Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Best Books I Read in 2014

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For the last two years, I've been keeping a spreadsheet of all the books I have read. (The title of the spreadsheet is, you will be shocked to learn, "Books I Have Read.") This is perhaps the best thing I've ever done for my reading life. Not only do I keep track of title, author, and genre, but I also rate each book on a scale from 1-5, record in which month I read the book, and include a one sentence review to help jog my memory (I am really bad about remembering the majority of the books I read).

In the past 12 months, I have started (and finished) 24 books. (Two of those books were unpublished drafts written by dear friends for critique purposes, but I'm still counting them.) As always I wish I'd read more and, in 2015, plan to do just that. 

As for 2014, 2/3 of the books I read were written by women, and 3/4 of what I read was fiction (mostly novels, with a few short story collections thrown in for good measure). I was most surprised by the genre breakdown, but looking back it makes sense. I was so entrenched in writing my own novel in 2014 that I was curious/desperate to see how others had done it. A few of the books I read were for grad school or for teaching, but as I generally chose those books myself, there weren't too many duds. I was also in a monthly book club, which forced me to read things I might not have otherwise picked up, which is probably the single best reason to join a book club. (That, and an excuse to drink a lot of wine during meetings - very important.) 

Here are more details about some of the books I read and how I felt about them:

Gender Breakdown:
Books written by women: 17
Books written by men: 7

Genre Breakdown:
Novels: 16 (+1 unpublished draft)
Short story collections: 3
Nonfiction: 1 (+ 1 unpublished draft)
Poetry: 1
Graphic novel: 1

Most fun I had while reading in 2014: 
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

Most horrifying books of 2014: 
An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
The Dinner, by Herman Koch

Most interesting book of 2014: 
Life on Mars, by Tracy K. Smith

Most disappointing books of 2014: 
The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

Best books of 2014: 
An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
(a re-read, because I was teaching it)
The Tenth of December, by George Saunders

Now it's your turn: 
What's the best book you read in 2014? What was the worst? What are you most looking forward to reading in 2015? What should I add to my to-read list? Do you have any reading goals for the New Year? I'm going to shoot for 35 books, which will ensure that reading is a priority, but not force me to devour books at such a speed that I don't have time to appreciate them.