My spring 2015 reading list

I go through this ever year, but: yes, there is still snow on the ground; yes, it is below freezing outside; and yes, “spring” never seems to really arrive in Michigan until sometime in mid-April (or, if you’re last year, mid-May, when winter decided to give spring a miss and headed straight into summer).

But despite all that, YES! It is time to make my spring 2015 reading list! Woo! *cue fireworks!* *there go the cheerleaders!* *the crowd roars!*

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I typically create a new “reading list” for myself every three months – those three months just so happen to correspond with the seasons. March-May is spring, June-August is summer, September-November is fall, and December-February is winter. Duh.

I started following a seasonal reading list soon after graduating from college in 2009, and since then, I’ve very much enjoyed this method of organizing my reading life. Besides the four times a year I actually write the lists, I never have a “what-am-I-going-to-read-next???” moment. And because of that, I’m less likely to a) be tempted by trendy books, and b) let too much time lag between books. Lord knows, what with grad school and all, I have a hard enough time finding spare moments to read for fun nowadays, the last thing I need is for a bout of indecision that allows me to get sucked in ‘Downton Abbey’ again.

Plus, creating a list of what I want to read in the upcoming three months allows me to be more deliberate with my reading choices. I’m constantly cross-checking the various lists that I follow, from lists of major award winners, to other fun reading lists that I’ve saved. By planning ahead, I’m able to make sure that my reading choices are balanced and I’m working on hitting my goals. The order in which I read these books often changes, and sometimes I add books near the end if it looks like I’ll have enough time in the month, but during the past year, I’ve been fairly accurate with how many books I can read in a three-month period. Right now, that’s around 9-10 books. Not the best record if I’m going for stretch goals, but it’s fairly realistic given my work schedule + class schedule + homework + general life.

All that is a lot of explanation for my new list … woo! I always get excited when I create a new list. It’s like new beginnings, you know? And after February just kicked everyone in the ass, and reminded me why this part of winter always sucks, we need some new beginnings around here. New beginnings, new life, a new-found sense of optimism … it’s what spring is all about.

These are the books I’m planning on reading this spring:

In the Woods – Tana French: This book has been sitting on my shelf for awhile, and I’ve heard rave things about it. Plus, I need something that I can move onto fast, since I am currently book-less.

Yes Please – Amy Poehler: It’s Amy Poehler … no explanation needed. There’s still a lot of buzz around this book, but this is one I actually want to read, so I think now is as good a time as any. I just hope I can snag a copy from my library.

Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen: This is a classic I haven’t gotten to yet, and I’m a little excited to see what it’s all about (haven’t seen the movie yet … maybe this will inspire me?).

Penelope Fitzgerald – Hermoine Lee: This in keeping with my goal to read at least a few “new releases” this year, and even though this was published in 2014, I think it counts. This was the one book I’ve wanted to read the most out of all the “best-of” lists I’ve scanned so far.

Music for Chameleons – Truman Capote: This is part of my Favorites Project, in which I re-read one of my favorite books twice a year. I’ve read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote for this project as well, but this slim volume was the book that convinced me that Truman Capote was way more than just Breakfast at Tiffany’s. His most underrated book, by far, but I think his most beautiful.

The Sandman series – Neil Gaiman: Truth: I have never read Neil Gaiman. *commence stoning* It’s not that I doubt he’s awesome, it’s just I’ve never gotten around to it. Well, this is me “getting around” to reading The Sandman series, which I’ve been wanting to do – very badly – for awhile now. I’m very excited.

Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton: This is part of my Revisiting the Classics Project, in which I re-visit a “classic” that I read years and years ago … but never particularly liked. These are mostly books I read in high school, when perhaps my teenage brain was not mature enough to appreciate them. A lot of the time, this project has shown me that my initial impressions still ring true today, but I think it’s good to give non-favorite classics another shot, if only to better appreciate why they earned this title in the first place.

Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel: This was another book I specifically wanted to read this year, mainly because I was so blown away by Wolf Hall last year. This is the second installment of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy Mantel has started, and it won the Booker Prize, so really, I would be doing a disservice to myself if I didn’t read this book. This should be nice after reading Ethan Frome, especially if I still don’t like it.

The Executioner’s Song – Norman Mailer: And before anyone thinks I’m prejudiced against male writers, I’m going to throw in perhaps the most famous book by a very famous, very male, very white, author. I’ve never read Norman Mailer before, so this should be interesting. Plus, this book is high on my lists for “best nonfiction” reads, and lately, I’ve been super into novels. Gotta spread the love.

And finally, I recently bought Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and I’ve decided that I’m going to slowly work my way through that very long lyrical poem throughout the spring. I’m going to have to look at this book again and make a real plan – something regarding page goals per week, or something – but I’d much rather do it this way than try reading it all at once. It just … wouldn’t work. Especially given this is my last semester of graduate school, and so I anticipate being busy and distracted.

The 21st century’s greatest novels, and more reading lists for 2015

Because really, what else is there to get motivated about during February? Oh, it’s cold outside? Let’s read more books!

First, did anyone else see the BBC’s list of the 21st Century’s 12 Greatest Novels? I think I’ve done pretty well, though you have to admit the century is pretty young. Still, the books I’ve read from this list have been more than excellent, including Wolf Hall, which was one of the best books I read last year. (I’ve read the bolded titles.)

But let’s move onto the books I haven’t read. Here are are some of my favorite “best-of” book lists I’ve been collecting since December. One book that I’m seeing over and over again is Penelope Fitzgerald by Hermoine Lee, and so I think it’s high time I officially put it on my radar. Has anyone read it?

First, the BBC’s 10 Best Books of 2014:

  • A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
  • Nora Webster by Colm Toibin
  • The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness by Rebecca Solnit
  • Penelope Fitzgerald by Hermione Lee
  • The Kills by Richard House
  • Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo
  • Some Luck by Jane Smiley
  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson
  • Euphora by Lily King

Then, there’s the New York Times’ 10 Best Books of 2014. Hey, some of these look familiar.

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
  • Euphoria by Lily King
  • Family Life by Akhil Sharma
  • Redeployment by Phil Kay
  • Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
  • On Immunity: An Innoculation by Eula Biss
  • Penelope Fitzgerald by Hermione Lee
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright

There’s also the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2014, none of which I will be listing here. I can say that just as with the above lists, I have read … none of the 100 notable books for 2014. Let’s just say I will not want for good reading recommendations for a good while.

Finishing ’25 Books to Read Before You’re 25′

If you follow me at all at this blog, you’ll know that I’m a major fan of using lists as way to guide, and inform, my reading habits. Since I was a kid who loved to read (everything and anything), I knew that as I got older, I wanted to be one thing: well read. I knew that this meant reading “the classics,” but also all the books considered “great,” and “famous,” and “influential.” I wanted to be plugged into this world, fill myself with these thoughts, and live what I imagined to be a richer life informed by talented writers and wonderful books.

To do this, I turned to lists. It’s a natural choice. Wondering what books to read in your quest to be “well read”? Well, let’s find a list titled “Books to Read if You Want to be Well-Read”, and start there. In the beginning, I started by writing/typing-out these lists in Word documents and saving them to my computer. Later, I began saving them here, at Paperback Fool. But beginning in high school, I began making a conscious effort to read “great” books outside of the classroom in order to educate myself, and expose myself to as many great books as possible. Being an English major in college helped, though I will admit that my syllabi were less classics-based than you might think.

Through it all, I relied very much on the lists I found in magazines, books, and on the Internet, all guides on the path to enlightenment and smarter reading. If you’ve browsed the “Reading Lists” section of this blog before, you’ll know that I frequently update these lists with new books I’ve read. I also keep track of this information in my Reading Stats spreadsheet.

