It's time for the 2014 recaps! January blogging! It never gets old.
I did it, I did it—I read 31 books this year! This is truly scoff-worthy by most of the reading company I keep, but it's been my goal to break 30 books for the last few years and I've come up short every time. Now granted, I counted a very short play in that total, but I don't care as I get to make my own rules and I'm counting it : ) I'm going to set a very lofty goal of 35 books for 2015—this might be foolhardy since we're moving yet again to a location yet to be determined, but there you have it.
I'm especially proud of how interesting and diverse my books read ended up being in 2014. I attribute this mostly to the fact that I was invited to play in an online book bingo group by a friend who knew how despondent I was to have moved away from my beloved book club in 2013; while I had complete freedom to choose whatever titles I wanted to read, the genres or types of books were varied on each bingo space. I completed my bingo card in late November (with my least favorite book of the year). Bingo categories ranged from a book of non-fiction to a book outside my comfort zone to a graphic novel, etc. and I read 25 books to fill up my card.
So, notes on the best of the best!
+ I have a tie for my favorite book of the year: A Man Called Ove by Frederic Bachman and Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. A Man Called Ove was recommended highly by Jill (who read nearly 100 books and ended up picking it as her favorite book of the year, too). It was just so wildy satisfying. Originally published in Swedish, it's the story of an elderly man whose plans are foiled by life. There was a lot of Willis Smiling Disorder while reading it and some bawl-babying at the end, too. Rooftoppers is a jFiction book, and it was weird and suspenseful and dark and light and completely other-worldly and believable all at the same time. I couldn't convince my fantasty-loving children to read it (yet), but it was definitely the book after my own reading heart.
+ I think it is well-established that I love John Boyne's books. This one was about a boy during WWI.
+ The Good Lord Bird was a wild, fast-paced, painstakingly complex book about John Brown's escapades throughout the U.S. told through the eyes of a fictional character named Henry (but who poses as a girl nicknamed "Onion"). It made my head spin, all that research James McBride had to do to pull this one off.
+ Can you guess which book was out of my comfort zone? I chose well, because while it was WAY out of my comfort zone, I feel smarter and more well-rounded for having read In Cold Blood. I read Old Grandpa's first edition. Fascinating and totally compelling in every way.
+ I read Whistling in the Graveyard right after we moved, and it was the perfect summer book to distract me from boxes and the dearth of friends in a new place.
+ Malcolm Gladwell: write whatever, I'm sure I'll love it.
+ I don't know why I waited so long to read A Thousand Splendid Suns. Khaled Hosseini is a truly excellent writer, and I loved this book from beginning to end.
+ I am embarrassed to admit I had never read A River Runs Through It and Other Stories until this year. Norman Maclean might be the most underrated American author (or maybe he's not underrated at all, I'm out of the literary critic loop) but wow, A River Runs Through It is a true American masterpiece of a story. I am of course quite familiar with the story because of the movie that came out IN 1992 (!) and having carried a big piece of Montana around in my heart SINCE 1995 (!). Reading the book with Brad Pitt, Craig Sheffer, and Tom Skerrit in my head only enhanced it. That movie was really, really well-cast, I thought to myself no less than 20 times while reading it.
+ A Thousand Mornings was quiet and lovely.
+ West of the Moon was odd and magical and lovely.
+ The Lions of Little Rock told a story that I was completely unfamiliar with—most everyone knows the story of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957-1958 but this book examines the 1958-1959 school year, which is far less known about but no less interesting. jFiction is the best.
+ The Express Line is the very short play I (re)read. It is perfect in every way, and I giggled to myself how much of it I could recite from memory as I read it. It is beloved to me, as one of my wildly talented speechies from Montana won the 1998 state championship in Humorous Interp performing it.
+ Fictitious Dishes is the most clever book ever. If you like reading/food/photography you'll love it.
Other great reads that I rated with four stars: This Time Together by Carol Burnett, Fairy Tale Comics, The Great Gatsby (can you believe I never read it? I liked it a lot, but I still haven't come to the conclusion that it is THE BOOK of the 20th century and probably never will), A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire, Big Fish by Daniel Wallace, Far Far Away by Tom McNeal, and Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen.
I awarded more three star books than normal, and awarded The Best American Essays of 2014 as my least favorite book of the year, ironically. Ugh. I love, love essays (usually) but now I'm gunshy about picking up another one of these anthologies. I know, I know, it's the editor that counts... maybe the 2015 editor will be someone a little more of a kindred spirit. Or maybe I should stop being an essay sissy.
And how about you? I don't care if my "to-read" list at Goodreads is 5000 books long, so tell me your favorites, too!