Wednesday, December 31, 2014

best of 2014 | best books

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It's no secret that I love lists. And book lists are pretty much the best thing in the world. I have printed out copies of everything from the Pulitzer winners from the last century (someday I will read all of them) to Amazon's 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime (someday I will read all of those, too).

The end of the year is pretty much the best time for a list lover like myself - it's when year end best of lists are released and I find myself poring over the best books lists from The Washington Post, The New York Times, Book Riot, Slate, Paste, Huffington Post, Time, and The Wall Street Journal. So many books that I haven't read! (Of The Washington Post's 50 Best Fiction Books of 2014, I found that I'm interested in reading 45 of them!) My library queue and iBooks wish list grow by dozens and dozens of titles. It's also an overwhelming time of year, as I make promises to myself to READ ALL THESE BOOKS IN 2015. Every January I'm jazzed to catch up on all the titles I've been meaning to read, all the half-finished books that have been littering my nightstand for years, all the classics I never read in school, and all the current books that everyone is raving about. It never happens that way - I'm usually off to a good start at the beginning of the year, ramp up my reading in summer, and then hit a complete reading slump come fall. Plus, there are all those other daily responsibilities and things I should be focusing on, like oh, my business, that keep me from living my life as a full-time bookworm. Oh well, I have the best intentions.

(And then I realize that there will be more best of lists coming out in a year and I'll add dozens more titles to my to read pile and the backlog is just overwhelming!)

I only read 26 books this year, so my excitement over all the books I want to read in 2015 is a bit misleading when it comes to my best books list of 2014. I read some good books this year for sure, but nothing really seems to stand out as the best. I feel like there were a lot of B+s, but not the A+ books that I remember fondly for years and recommend to friends. (I still remember my favorite books from 2011 and 2012.) I struggled a bit with reading consistently during the second half of the year as we were traveling so much, so there were quite a few books that I started and never finished. Maybe those were the A+ books that I never found this year.

What I Read in 2014:

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
Just Don't Fall by Josh Sundquist
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver
Half a Life by Darin Strauss
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
The Tenth of December by George Saunders
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson
The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Unlikely Brothers by John Prendergast and Michael Mattocks
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Congratulations, by the way by George Saunders
The Hospital Suite by John Porcellino
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Total number of books: 26
Fiction: 17
Non-Fiction: 9 (one was a speech and one was a graphic memoir)
By Male Authors: 15
By Female Authors: 11

Best non-fiction book definitely goes to Destiny of The Republic. This book was really interesting and educational - I knew nothing about President Garfield and I'm guessing most people don't as he had the second shortest presidency in the history of the United States. He was a fascinating man. The medical practices of the 1800s will shock and horrify you. This book is kind of along the lines of Unbroken, but not quite as engrossing. Unbroken was definitely an A+ book, and this one is a solid B+.

My favorite novels were The Orphan Master's Son (disturbing and engrossing), Still Alice, and The Good Earth. Honorable Mention goes to the book everyone was talking about this year: The Goldfinch. Many people loved this book, some hated it or couldn't get through it. I never wanted to put it down, but once I was finished, I wasn't sure what to think. I liked it. It was interesting and had plot twists, but also some irritating characters. By the end, it felt like the movie that had gone on too long and was just getting a bit ridiculous. Solid B+.

Also, The Turn of the Screw is the most boring book in the history of ever. I feel bad making such a hateful statement, but Henry James is long dead and this book totally sucked.

And now back to my lists and my library queue and hoping to make 2015 the most literary year yet...