I won’t lie: it’s a little bit of a challenge and game to me. I like to see how many, out of how many, books I’ve read on a certain list, and how many I still need to read in order to “finish it.” Many lists, I understand, I may never finish. I may eventually read all of Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels, but will I ever finish Time’s 100 Greatest Nonfiction Books? Probably not. Because game or not, I also understand that these lists are meant to serve as a guide more than anything else. And, I know that there are hundreds of excellent books still out there not on lists (yet), books that are just itching to be discovered. That’s why I look for quirky lists with unexpected, yet quality, recommendations, like 65 Books You Need to Read in Your 20’s.

Which brings me to today: My Big Accomplishment. You see, one of the very first reading lists I ever found, wrote down, and then began following was a little list called 25 Books to Read Before You’re 25. I can’t remember which year it was, but it was more than 10 years ago at this point, because I was still a teenager (probably 16-17 years old), and it was in Seventeen magazine. The magazine’s editors had put together this list alongside then-First Lady Laura Bush – the only Bush I ever liked, largely because she was a librarian. This may have been the list that started it all, and oh, what a list.

The reason I fell in love with this list then, and why I still believe in it now, is because of the sheer quality of books that comprise it. These are, truly, great books, people. And despite the fact that this list was originally published in a teen magazine, this is not your typical “YA”, easy-reading fare. These are impressive, heavy, difficult, yet ultimately, amazing books. These are books that are meant to scare you, challenge you, and force you to think about the world in a dozen different ways. These are books that are meant to introduce you to some of the world’s greatest stories and storytellers, from Edith Wharton, to Daphne Du Maurier, to Leo Tolstoy. There are award-winners, novels, and presidential biographies. Many of these books have become some of my favorite books of all time.

Why am I writing all this, then? On January 18, 2015, I turned the last page in Fyoder Dostoyoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov  – the very last book I had to read on the 25 Books to Read Before You’re 25 list. I am now 28 years old, so I’ve missed the quarter-life milestone.

And yet…and yet. I can’t help but feel a great sense of pride upon finishing this list, so much so that now, hours later, I’m still buzzing. (Is that weird? I think it might be.) I’m proud because I finished the list, which is a big deal to a gal who finds great satisfaction in checking major milestones off the life list. But I’m also proud, and overwhelmingly content, because of the books I read. Looking back, these truly were some of the greatest books I’ve read in the past 10 years, and I know I wouldn’t have discovered many of them if not for this list.

I haven’t wrote my review of The Brothers Karamazov yet (oh man, that was a doozy), but I thought it might be appropriate in this case to look back over those 25 books, and remember the places I’ve been:

 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

  • This was the easiest to check off the list, as I read it (like many young people) early in my high school career. I feel I need to read it over again, now that 9th grade English is so very far behind me, but I think the inclusion of this book, while a bit cliché, is entirely appropriate.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

  • Wow, Atonement. I remember reading this book and feeling so emotionally wasted at the end of it, it was that powerful. This book also introduced me to Ian McEwan, who is an utterly wonderful British author. I should probably re-read this book as well, as it’s been awhile since I first read it. But first, I’ll need to prepare my heart – oh, the feels!

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

  • This was the first “non-classic” that I a) had never heard of before hearing about it here, and b) purposely went out and sought specifically for this list. I’m not sure if it ever “caught on” among the reading public, but I do remember how the story introduced me to a very new culture, and how it was probably the most original,” unorthodox reading choice I had ever made up to that point. The first of many.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

  • I will admit that I liked The Age of Innocence better, because what I do remember from Ethan Frome is that not much happened. That’s probably not the best sign, so I think this one needs to be part of my Re-Visiting the Classics Project. Still, it is her most famous work, and I was introduced to it very early.

Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote

  • This is where this reading list started to change my life. At some point in high school, I read Breakfast at Tiffany’s and was never a fan. In Cold Blood was to come much later on, so during the early years of high school, I wasn’t sure if I liked Truman Capote. Then, this list got me to pick up Music for Chameleons which is, truly, one of my favorite books of all time. Truman Capote shines in this collection of stories, and I love to devour each one.

The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

  • OK, this book I can say that I didn’t like – that I remember very distinctly. I’m not sure what it was about, but I know this: I didn’t like it. Moving on.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

  • Well, this one surely goes without explanation. I mean, did I need a reason to re-read this – one of my most favoritest books of all time – for the 10,000th time?

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

  • This was a new-ish book when this list was published, and probably one of the more “commercial” picks, but I was still pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was. So much so that I still look fondly at Ms. Kidd when I see her in bookstores.

Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

  • Everyone should read Flannery O’Connor – everyone. She is truly a master, and one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Her stories are part of the American mythos, and deserve to be more. I read another collection of her stories for an English class, but this list encouraged me to pick up the Complete collection, and I’m so glad it did.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

  • This was a book that I couldn’t stop reading … until the very end, when I got a bit confused and frustrated. And yet, it was still a great read for many, many reasons, unsatisfying ending notwithstanding.

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

  • OK, I’m making a point today to say: I need to read more Graham Greene. I really do, because, you guys, this guy is great. This was my first exposure to Mr. Greene, and given that I’ve never been assigned to read him for a class, it’s been my only one. This book was excellent, and I’m thankful for reading it, if only to inspire me to read more.

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

  • This was a relatively recent read, and I loved it. I didn’t think that I would enjoy a fictionalized account of the Roman Empire, but man did I ever.  A complete surprise of a book that I’ve since “heard of,” but I’m not sure I would have actually picked it up had it not been part of this list.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

  • This is another shoe-in for “favorite book of all time”, and I’ve read this baby about 10,000 times as well. In fact, I kind of want to read it again. And watch the movie. Oh, Mr. Rochester…

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

  • Again, another book that I might not have picked up had it not been on this list. This one has since made it onto many high school reading lists since I read it, and with good reason. This is a story that had a profound impact on me when I first picked it up, and has stayed with me for a very, very long time.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  • Because everyone needs an excuse to read about le petit prince.

My Antonia by Willa Cather

  • This was a book I tried to read many, many years ago … had a hard time with it … thought  I didn’t like it … gave it up (the first time I ever did that) … and then, just last year, I picked it up again and just loved it. OK, so maybe it’s not my favorite book on the list, but it’s still great, and Willa Cather is a seriously impressive woman that everyone needs to read.

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough

  • This was a new kind of book for me, and I’m oh-so-glad this list convinced me to try it out. This was my first presidential biography, and never did I have so much fun learning about Teddy Roosevelt. I need to read more David McCullough.

The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

  • This book … I can’t even tell you. I didn’t expect to love this book, but what I really wasn’t expecting was for this book to completely, and utterly, punch me in the gut and leave me breathless. I know it sounds like an exaggeration, but this book touched me in a way I can’t even explain. A simply amazing, deep, profound story.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi

  • This should be on everyone’s Required Reading Lists for Life. This book taught me about Iran, culture in the Middle East, Islam, as well as the sheer power of literature. This is a great true story, and it’s one that I love to read.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

  • This book always stumped me because it always made those “great books” lists, and yet, it looked like a romance novel. Well, I just loved it, and it’s one of the only times I’ve admitted to being engrossed in a novel. High-quality escapism at its finest.

Ship of Fools by Katherine Ann Porter

  • I admit that I don’t remember much from this book – it’s been a very long time since I read it; it may have been one of the first books I tackled from this list. It is an award-winner, however, and following the winner of the various literary prizes has since become a major guiding force in my reading life.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

  • I had high expectations of this book, and while it was very good, it wasn’t as great as I was hoping it might be. Still, exploring Indian mysticism from what is truly a classic of modern literature was a great experience, and was definitely worth the effort.

