It’s time for the end of the year lists. I love to read about what other people are reading and so I thought I’d just do a quick round-up of my 10 favourite books in 2014. (I wasn’t able to read as much as usual this year – it’s been a busy one – but what I did read, I thoroughly enjoyed across the board. So much good work from so many.) I read a ton of popular novels this year – I think I was looking for an escape, not only from the world but even from my own mind or my own book writing. It served me well. And of course, I did a lot of research-reading in the non-fiction genre but that’s not quite the same as reading for the fun of it, is it?

So here are my 5 favourite fiction reads and my 5 favourite non-fiction reads of the year – so difficult to narrow it down! Let me know what you read and loved this year, too….

Sarah Bessey's Favourite Books of 2014

Favourite Fiction Reads

Lila by Marilynne Robinson :: I wait for a new Marilynne Robinson book like kids used to wait for the new Harry Potter. I loved Home and Gilead so much but this one was something else, a bit more of an edge of danger to it, a bit more real somehow. I loved Lila as a character and the book is her side of the story but the writing is quintessentially midwestern, simple and straight forward and then staggeringly beautiful.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman :: It’s odd to me how much I enjoy fantastical novels like this since I’m not a huge sci-fi or fantasy fan (with the notable exception of Doctor Who). But Neil Gaiman is such an incredible writer with such a spooky and lovely imagination. This book is weird and creepy, sad and beautiful. It stays with you long after you turn the last page.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty :: I have loved Liane Morarity’s novels since “What Alice Forgot” (still one of my favourite novels to recommend to women in the tired thirties with me.) Such a great un-put-down-able story. The characters were beautiful and real and flawed, I love each one of them and actually missed them when the novel was over.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (the Year of Jojo Moyes) :: Thanks to a recommendation from Shauna Niequist (who never steers me wrong on novels), I decided to pick up my first Jojo Moyes novel. And then I disappeared for 24-hours while I devoured it. DEVOURED. This book was so good. It was definitely my favourite of hers – the heroine of the novel and her family were so dear. And the questions it brought up and the conversations it sparked were so interesting. I ended up devouring all of her other novels, too.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd :: What a fascinating book. I love Sue Monk Kidd’s work and style – I think it’s that strain of the mystic to her work that I love or perhaps how she can write such complex women so well – but this one was an interesting story, compelling characters, and filled with empowerment and passion. It’s intense and complicated and brave. It makes me appreciate so much more deeply the women who came before us all.


Favourite Non-Fiction Reads

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. I know, I know, I’m a total BBT fan-girl. But this book was so vitally important to me this year. She articulates the liminal spaces of our lives so beautifully and turns the narratives of dark-light on their head in a way that made total sense to me. I got this book – anyone who has ever found God in the dark or in the in-between will get this book.

Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of St. Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr. I’ve been fascinated with St. Francis for a while now but this book takes us beyond the usual stories and biographical details, into the heart of Franciscan life. (Perhaps it’s because of Pope Francis that we’re all so dazzled by the idea of a Christian who actually seems like a Christian?) I found this book brilliant and challenging.

My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman. Oh, man. This book. This book! It reads more like poetry than spiritual memoir genre (which makes sense since Wiman is a poet). It blends theology with poetry, faith with doubt, edges with beauty. It’s luminous and devastating, worth a slow read.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett. You might have missed this unassuming book but goodness, Micha can write about prayer and motherhood like no one else. Every word is earthy, loving, and present. It made me feel a little less alone in how I wrestle not only with prayer but with the performances of prayer or the old habits no longer fitting.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler – I’m not usually one for reading humour books or books by comedians in general, but I loved Tina Fey’s Bossypants and so I decided to grab this one from the library as a bit of light reading one weekend. I ended up howling with laughter and texting my sister certain lines. It’s profane, accessible, hilarious, fearless, and strong. I think I need to find my inner Amy Poehler.

For more about the books I love, click here.

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  • I LOVED Lila!!! Adored it. Goodness, what a beautiful book. And Gaiman’s – that’s what I’m using my Christmas gift card for. Thanks, Sarah.

  • Heather Pocock

    Aww I love this list! Lots of great books and bossy pants/ yes please are 100% on my list next, I’ve heard great things. I wrote one a few weeks ago, mainly for non fiction (due to the fact that I have a terrible memory and can’t remember the profanity level/bedroom scenes of some of my novels and my mother reads my blog.. I wouldn’t want to shock her delicate ears!)

  • Jessica Townes

    I love everything I’ve read on this list which leads me to the conclusion that I should read the rest of it. Just finished Yes Please and passed it along to the same sister-in-law who gave me my copy of Me Before You. I’ve developed a not so great habit of quoting Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in most of my writing and nearly all instances that require me to give advice. Or maybe it is so great. Either way, those two women are an inspiration.

    • Seriously. Amy Poehler reminds me to stop apologising for my own self. So good.

  • I somehow missed every single one of these, this year, and what a shame because they sound amazing! I’m especially drawn to The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (I first met Gaiman when he co-authored a Discworld novel with Terry Pratchett, a Brittish satirist you’ve GOT to try sometime – I recommend Monstrous Regiment or Wee Free Men, to start), as well as Learning To Walk In The Dark and My Bright Abyss. My husband and I are going through some kind of spiritual changing that is painful and needful, and these appeal for that reason. Thank you for sharing! ♥

    • Thanks, Alena – will keep an eye out for Terry Pratchett at the library now.

