2014 [in books]

While I’m proud of the bazillion movies I watched this year (and promise I’ve posted all I’m going to post about them!), I realize as I look back at the list of books I read just what all that time in front of a screen cost me. I have only have nine books on the list for 2014; in 2013, I managed to fit in fifteen. Still not terribly impressive given all the time I had off that year, but better than this year’s sad showing.

I ascribe this year’s low number to a few factors: for one, I find myself in a constant state of content over-saturation. There is always a new magazine to read, a new article to Pocket, a new podcast to obsess over. With all that content plus the books on my never-dwindling To Read list, it’s a wonder I got through nine books at all.

Also keeping me from kicking my reading into high gear this year was an uncertainty of what to pick up next. I’m not great at reading a book I’m not completely into – I started and gave up on at least a couple novels by the end of the year, just because I couldn’t get into them (and had so much other great content, see above, to keep me occupied). Must do better to curate my reading pile for 2015.

That said, with the exception of The Goldfinch, I wholly enjoyed what I read this year. The Signature of All Things was easily a high-point; Wally Lamb continues to be a favorite novelist; and Joan Didion’s memoir of grief found me at a particularly vulnerable moment this year, making it that much more poignant. Read on for what else I read in the last year.

We Are Water by Wally Lamb – keeping with his long-form tomes, Lamb’s latest somehow also manages to be an intimate portrait of a modern family and all the changes they face. more

Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin – Kearns Goodwin gave us the iconic Team of Rivals and her take on the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft is another example of her prowess in creating gripping political history. more

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart – I admit, I picked this one up because of all the fuss about it. Everyone was talking about The Goldfinch in the first half of 2014, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I’m still wondering. more

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper – I’d been pushing this one around on my To Read list for a couple of years, intrigued by the premise of a dysfunctional modern family sitting shiva following the patriarch’s death, and the film adaptation’s pending release finally got me to crack it open. Easily a case where the book remains superior to the film. more

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – I recounted this summer my experiences with this magical novel. Read it all here.

The Marriage Plot by Geoffrey Eugenides – If you’ve read any Eugenides, you’ve read Middlesex, a startlingly fantastic book. I sought out The Marriage Plot based on my affinity for the author, and wasn’t disappointed. more

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – This is another one I’ve had on my shelf for a few years, one I picked up because I figured I should read it, but never did. After a rough month late this summer, it seemed to be just what I needed. It was. more

The Dinner by Herman Koch – I had never heard of this New York Times’ best-seller until Film Movement acquired the U.S. rights to the Italian adaptation of the Dutch novel (follow that?). Though a few years old now, it’s a fast read and surprisingly deep. more

White Teeth by Zadie Smith – I rounded out the year with he audio-book version of Smith’s debut novel; like Lamb, she writes impeccably personal yet complex stories of seemingly ordinary lives that, of course, are anything but. more

In 2015, my goal is to get through more of the books already sitting on my shelf. I haven’t been great about adding to my collection lately (or have been great about watching my book budget, depending on how you see it…), so the books on my list for the coming year include older ones I’ve been meaning to get to – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, another Jonathan Tropper, Franzen’s Freedom, and The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay among them. If I’m adding recent books I’d love to pick up, they’d include Station ElevenThe Interestings, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and several more I’m sure I can’t think of right now. With a list like that, I better get to page-turning!

What did you read this year? Any you’d recommend I seek out for the coming year? Don’t be shy!