2014 Year in Reading

By James Wallace Harris, Thursday, January 1, 2015

Since 1983 I’ve kept a log of books read, noting the title, author and the date I finished the book. Over the years this has proved very rewarding and useful. This year I switched from using an old notebook to using the spreadsheet in Google docs because it allows me to search and order my list in different ways.  The spreadsheet also allowed me to add some new columns of information to collect – year published, type, and the format of the book I read. I wish I had started this log with the first book I ever read on my own back in grade school, whatever that was. I think it was a Scholastic abridgement of Up Periscope by Robb White. In the early 1970s I kept a similar log for 18 months, when I dropped out of college and read 479 books. I wish I had that list now. The older I get the more I wish I had systematically documented my life.

This year I read 67 books, up from 52 in 2013, 49 in 2012, 58 in 2011, which was my last big reading year. I thought I might read over 100 books this year since 2014 was my first full year of retirement. I know many bookworms that do read 100, 200 and even more books a year. I don’t think I’ll ever be that kind of bookworm. I’m guessing between 50-75 books is the most I can digest in one year.

I believe this year I read more nonfiction books than in past years, with 29 out of the 67, and more new books, 26 of the 67 were published in 2013 and 2014, which was my reading goal from 2013. My complete list of books read in 2014 is at the bottom of the essay. In the past I’ve listed my top five favorites, but this year I read so many great books I’m listening my top ten.

Favorite Novels Read in 2014

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
  2. Stoner by John Williams
  3. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
  4. Possession by A. S. Byatt
  5. Timescape by Gregory Benford
  6. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  7. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  8. Summertime by J. M. Coetzee
  9. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  10. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Favorite Nonfiction Books Read in 2014

  1. Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
  2. The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin
  3. Time Reborn by Lee Smolin
  4. The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch
  5. The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
  6. The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  7. Short Night of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan
  8. How Jesus Became God by Bart D. Ehrman
  9. Hellhound on his Trail by Hampton Sides
  10. Factory Man by Beth Macy

That doesn’t mean the other 47 books were bad, but these were the standouts. Every year I try to read one large 19th century classic. This year I read The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. It was very good, but not great.  I also like to read old forgotten science fiction novels, and the two I picked this year, Goslings by J. D. Beresford and Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman both dealt with imagining societies of women without men. Both were engaging reads, but on the esoteric side. I only recommend them to historians of feminism and science fiction. But both were big fun to me.

I also like rereading science fiction novels I first discovered as a teen to see how they hold up. Two of my favorites from the 1960s were Nova by Samuel R. Delany and Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley. Both from 1968. I still like them, and even admire them, but the tides of time are eroding their once beautiful beaches.

As an experiment, I read one book, Timescape by Gregory Benford, and then a week later listened to it, which I wrote about in “Printed Book v. Audio Book.” The experience only validated what I’ve known for years, and that is I get far more out of fiction when I listen than when I read with my eyes.

Novel and Nonfiction of the Year

Breakfast-at-TiffanysCapital_in_the_Twenty-First_Century

I wish the Capote novel wasn’t always overshadowed by the Audrey Hepburn film. I love the movie, but the novella is on much higher plane of existence than the movie.  I didn’t discover that until this year. When I image searched on “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” all the pictures were from the movie. Even when I added “paperback” – Audrey’s beautiful face dominates. Listening to the Michael C. Hall narration of Capote’s story brought the story to life far differently from my own reading year’s ago. I’m such a poor reader of fiction that I should always leave the job to experts. I did find this old Signet paperback cover that helps forget Audrey’s, but it’s still not a cover the book deserves.

The reason why I picked Capital in the Twenty-First Century is because it’s a magnificent work of history, literary commentary and economic insight. It’s also a very significant book everyone should read.