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

  • OK, if you know anything about Sophie’s Choice, you’ll understand when I say: wow. When I first read this book – because of this list, by the way – I knew nothing about it, nor William Styron. Nothing. You can imagine the sheer devastation that this book wrought on me, and how a part of me changed forever after reading it.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

  • Would I have read Tolstoy’s masterpiece if not for this list? Probably. Would I have felt so motivated to do so sooner rather than later? Probably not. I attribute reading War and Peace with the creation of my Big Books Project; after finishing this behemoth, I felt thoroughly inspired to tackle more BIG books in the future, knowing that despite the time they take and the work they require, they’re awesomely worth it. Now, on an editorial note, I will criticize the list to say that Anna Karenina would have been a better pick, especially since this list is geared toward young women. And, I liked Anna Karenina better. But if you want to encourage young people to tackle a lifer novel, well, do whatever you can.

 

And finally… The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoyoevsky, which you’ll hear all about later. As you can see, this list meant a lot to me, and I’m super excited to have finished it. I feel like I just overcame a huge life milestone – like graduating college, or landing a dream job.

Still, it’s a little sad as well. This list was always one of the more manageable of my reading lists, which meant that finishing was always a viable goal. Having that goal within reach was exciting, and gave me something to look forward to. Now, I’m done, and I’m going to have to turn elsewhere for that driving motivation. Oh sure, I’ve got plenty of lists to keep me busy. But finishing this list is kind of like the end of an era … the end of a certain stage of my life. I started a teenager, and finished in the waning years of my 20’s – that’s an important time in anyone’s life, and these books largely defined it for me. I won’t forget them.

Plus, there’s always time for re-reading. For more on this topic, check out the post I wrote shortly after turning 25, when I still had 10 books left on the list: 25 Books to Read Before You’re 25: Did They Make a Difference?

Books to read in 2015

And now, a quick look ahead at the kind of year I’d like to have in reading. My seasonal reading lists are composed based on what books I own and are still un-read, books from my various Reading Projects, and books from the many, many reading lists I maintain. However, there are a few books – and kinds of books – that I want to especially make sure I read this year.

  • Three new releases (published in 2014 or 2015)
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns
  • The ‘Sandman’ series by Neil Gaiman
  • IQ84 by Haruki Murakami
  • The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton
  • A compilation of essays
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Start the ‘Rabbit’ series by John Updike
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
  • Herzog by Saul Bellow
  • Re-read The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  • Midnight’s Children by Salmon Rushdie
  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Some resolutions for 2015

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I didn’t used to be one for New Years “resolutions”. I was convinced that once made, they were just as easily forgotten, then broken, then they become ammo for making you feel bad.

However, ever since I became a “real” adult – graduated, and out in the big, wide world – I have found that thinking about the year in front of me is not only healthy, but productive, for my psych and soul. I’m a natural list-maker and planner, and so spending a little time thinking constructively about my year is just as useful as making a to-do list before a busy weekend, or filling out my planner with due dates and doctor appointments.

That being said, I don’t go for your average “New Years resolutions,” but instead believe in setting both attainable and long-term goals for oneself. Writing those goals down sets them within reach, and reminds one to stay and re-focus throughout the year. “Lose 10 pounds” means nothing to me because, at the end of the day, I don’t understand the motivation behind it. That’s where yearly goal-setting comes in, and they include “resolutions” that are just vague enough to be widely interpreted, and yet tailored to meet your specific needs. They should encourage one to be brave, embrace new challenges, strive for happiness, and extricate oneself from situations where you’re unhappy. They should work toward making your life better.

