Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year-End Book Wrapup '14

This year I read 55 books (including 10 "official" rereads). 19 were by men and 36 were by women. I've gotten pickier about reading dude books, I suppose! I read 16 of the books on my reading wishlist (posted in last year's wrapup), and gave up on another four. 

Top five books of the year:

1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
This was my first book of the year, and still my favorite. I just went back to check my original review because I had a feeling I'd said something along these lines, and I did: "It is only the first book I've read in 2014, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if it turned out to be the best." Indeed, it did; a wonderful novel.

2. The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Another wonderful novel, not as ambitious as Life After Life, but a superbly drawn character study and a very fresh shifting omniscient point of view. This one is on the longlist for next year's ToB, and deservedly so.

3. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Oh man, was this great--another one I keep recommending, particularly to people who like sci-fi and dystopia. There are two more books in the series that I should probably get to at some point, too.

4. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
Stuffed with metatextual and postmodern goodness, humor and cleverness, insight and brilliance. Another one that's highly, highly recommended. See, I told you it was a good year!

5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This is one that I wasn't necessarily wowed by but that has stuck with me. It's one of those books that kind of sits in the back of your mind and you keep coming back to it over time, more so than some of my other favorites listed below. So it squeaks into the number five spot here.

Runners up: The Goldfinch, The Emperor's Children, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Yes Please, Hyperbole and a Half. And this list is excluding the re-reads, which include some of my favorite books of all time: Cloud Atlas, Into Thin Air, Catch-22, The Wings of the Dove. Wonderful reading year!

Bottom four books:

1. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Has some memorable moments, but overall a little too gimmicky and Gladwelly for me.

 2. Being Nikki by Meg Cabot
A bit unfair to do this to a book that was the second in a trilogy, so maybe not the book's fault, but I didn't enjoy it.

3. Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica
A frisson of misogyny and a bit of disposability lands this book at the fourth spot.

4. Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married by Marian Keyes
Meh, a slightly unsatisfying outing from Keyes. Favorite "chicklit" of the year was definitely What Alice Forgot.

Again, no runners up, although the first chapter of Telegraph Avenue is so horrible that I immediately quit reading it. For sure the worst thing that I read this year, if fractions count.

I've been ruminating on what to read next year. I read The top 10 top 100 booklists and although I haven't picked a booklist to officially work my way through next, some ideas came from there; in perusing the lists, I realized there are some classics that I still need to read. (Macbeth is on the list. If it helps at all, I have the "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech memorized. But no, I've never read it in its entirety.) I also would like to read more African-American literature, and give short stories another chance. I included books recommended by Ian (The Magic Mountain, Vanity Fair) and by my friends Chris (Dog of the South) and Brad (Confederacy of Dunces). I also want to cover the ones I missed last year. I'm also including last year's ToB winner (which also is by an African-American author, so a two-for-one deal there) and some other recent lit fic that I've heard good things about. This leaves me with another list of 20 books, and I think a nice mix:

Don Quixote, A Thousand Years of Solitude, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Tale of Genji, The Magic Mountain, Vanity Fair, Macbeth, A Confederacy of Dunces, Blindness, Aint I A Woman?, The Good Lord Bird, Americanah, The Poisonwood Bible, Dog of the South, Best American Short Stories 2014, An Untamed State, Brown Girl Dreaming, All the Light We Cannot See. And leftover from last year, two rereads: All the King's Men and the river chapter of Finnegans Wake. As I did last year, I will add links in this post as I finish them. And like last year, I'm going to give myself permission to set books aside if it comes to that.

I'm excited for another great year of reading in 2015. (And for the ToB shortlist coming out in January sometime. Eeee can't wait.)



Blogger BC said...

Ooh, you have good stuff on tap. I will not be a downer and say which ones I didn't like; I will wait to see if you like them more than I did! I thought Vanity Fair was a super fun beach read if you have a vacation planned. And I loved Don Quixote so much; it's so much more fun than I expected it to be. I generally have a low tolerance for bathroom humor but I liked it anyway.

Are you planning to read One Hundred Years of Solitude ten times, or are you just dreading it?

9:54 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Oops. Hopefully it doesn't feel like a thousand years!

I'll be interested in your thoughts as we progress.

I was swayed into reading Don Quixote when I saw the results of this survey--it got 50% more votes than any other book: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/may/08/humanities.books

Seemed like maybe I should read it!

4:38 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

And I feel the same way about bathroom humor so glad to know it's overcome-able.

4:38 PM  
Blogger BC said...

Even if you can't get past the bathroom humor, it will be good practice for when Mina gets to second grade.

4:37 PM  
Blogger BC said...

Did I miss here that you have not read Macbeth? Crazy. (I read Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet embarrassingly late. Wait, maybe I've never read Romeo and Juliet.)

4:40 PM  

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