Reading Roundup 2014
My annual reading roundup is more than a month late, but better late than never. It’s snowing in Boston again (I really don’t know where we’re going to put all this snow) so I thought what better way to spend some time on a snow day than remembering all the books I read in the past year?
I’ve done a reading roundup for nearly every year I’ve been writing in this blog. If you’re interested in checking them out, you can find my past roundups here.
So. 2014. I read fewer books last year (47) than in 2012 and 2013, and overall I feel like I might have been in a little bit of a reading rut. My commute got shorter when I moved to Boston and I think I’ve been spending less time reading than usual because I’ve been busy trying to build a new life here, going out as much as possible, trying to find life where I can. But more and more, I’m discovering that sitting alone in my room and reading is one of my favorite things to do–it’s calming and brings me back to who I am, which I think I need more than I sometimes realize. So, I’m hoping to do a little more of that in 2015.
2014 books by the numbers:
- Classics: 4
- Books by women: 26
- Story Collections: 6
- Nonfiction: 9
- Poetry: 2
My favorites of the year:
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I tackled this one in February and March, about the time when I like to read thick epics. And Anna is just that. I love when I try something I think I will be intimidated by and instead find it enriching and personally valuable.
- It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single by Sara Eckel. Though I’d only been single for a few short months when I read this, I found it immensely validating and helpful for the kind of pain I was working through. I highly recommend it for any single ladies who are having a hard time living the uncoupled life.
- Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans. This story collection was a refreshing departure from the standard contemporary short story.
- The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levathan. A tiny novelette written in the form of dictionary entries, this book chronicles the rise and fall of a relationship, from A to Z. It’s beautifully written and it was a therapeutic read.
- The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. As perfect a collection of essays I’ve read, ever. Read almost cover to cover on a bus home from a very difficult trip to New York City in the dead of summer.
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I’m not the biggest Hemingway fan out there, but he’s a literary heavyweight for a reason. I really loved reading this book.
- Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. Another brief novella written in vignettes, telling a harrowing story of a marriage. I loved this book so, so much, in ways very personal that I also believe are universal.
- Stag’s Leap: Poems by Sharon Olds. Confession: I stole this one from Joe’s bookshelf when I left and I don’t regret it for a second. In fact, I read this every night before bed in January, alone in the apartment we’d shared, ugly crying because the depiction of divorce was so sharp. (I guess I did a lot of therapeutic reading in 2014). Sometimes you just need to cry a lot.
- What Ends by Andrew Ladd. This novel is desolate and poignant, the kind of multi-generational family story I love. Be prepared for lots of feelings. Especially the feeling of wanting to go vacation on a wild Scottish island.
- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. One of the only books I read in my book club that I truly enjoyed. It’s a story of young love and pain and just being young. It’s not sappy and it’s not simplistic.
- The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi. Another novel shelved in the YA section that doesn’t simplify or trivialize the unique pain of being a teenager.
- Hero Worship by Rebekah Matthews. Another surprising and refreshing collection of short stories, these linked by a single character, Valerie, growing up and trying to figure out how to be.
- A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. I bought this book at Powell’s in Portland because I wanted to buy something that would remind me of my trip. The book doesn’t take place in Portland, but it does take place in the Pacific Northwest and Japan, and it’s a lovely story of empathy and the bonds we can create with strangers.
- The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. I very much enjoyed this novel with a badass yet vulnerable female narrator who speed races and wears leather jackets and infiltrates the 1970s radical art world of New York City.
My reading goals for 2015 are really simply to get back to the place where reading brings joy and escape and enlightenment. My favorites of the year in 2014 did that to some degree but since it was a hard, sad, challenging year full of change, I found myself reading mostly sad books in search of catharsis (which I found in many unexpected places). Sadness brings its own kind of joy, especially for me, but I’m excited to see what else I’ll find in 2015.
What were your favorite reads of 2014? Do you ever find that what you’re reading lines up with what you’re going through in your personal life?