      • Awesome! If you guys take many road trips, you should look into his audio books. They’re hilarious! 🙂 My personal favorite way to read his work.

  • I recently read The Ocean at the End of the Lane and the Invention of Wings. So, so good. The Invention of Wings had me so pumped up, man. This year I read as many Neil Gaiman books as I could get my hands on. I love the way he does things. I enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but my favorite Gaiman book so far is Neverwhere. So fantastical. I was searching audiobooks the other day and came across Gilead – I knew I had heard of it but wasn’t sure about it. I’ll have to check it out. I have Yes, Please on hold at the library. I cannot wait until it’s my turn to read.

    Thanks for sharing your list! I love talking about books! Here’s to even more good reads in 2015.

    • I never listen to audio books! I should probably start one of these days – sounds like a great idea.

      • They are super handy for car/airplane rides.

  • Chelsea

    Love this list! I didn’t enjoy Amy’s book as much as Bossypants for some reason… But I am currently reading Miranda Hart’s book, and in typical Miranda fashion, it is laugh out loud funny. Just what I need after a busy holiday. 🙂 And I’m picking up Jojo Moyes and Marilynne Robinson from the library today! Always love your book lists. Happy New Year to you and your sweet family! <3

    • Oh, man, Miranda very nearly made this list. It was SO HARD to leave her off. Such a funny book.

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  • Shane Deal

    I’ve not heard of many of these, but they seem like a good list!

    As for my own, I have not read very much this year, outside of re-reading my own drafts of my own books.

    I did read a few other people’s books:


    Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey: I really don’t need to say anymore about that, here, but it was excellent! 🙂

    I did read Rachel Held Evens’s book Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions, but I honestly did not feel I got that much out of it, it was nice as a read for the understanding of her thoughts and as a memoir, but I didn’t really feel impacted by it. I would still recommend it if asked what I thought though.

    I just finished: The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology by Grace Ji-Sun Kim, and while I am not the intended audience it was an incredibly informative and enlightening book. I would highly recommend it.


    Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman – A fun and short read, but classic Gaiman genius!

    I also read Saving Mars by Cidney Swanson. I have mixed feelings on it, I kind of liked it but it’s nothing particularly special. Yet after awhile it began to feel a bit like Twilight, on Mars. Which I suppose is rather common in modern fiction, I think it’s a result of writing to the market. –

    • That Grace of Sophia one sounds fascinating. Will mark it down for next year, thanks!

  • Read the Rohr and BBT listed — enjoyed them, but they didn’t make my top 10^H^H11 of the year…

    Here is my list:

  • Angela Dubinger

    Those were some of my favorites too, Sarah! Thanks for sharing, as always. If you love Doctor Who, you’ll enjoy Neil Gaiman’s _Fortunately, the Milk_. It’s a super-quick read.

  • Halen Seevinck

    Just bought half of those on Amazon right now – so many are on sale. Thanks for the recommend – you’ve never steered me wrong! 🙂

  • Laura Klassen

    I have read only one of the books on your list …and it was the first Kidd novel I have ever read. Loved the Invention of Wings!! One of the best lines for me was when she described her mama where “everything she knew came from living on the scarce side of mercy.” That still brings a lump to my throat. I’ll definitely read more of hers and must try the Barbara Brown Taylor one. Thanks, Sarah.

  • The Invention of Wings…great book…but I would encourage readers to instead listen to it read on Audible…the narrators have inflections and the southern drawls that so movingly have the characters comes alive. Same goes for Me before you…I can’t do the British voices in my head quite like the narrators can. I love being read to!

  • Rats! Just wrote a long comment that got deleted.
    Love this list – thanks for suggestions

    I agree – Micha Boyett’s book is a real gem

    I am so into St Francis right now! Have you read When St Francis Saved the Church by Jon M Sweeney? Short, fun, quotable biography of St Francis – quick and enjoyable read.

    Also – if you happen to like Agatha Christie style mysteries, I am loving the Posie Parker mysteries by LB Hathaway. England in the 1920s – ultimate comfort reading. Eat in a day or two. Yum.

    • Alison LeMay

      Hey Tanya (and Sarah),
      If you are into Saint Francis, you might love Ian Morgan Cron’s novel, Chasing Francis. It’s a story of a pastor who hits the wall in his faith journey (and his church leadership), and finds in Francis a new vision for his faith and church. You may have read it already, but I highly recommend it. I get something new out of it each time I read it.

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  • donna w.

    Hey Sarah! Thanks for sharing these book recommendations. I plan on reading Big Little Lies and Me Before You at some point this year. Oh and Yes, Please as well! I finished A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett last week. I highly recommend it if you love memoirs and even if you don’t. It’s incredibly inspiring, really fast-paced and the writing is incredible. I couldn’t out it down. I am currently working my way through Fearless by Max Lucado which I definitely recommend!:)

    Feel free to check out my winter reading list: