For years I’ve been all like “oh I wish I had kept a record of all the books I’ve read so I could look back at the lifetime list and be smug about it,” but I never got around to keeping track. I tried spreadsheets a couple times, but they never stuck.
Then, last December, the barcode scan feature of the Goodreads app gave me my answer. I just scan a book as soon as I’m done reading it and add it to “read.” I also decided to be super specific and make a bookshelf for each year, so I could keep track of books read by year – and the “review” feature allows you to put in start and end dates, so that’s cool too.
So finally I know a whole year’s worth of books. To my disappointment, I’ve only read 35 this year. That’s not quite 3 books per month. I used to do so much better. Then again, I used to not have to work full time, and spent all day every day that I wasn’t in school on a blanket in the front yard, often from morning until dark, devouring stories like they were cookies. Which are also delicious, and which I also make short work of.
Here is the chronological list, with minimal commentary, of the books I read in 2014. There are some that I started but didn’t finish; this list includes only those that I read from start to finish during 2014.
Cemerery Tours, Jacqueline E. Smith – This one I got on a whim but it was good
Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Other Stories, Karen Russell – I liked this, but not as much as her first book of short stories
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green – I read this only because of Mental Floss. I was like, that guy writes books?! I have to know. Liked it. He’s pretty awesome. DFTBA.
Cloud and Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales, Greer Gilman – in 2013 I read Moonwise by the same author. It’s a book I’d tried to read before and couldn’t get through it, but I was finally in the right mental space for it, and it was a complicated dance with language, bright and dark and always on the edges of things. I absolutely fell in love, and had to read Cloud and Ashes as soon as I could get my paws on it. Gilman is amazing. Difficult, but absolutely worth it.
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood – I know, I know. It shouldn’t have taken me this long to get to this one.
Tinkers, Paul Harding – this was heartbreaking and beautiful.
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1), Cassandra Clare – meh. It was ok…I remember there being some kind of something toward the end that really pissed me off and made me swear I’d never bother with anything else in this series. But it didn’t even make me mad enough to be memorable, so…yeah.
Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason, Russell Shorto – this one was cool.
The Prague Cemetery, Umberto Eco – Eco is a master. End of story.
Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, Tom Robbins – I had two people recommend Robbins to me this year, so this was my first foray into his work. Wild, and fun, but not my usual fare. I liked it OK, but was super frustrated because I read it on my Kindle and the goddamn file was structured to only have 3 “chapters,” so one false swipe and BOOM, you were a hundred-odd pages back with no way to get back to the location you accidentally left. That was irritating as fuck.
The Tiger’s Wife, Téa Obreht – this was just…gorgeous. Absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous, and helped me remember why I love telling stories during a time this year when I was feeling down on myself (deep in the editing process of my first novel). Just…aaaugh. Amazing.
The Club Dumas, Arturo Pérez-Reverte – This is the book on which one of my favorite movies, The Ninth Gate, is based. All I can say is that The Ninth Gate is the only movie I’ve ever seen that I consider to be WAY better than the book. The book has a bunch of stuff about the three musketeers and a bunch of Dumas lovers that’s just totally extraneous and doesn’t even end satisfyingly. Maybe something was lost in the translation to English, but I’ll just stick with Johnny Depp on this one.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain – I really enjoyed this. It’s gratifying to finally have someone lay out the difference between how we’re taught is the appropriate way to be in America – the ever-cheerful, outgoing sort with a grin and a handshake, ready to rub elbows at every after-party – and how many of us actually are – i.e. people who get their energy not from other people but from solitary pursuits and quiet time. I was especially satisfied, when I went to a meeting today with one of the highest high-ups in my company, to see this book on her desk.
The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis – another one that took me way too long. Lots of fun.
Summer People, Brian Groh – This was like…a slice of nobody’s life. I didn’t like it at all. Bleh.
The Secret Circle: The Initiation and the Captive Part I (The Secret Circle, #1-2), L. J. Smith – OK so I read these books in high school. Then The Secret Circle tv show was on Netflix and I started watching it and was like…wait, these character names are awfully familiar. Then I realized they were very, very loosely based on these books I’d really liked as a teenager. So I read the books to wash out the taste of the horribly bad tv version.
The Secret Circle: The Captive Part II and The Power (The Secret Circle, #2-3), L. J. Smith – Same as above.
The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, Philip Hensher – This started out cool and ended up kind of boring; it’s more historical than I was expecting and didn’t have as many handwriting samples as I’d hoped it would. Not a bad read, but not as exciting for me as the cover and title made it look like it was going to be.
The Heretic’s Daughter, Kathleen Kent – I remember this being a decent read, but I don’t remember a lot about the story. Just that I liked it.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, Austin Kleon – Fun, quick read. Same thing for the next book.
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, Austin Kleon
Dune, Frank Herbert – So this was recommended to me by a friend. Another book that I’d tried to read as a young teen and just couldn’t get into the story. It definitely stood up well this time, though.
