This month, it’s been 20 years since I began writing Sonderbooks! To celebrate, I’m doing 20 posts reminiscing about my favorite books I read each year. So far, it’s been extra fun to realize exactly how long I’ve loved the books of some of my now-favorite authors. With some of the nonfiction, I’m discovering when my thinking started going a certain direction.
Today let’s look at favorite books from 2004. As usual, I’ll start with the Sonderbooks Special Edition I wrote summing up my reading year. I’m not going to repeat the books I reread, mostly listed here as “Old Favorites” and “Classics.”
Oh wow! When I look at the list — this is going to take awhile. I read some amazing books that year. Again, I’ll start with the three favorites:
Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith
How I love this one! I read it because of a story in the Firebirds anthology I mentioned in the 2003 post. It’s one of those slow-burn romance fantasy stories that’s just exquisite. Two books were put together in this edition. Both have wonderful twist endings. The second has a relationship building in letters, so she doesn’t even know who she’s falling in love with as it happens.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
This one’s so good, too! Despite being extremely long and for adults, I couldn’t stop reading it. This is alternate reality England during the Napoleonic Wars where magic exists. Magic users must decide what they’re willing to do to fight Napoleon.
The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness, by Joel ben Izzy
I still think of this as one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Joel ben Izzy was a storyteller — and he lost his ability to speak. He tells that story in this book, weaving in tales from around the world for a completely enchanting tale.
Sabriel, by Garth Nix
Wow! That’s still my reaction to thinking about reading Sabriel. It presents an elaborate fantasy world where some have the power of necromancy — walking into the realm of Death and sometimes learning things, sometimes bringing people back, but many times helping send people on or keeping things away that should not come out of death. That same year, I read the wonderful follow-ups, Lirael and Abhorsen.
Sorcery and Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
So much fun! This is essentially a Jane Austen book with magic added. The two authors wrote it in letters to one another as letters between the young ladies in the book. I also read and enjoyed the follow-up, The Grand Tour.
The Hollow Kingdom, by Clare Dunkle
This wonderful novel is about a teen who gets pulled into the underworld to be the Goblin King’s bride — but things don’t then go as the reader expects. This author lived near me in Germany, and I think of her as a friend after some wonderful conversations together. Later that same year, I read the also-wonderful follow-up, Close Kin.
Enna Burning, by Shannon Hale
This sequel to The Goose Girl goes beyond the fairy tale that inspired the original and adds to the system of magic in that world as Enna, a friend of Ani, discovers a power that can be used in war.
Wren to the Rescue, by Sherwood Smith
This is the start of a trilogy, and I also devoured Wren’s Quest, and Wren’s War. Yes, I read them because of how much I loved Crown Duel. This is a full fantasy adventure trilogy for kids.
Defending Irene, by Kristin Wolden Nitz
Yay! Another good friend and writing buddy got published! This tells the tale of an American girl wanting to play soccer — while her family lives in a town in Italy.
Indigo’s Star, by Hilary McKay
Hilary McKay’s stories about the Casson family continue to be wonderful.
The Schwa Was Here, by Neal Shusterman
This was my introduction to Neal Shusterman, with a character who is memorable for being unmemorable.
godless, by Pete Hautman
This one’s sticking with me. A kid decides to worship the water tower and recruits others to his new religion, and consequences ensue.
Nights of Rain and Stars, by Maeve Binchy
More Maeve Binchy! This one’s about a small group of tourists who meet on a Greek island.
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
My first Ann Patchett novel! This tells about an opera singer who gets taken hostage by a group of terrorists — and somehow makes an enchanting and haunting story out of that.
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
Oh boy, my first Jasper Fforde book, featuring literary detective Thursday Next! In his alternate-reality England, people can go in and out of books, and Jane Eyre’s life has been threatened. But that’s only a little bit of the wackiness.
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
A fable for adults, poetically told.
An Assembly Such as This: Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, Book 1, by Pamela Aidan
This is the beginning of a delightful trilogy that gives us the events of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective. I read the second book, Duty and Desire, that same year, and the third book, These Three Remain, the following year. Marvelous!
Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck
This is a memoir about an incredibly difficult pregnancy while the author was a grad student at Harvard, combined with the pressure to abort the baby because he had Down syndrome. And what an amazing gift that baby turned out to be.
The Inescapable Love of God, by Thomas Talbott
I became a Universalist from reading books by George MacDonald along with the Bible, before I started writing Sonderbooks. But Thomas Talbott’s book was the first book I read by a living author arguing that Universalism is the clearest and most straightforward way to interpret the Bible. He gives a systematic defense of Christian Universalism.
If Grace Is True and If God Is Love, by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland
These books aren’t as Bible-based as Thomas Talbott’s, but they do present a logical case for Universalism, and they opened my eyes to how many of the church fathers taught Universalism.
Count Down: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World’s Toughest Math Competition, by Steve Olson
Another book about brilliant kids and Math! With thoughts about doing math.
Earth From Above, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
I’ve read other books that do this — gorgeous photographs of our beautiful world, taken by satellites. I’ll never get tired of looking at them.
Actual Size, by Steve Jenkins
This was my introduction to Steve Jenkins’ amazingly realistic paper-cut artwork. In this book, he shows parts of animals in actual size, and it’s visually stunning.
I, Crocodile, by Fred Marcellino
Why do I so enjoy picture books where someone gets eaten? (Don’t answer that.) Anyway, this story of a crocodile taken to Paris still makes me chuckle.
This list is so long, you won’t believe me it’s only the highlights from 2004! But take a look at my full list of 2004 Stand-outs to appreciate that I really am pulling out a few.