Books I Read: 2014

in Education

When I was in high school, I had a subscription to Seventeen magazine. One month, there was an article titled “25 Books to Read before You’re 25.” Being ambitious as well as a total book nerd, I remember tearing out the list so I could save it and use it as a reference.

I am 25 now, but sadly, I have no idea where that article went. (I just did a quick google search to find out that the original Seventeen article was written by Laura Bush – the then-former First Lady, and former librarian. You can see the original list here.) I couldn’t help thinking about it, though, because I made it a goal in 2014 to  read at least 25 books by the end of the year. 25 books isn’t a crazy high amount, but it still seemed like a high enough number that it would require some discipline to reach. (I also didn’t aim it higher because I didn’t want the goal to become about the number rather than the actual reading.)

In the end, I finished with 26 books for the year. The list is in chronological order below. (Some do not have reasons, because either there was no real driving motivation behind the choosing or because I can’t remember.)

Ways of Seeing, John Berger (recommended by designersandbooks.com)
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan (because I went to a McNally Jackson event featuring Robin Sloan, Frank Chimero and Jack Cheng. I’ve read and liked lots of things by the latter two authors so I thought it was it was only fitting to also give RS a read)
Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl (recommended by Joanna Goddard)
Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Boy on Earth, Chris Ware (recommended by my former coworker David S.)
The Circle, Dave Eggers (recommended by my friend Wudan Y. I finished this book right before starting a new job at a tech company, so that was interesting.)
One More Thing, B.J. Novak (heard a chapter on This American Life, recommended by lots of people)
A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit (recc’d by Wudan)
Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl (because I enjoyed Ruth Reichl’s other memoir)
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (recomended by Erica Cerulo in OfaKind’s 10 Things newsletter. And Beyonce, indirectly)
The Death and Life of American Cities, Jane Jacobs (recommended by my architecture-loving bestie, Tiffany C.)
#GIRLBOSS, Sophia Amoruso
Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed
Wild, Cheryl Strayed (because I really liked Tiny Beautiful Things)
Dear Life: Stories, Alice Munro (picked up on a whim)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (recc’d by Wudan)
1Q84, Haruki Murakami (saw at library)
Creativity Inc., Edward Catmull
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, Lucy Knisley
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami
Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay (recommended by lots)
A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle (recommended by a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, who made me a personal list of books I might like through their awesome BookMatch program, but this is the only book from it so far that I’ve managed to get a hold of so far)
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (because there’s a movie about it and I was intrigued)
Shoplifter, Michael Cho (most likely because Lucy Knisley, the author of Relish, gave this book a shoutout on her twitter, and I was looking for more cool graphic novels to read)

Highlights:

Overall Favorite Book for the year: AmericanahChimamanda Ngozi AdichieI found her take on race in America from the eyes of a black woman from a country where the majority of the people are black fascinating. She also has a dry sense of humor that I loved. Plus, there’s a love story embedded in there! I’m a sucker for that.

Book That I Would Buy Copies of for Friends: Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley. Give it to the friend who always brings you to the most delicious restaurants or cooks you the best food.

Quickest Change of Opinion: Gone Girl had the worst opening sentence I’ve probably ever read. I almost put the book down right there and then. I’m glad I gave it a chance, because it had one of the most unexpected plots I’d read this year, not to mention the most intriguing characters. (Disclaimer: I did not watch any trailers or movie promotional materials.)

Book That Almost Made Me Miss My Subway Stop: Gone Girl, again.  The Circle by Dave Eggers was also a very good subway book.

Book that Made Me Feel Most Like a “Lost” Fan Watching the Show Finale: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Managed to get me to fly through 900+ pages, only to completely let me down with the ending.

Book that gave me the most new educational insights: The Death and Life of American Cities, by Jane Jacobs.

Book That I Kept Quoting Annoyingly to Coworkers/The Surprisingly Good Book for Being a “Business” Book AwardCreativity Inc., by Edward Catmull

Numbers Breakdown:

Fiction: 11 / Non-fiction: 15

Graphic Novels: 4 (Yes. These count as books.)

Murakami Books: 4 (Favorite: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.)

Food-Centric Books: 4

Conclusion: I read most of my books through recommendations. This means that if you’ve ever personally told me to check out a book, I will probably end up actually doing it. For 2015, I’ve definitely like to get even more books, hopefully including some heavier ones, completed. If you have any wonderful ones that you think are worth checking out, email/message me!

Lastly: Here’s a video of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking with Zadie Smith. This was probably one of my favorite things I’ve listened to all year.