Here are a few of mine for 2015:

  • Spend more time outside, and spend that time being active
    • This includes increasing the amount of outdoor exercise I do, whether that’s riding my road bike or running around my neighborhood. Speaking of running, while I ran a decent, not-embarrassing 5K in 2014, I want to improve my overall fitness so that I can, again, run the Cincinnati Turkey Trot 10K this November. This also includes just being outside, including finally planting some kind of garden (veggie or flower, maybe both!) at our new house.
  • Worry less
    • In past years, I’ve worked at decreasing my stress levels and improving my work-life balance, but in 2015, I want to focus on worrying less. I’m a worrier, and being employed only part-time for most of 2014 – and buying a house during that time – has led to more than one sleepless night endlessly going over the numbers. As graduation approaches, I also find myself worrying about finding a full-time job. My brother is planning on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail this summer and fall, so thoughts of bears will definitely occupy my thoughts. And there are other life events that I’m sure I’ll just worry to the bone, once they eventually happen. My plan is to breathe, let what will be, will be, and trust that everything is going to be all right.
  • Work on acquiring, and improving, good habits
    • Everyone needs to floss more, right? Well, that includes me, and in 2015 – just like every year – I want to improve my daily habits and routines so that I’m living easily and happily, without too much extra work. This includes taking proper care of my skin; drinking more water and less alcohol, and definitely less pop; keeping my house clean and tidy because it keeps me happy and stress-free; not biting my nails (keeping them painted in recent weeks has helped!); adhering to a monthly spending budget; and become a better, regular morning person. I also want to simplify these habits as much as possible – I want to simplify as much of my life as I can – so that I’m not spending too much money, I’m not using unnecessary chemicals or ingesting weird food additives, and I avoid any kind of “high maintenance” life as I get closer to 30.
  • Let go
    • I’m a very mellow, even-tempered person, but when people offend, insult, or REALLY piss me off, I have a hard time forgiving or forgetting. Luckily, this has happened only a few times, but I feel like holding onto any kind of negative energy clouds my judgment and makes me, ultimately, an unhappy person. With my 10 year high school class reunion coming up this year, this is probably a good time to let go. Also, I’m going to try to keep those everyday annoyances at bay (why are people so STUPID on Facebook?!), and remind myself that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.
  • Get away from screens and cultivate simple pleasures
    • Even as the tech gets cooler, as I get older, I grow more and more disenchanted with screens. I’m tired of hearing what TV show people are now “binge-watching” on Netflix, I don’t care to shell out $500 for  a new iPhone, I still have no desire for any kind of e-reader – I’m just tired of it all. Now, I find myself yearning for simple pleasures: reading (I’m talking about how they did it 200 years ago), listening to classical music, cooking, being outside. I feel like these pleasures are longer lasting, and more enduring.
  • Go someplace new
    • I don’t like to list specific “trips” as a yearly resolution, knowing that vacations are inextricably tied to money, and sometimes, some years, the cash isn’t there. J and I have a few ideas of vacations we’d like to take this year, however by the end of the year, I want to make sure that I see something I’ve never seen before.

2014: A Year in Reading

2014 was another busy year. Like 2013, there were a lot of changes. Professionally, I changed jobs again, but this time, I think it was for the absolute best. This time, I moved away from retail (hopefully for good this time) and into a job at an academic library, and even though it’s only part-time, it’s a job that I not only love, but hope will help take me places once I graduate with this MLIS. I also completed an internship at my university library’s digital publishing department, which has given me a better idea of the kind of work I want to accomplish in this field.

Perhaps the biggest change, however, was on the home front – because, well, we bought a house. It’s been a huge financial adventure, and we were unbelievably lucky in many ways, but now I feel that J and I are in exactly the right place for this stage of our lives. We’re in a house that we love, and it’s become a never-ending labor of love to make it our home.

In other spheres, it’s been another year of roller derby (wrapped up my third, started on my fourth season). The last of our close friends are finally married, and now many of those friends are expecting. We traveled only a bit, but in a big, relaxing way. J and I finished another three semesters of graduate school, including probably the toughest semester of both of our academic careers. Even though our incomes were limited by my new part-time job, we saved money and made some important moves toward paying down student loan debt.

