and fragrant story, it leaves magic dust all over you.

The Summer Book, Tove Jansson. Simply exquisite.

The Moral Lives of Animals, Dale Peterson. A powerful read.

Mortal Fire, Elizabeth Knox. Although the novel doesn't quite live up to the promise of the short story, this was nevertheless fabulous - perhaps because I know that house, that valley (not literally, but in my own experience of childhood in New Zealand.) I could smell the air, see the landscape, hear the footsteps on the floors.

The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram. Wonderful.

Alphabet of Thorn, Patricia McKillip. I reread several McKillip books this spring, and this was the best of them. I'd not liked it much when I first read it, but this time was better. I still feel McKillip's earlier books are her best, from before she became overly stylised. But McKillip fans have long debates on that subject!

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. This was my third reading of the book, and I had to wait for my daughter to finish it first. As always, I skimmed portions of the story (I'm never interested in Bailey's story, not matter how many times I pick up this book), but the bits I did read, mostly involving Celia and Marco, I absolutely loved.

This year I actually read less than usual, as I was writing my own books. I feel quite bad about the novels I enjoyed but didn't add to this list, but if I didn't stop somewhere I'd be typing all day!

Oh, but I can not let this list stand without mentioning one more book I've been reading this year. It's a serialised story written by a friend of mine and distributed privately. I've just now finished the latest chapter and had tears come to my eyes. Such a beautiful story, so perfectly told. I will respect her by mentioning no details, but how I wish I could tell you all about it!

I'm mentioning it because I feel it's true that so many of the very best stories are never published. My own best ones are told once a year to my daughter on her birthday. And then there are family heritage tales, and friends' memories, and bedtime stories wove from the magic in mothers' hearts, and the private diaries of people ...

And the stories told by light and fragrance on an afternoon in the woods ... and by the storming ocean ...


  1. thank you for this gorgeous list, Sarah, and thank you for including me in your previous post! I am very honored. And now shall put some of these on my new Goodreads "to read" list! <3

  2. Oh, the Summer Book, I read that many many years ago in Sweden, but it still has a magic hold over me. The author is the one who wrote about the Moomins, also a life long love of mine. Best read in Swedish with a Finnish accent, like the author, LOL.

  3. This is a book list that holds many books I have never heard of - and that is an exciting prospect. I always think that someone's bookshelf is a pathway to the inner life of that person. There is many a time when I have visited a friend and been quite content to stand browsing their bookshelf rather than sit and chat to them - is that rude? maybe. I just love getting to know people's inner wisdom through their reading material ;-) I think this bookshelf says volumes about you Sarah, I hope you don't mind me saying that. I also love it that you can be so generous and take the time to share it with us.

    David Abram is one of my all time favourites and Wild by Jay Griffiths rocked my world so deeply, I think I owe much of my 'nature' writing style to her. Robert Macfarlane, too. The others, I surely will be putting on my wish list,

    and yes, the unpublished books are often the best as they stay so close to the author, never quite being able to become untwined from the original voice (maybe you could or have already published a list of those you can mention?) and even better are the stories we keep just for our family and friends, as you mention; those that reside eternally in the bookshelf of our hearts.

    thank you Sarah and have a great day

  4. I loved many of these books, too. Robert Macfarlane writes so beautifully and powerfully, and David Abram is a kind of guru to many of us earth-loving people, I think (my astrologer quoted him during my reading. Becoming Animalis even better.

  5. I just spent a nice half hour putting these on my goodreads lists. Thank you, friend.