Moonheart, Charles de Lint – Charles de Lint sings the song of my heart’s home. Everything he writes makes me happy and sad – happy to be back in his worlds, and sad that the closest I’ll ever get is reading about them.
Spiritwalk, Charles de Lint – Same.
Life of Pi, Yann Martel – I had no idea what to expect with this book, but it was free to borrow with my Kindle Unlimited trial subscription, which was really useful while Matt and I went to Japan and I needed to have a lot of reading material taking up a minimum of space. I really enjoyed this book, especially the ending about choosing which story to believe.
The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1), Charlie N. Holmberg – another borrow with the Kindle Unlimited trial. Another instance of no idea what to expect – but I loved this, and I’m looking forward to more from this author!
The Abhorsen Chronicles (The Abhorsen Trilogy #1-3), Garth Nix – a trilogy I’d read before, but I had to prep for Clariel and have all the Abhorsen stories fresh in my memory. I’ll never forget that I picked up Sabriel, the first of the Abhorsen books, first because I was really into the name Gabriel at the time and Sabriel was close, but then the gorgeous, mysterious, dark-haired girl on the cover clinched the deal, and I was sucked into a world that has come to be one of my favorites. Re-reading these is always a pleasure. I even named my cat Mogget, for crissakes.
Clariel, Garth Nix – Awesome, awesome, awesome to see a heroine who’s pretty much asexual and is much more interested in doing her own thing than in finding a dude and falling in love. I went into the book knowing who Clariel was going to be – I can’t remember exactly how I knew, whether there were hints dropped, but I want to say I’m pretty sure I guessed, based on the name and some hints dropped in the original trilogy. Painful and sad but gorgeous and satisfying.
In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise, George Prochnik – Since reading this book I have lost all tolerance for piped-in music. You can imagine the silliness of reading this so close to the holiday season. A good book, and a good reminder to listen – not just to the world around, but to listen to the thoughts as well, even the uncomfortable ones, rather than drowning everything out with music all the time.
Pretty Monsters, Kelly Link – I love Kelly Link’s work and this had been on my to-read list for a while, though I didn’t realize until I opened it that it’s a book of short stories. Absolutely enjoyable cover to cover.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, Erik Larson – H. H. Holmes was a slick bastard with a scary house designed for killing people, and Walt Disney’s dad helped build the Chicago World’s Fair of 18-whatever. Helluva juxtaposition, and a fascinating read.
The Kingdom Beyond the Waves (Jackelian #2), Stephen Hunt – Grrr. Mixed feeling about this. I’d tried to read it a couple of times and couldn’t get past the first chapter. Finally I pushed through and stuck it out. The story wasn’t bad but it also was confusing in a lot of ways. Nowhere on the book does it say that it’s the second book in a series – I didn’t find out it was #2 until I scanned it into Goodreads. So I spent a whole book being like, “wait, wtf?” because references and history weren’t explained for the folks who hadn’t read the first book, and the book never warned that it was a #2. Decent, but I don’t think I’ll be searching out #1 or sticking around for #3.
30 Days in the Word Mines, Chuck Wendig – This one was so quick I almost forgot to add it (because I didn’t add it to Goodreads). Awesome as usual. Gotta love Chuck.
Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard #2), Scott Lynch – Just, Locke Lamora. Just…he’s so wonderful. So wonderfully crooked and lovely and caring and a ruthless, twisty little bastard. Gentleman Bastard. I read the first in this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, in 2013, and was instantly in love. Red Seas didn’t disappoint. Some bits were slow with a lot of ship stuff, but the story was great. I’d love to meet Captain Zamira one day.
The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3), Scott Lynch – more Locke, and the last book of what’s out right now. I’m both really glad and really nervous that there are 4 more books coming. Glad because Locke Lamora. Nervous because…just…there are some things about him and the mystery of his past that started to maybe come to light in this book, but they seemed kind of sprung all of a sudden and anyway you can never tell who’s lying when and for what reason. So…Locke. I love him no matter what. Though if Lynch kills Jean before the last book I’m going to start setting things on fire. The first book ripped my heart out. Second one, same. Third one, at least, no one I came to love died a horrible death…but again, there’s 4 books left, and a confidence trickster’s life is never easy. Not that I know, but, you know. Richer and cleverer than anyone else.
So, looking back, a couple of the “books” I read were actually omnibus or book-and-a-half editions, so split out, I actually read 38 books, which is slightly more than 3 per month. Still not as good as I could get when I didn’t have to worry about pesky things like work, and summer vacation still existed (and I had no friends, mostly by choice – SO MUCH READING TIME MY PRECIOUS), but not bad. More nonfiction this year than I normally touch. Been trying to read outside my comfort zone and broaden my horizons, sort of thing.
I’ve got a couple of books in mind to read in 2015, including a couple by Haruki Murakami (1Q84 is totally going to throw off the count, just like STUPID House of Leaves did last year), one by Joan Didion, and the William Shakepeare’s Star Wars trilogy, but I’ve by no means got 30+ books lined up, and I have to at least maintain my record! What are your recommendations?