And finally, I read a lot. I did not reach my goal of 50 books read this year, but I did exceed the number of pages I read last year by nearly 1,500, which is HUGE. I mean, that’s about one-and-a-half Game of Thrones books right there. I guess I could blame the final books-read tally to the fact that I did, in fact, finish four out of the five books in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series in 2014 – in total, those four books made up nearly a quarter of the total pages read for the year. However, even that may not be the reason, since reading those books did not take me very long, despite their length.

Still, 40 books in a year is not a bad number to report, and it does match last year. That being said, I’m moving my reading goals for 2015 closer to reality – 45, instead of 50.

50 may still be possible, though I anticipate 2015 to be just as momentous as the past few years. I’ll be graduating this May, meaning no more graduate school (and all formalized education, most likely), and the hunt for a full-time job in the library world will be on. I have another internship lined up for this winter/spring semester, and I’m hoping the connections I’ll make there will help me in that respect. We’re thinking of FINALLY getting a dog this year, and this year will be my last birthday in my 20’s. Oh, what a year.

Going the Distance

  • Pages Read: 16,678
    • Compared to Previous Year: +1,389
  • Books Read: 40
    • Compared to Previous Year: 
    • Goal: 50
    • Off-Goal: -10
  • Average Number of Pages/Book: 417
    • Compared to Previous Year: +35
  • Pages Per Day: 47
    • Compared to Previous Year: +5

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Fiction vs. Nonfiction

My fiction/non-fiction break-down was much better this year, with 25 percent of the books I read falling into the non-fiction category. That’s a big deal, coming from a gal who sticks mainly to fiction. I can’t imagine changing my reading habits too totally much for this to change any more, so I think this is a good ratio to follow for the years to come.

F v NF

Men vs. Female Authors

This is a stat that stayed exactly the same from 2013, and so reading more female authors is a goal I want to continue working toward in 2015. But what can I say? I like reading those dead white guys.

Men v Women

Old vs. New Authors

This is an interesting figure, compared to my reading breakdown in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, I re-visited more authors that I had already read, though that doesn’t mean that I re-read many books (in fact, I think I only re-read one or two). I know that I tried to read books by authors I already loved, in the hopes of taking a deeper dive into that author’s work. I don’t think this is a bad habit, though I concede it’s very important to read books by authors I’ve never explored before.

O v N

Awards

Top and Bottom

In 2014, I gave six books a grade of A+ on this blog, making them the best of the best of all that I read:

Meanwhile, the lowest grade I gave out was an unprecedented C- (yeesh). Unfortunately, it was duly deserved:

For more

See my 2013: A Year in Reading.

National Book Award long list, aka, how my reading list got even longer

Life is still a bit challenging around these here parts, meaning blog posts have been few and far-between. That’s OK, because my reading life has been a bit slow as well, which is not really OK, but it is what it is.

Anyway, I meant to post the 2014 long lists for the National Book Award a few weeks ago, when they were released, so yeah, they’re late. But I like posting them here if only so that  I can keep track of them, and return to them for reading recommendations. I especially like keeping track of the books on the nonfiction long list, as I still have a hard time picking out quality nonfiction reads to mix up my traditionally fiction-heavy reading schedule.

As always, I’ve read none of these books, and have only read one of the fiction authors on the long list, Marilynne Robinson.

Fiction:

  • An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
  • The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol
  • Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Redeployment by Phil Klay
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken
  • Orfeo by Richard Powers
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson
  • Some Luck by Jane Smiley

Nonfiction:

  • Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasantby Roz Chast
  • The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic by John Demos
  • No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal
  • The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942 by Nigel Hamilton
  • The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
  • Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh by John Lahr
  • Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
  • When Paris Went Dark:The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 by Ronald C. Rosbottom
  • Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic by Matthew Steward
  • The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson

Find the complete list, including the long lists for YA and poetry, at www.nationalbook.org.