Reading Log for 2014

Title Author Pub. Finished F/NF Format
The Beginning of Infinity David Deutsch 2011 Jan 11 NF Audio
The Master Colm Tobin 2004 Jan 16 F Audio
The Portrait of a Lady Henry James 1881 Feb 01 F Audio
Difficult Men Brett Martin 2013 Feb 06 NF Audio
The Goldfinch Donna Tartt 2013 Feb 06 F Kindle
Citizen of the Galaxy Robert A. Heinlein 1957 Feb 10 F Audio
David and Goliath Malcolm Gladwell 2013 Feb 13 NF Library HB
Dawn Octavia Butler 1987 Feb 13 F Audio
The Trouble With Physics Lee Smolin 2006 Feb 21 NF Audio
The Bully Pulpit Doris Kearns Goodwin 2013 Mar 08 NF Audio
Keep the Aspidistra Flying George Orwell 1936 Mar 09 F Audio
House Rules Jodi Picoult 2010 Mar 20 F Audio
Short Night of the Shadow Catcher Timothy Egan 2012 Mar 28 NF Library HB
Time Reborn Lee Smolin 2013 Mar 28 NF Audio
The Major of MacDougal Street Dave Van Ronk 2006 Apr 01 NF Audio
Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversation Peter Evans 2013 Apr 06 NF Library HB
Die Empty Todd Henry 2013 Apr 08 NF Audio
Brittle Innings Michael Bishop 1994 Apr 10 F Hardback
In the Heart of the Sea Nathaniel Philbrick 2000 Apr 18 NF Audio
Accelerando Charles Stross 2005 Apr 29 F Audio
The Robots of Dawn Isaac Asimov 1983 May 06 F Audio
Goslings J. D. Beresford 1913 May 10 F Audio
All Flesh is Grass Clifford Simak 1965 May 11 F Paperback
Odds Against Tomorrow Nathaniel Rich 2013 May 17 F Audio
On Looking Alexandra Horowitz 2013 Jun 03 NF Audio
The Martian Andy Weir 2014 Jun 09 F Library HB
Possession A. S. Byatt 1990 Jun 11 F Audio
Robert A. Heinlein – volume 2 William H. Patterson 2014 Jun 23 NF Hardback
Survivors Terry Nation 1976 Jun 28 F Trade PB
How Jesus Became God Bart D. Ehrman 2014 Jul 07 NF Library HB
Capital in the Twenty-First Century Thomas Piketty 2014 Jul 17 NF Audio
Did Jesus Exist? Bart D. Ehrman 2012 Jul 19 NF Library HB
The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath 1963 Aug 03 F Trade PB
Herland Charlotte Perkins Gilman 1915 Aug 08 F Audio
Factory Man Beth Macy 2014 Aug 20 NF Audio
The Postman David Brin 1985 Aug 21 F Library HB
Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys 1966 Aug 25 F Trade PB
Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie 2013 Aug 26 F Audio
Breakfast at Tiffany’s Truman Capote 1958 Aug 27 F Audio
The Second Machine Age Brynjolfsson & McAfee 2014 Sep 04 NF Audio
Lock In John Scalzi 2014 Sep 08 F Audio
Dimension of Miracles Robert Sheckley 1968 Sep 10 F Audio
The Everything Store: Jeff Bazos Brad Stone 2013 Sep 13 NF Library HB
Stoner John Williams 1965 Sep 15 F Audio
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky 1999 Sep 18 F Audio
The Death of Ivan Ilyich Leo Tolstoy 1886 Sep 19 F Audio
Home is the Sailor Robin Lee Graham 1983 Sep 25 NF Library HB
A Separate Peace John Knowles 1959 Oct 03 F Trade PB
My Life in Middlemarch Rebecca Mead 2014 Oct 07 NF Audio
Hellhound on His Trail Hampton Sides 2009 Oct 09 NF Library HB
Fire and Rain David Browne 2011 Oct 13 NF Audio
Hieroglyph Finn & Kramer 2014 Oct 21 F Audio
The Collapse of Western Civilization Oreskes & Conway 2014 Oct 31 NF Kindle
The End of the World Martin H. Greenberg 2010 Nov 06 F Audio
The Five Elements of Effective Thinking Burger & Starbird 2012 Nov 10 NF Audio
Disgrace J. M. Coetzee 1999 Nov 10 F Trade PB
Nova Samuel R. Delany 1968 Nov 14 F Hardback
The Shallows Nicholas Carr 2010 Nov 19 NF Audio
Summertime J. M. Coetzee 2010 Nov 26 F Hardback
Life After Life Kate Atkinson 2013 Nov 29 F Audio
The Innovators Walter Isaacson 2014 Dec 02 NF Library HB
The Glass Cage Nicholas Carr 2014 Dec 05 NF Audio
Timescape Gregory Benford 1980 Dec 13 F Library PB
The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain Barbara Strauch 2010 Dec 16 NF Audio
Timescape Gregory Benford 1980 Dec 22 F Audio
Daring Gail Sheehy 2014 Dec 26 NF Library HB
Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng 2014 Dec 31 F Audio

Plans for 2015

I want to continue reading even more nonfiction and newer books. Like I wrote the other day, I’m ready to leave the 20th century behind. My goal is to read two-thirds nonfiction next year, with most of them published in 2014 and 2015.

JWH

7 thoughts on “2014 Year in Reading”

  1. That’s quite a list. I hope to read “The Bell Jar” soon and I’ve always been curious about “Possession.” The title, “How Jesus Became God,” sounds interesting and (without knowing what it’s about) is the type of title that always pique my interest but that I shy away from. I think I’ll look it up on B&N though.

    Have a wonderful New Year!

  2. Great post about what sounds like a a great year for you, Jim! I’ve read all but 3 of the books you listed on the fiction list – not Breakfast at Tiffany’s so that’s now in my wish list – one of my favorite movie of all time though – but I do like Truman Capote. Also not read House Rules by Jodi Picoult but I’m not into her books – I really should read one though – just to say I did? The last one not read was Timescape and not interested in older sci-fi. I love some of the new stuff and I loved the old stuff when it was new. Did you read Station Eleven yet? Good book – good book! (# 12 on my 10 best of 2014 list). (lol)

    Yes – I also love the classics and I read several this year – I should probably edit my blog to reflect that I finally read “The Red and the Black” (Stendhal), “Manon Lescaut” (Prévost) “The Ladies’ Paradise” ( Zola).

    I’ve read 6 of nonfiction list – The Piketty was tops. Innovators was great – also on my list as was The Bully Pulpit.

    Here’s to a great 2015 in reading, guy! And all the other ways, too!

  3. That’s great list. I want to read Capital in the Twenty-First Century in 2015.

    If you are looking for non-fiction books you should check out Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama. It’s another book i want to read this year.

  4. Great top 10 lists. Did you reread Beginning of Infinity, in 2014? Capital in 21st Century was superb and would be on my short list. Stoner would also be on my short list even though it’s fiction. I’m currently listening to Big History a great course available from audible. I think you would fully appreciate it.

    1. It was when I finally finished Beginning of Infinity. By the way, I bought Big History when it was on sale recently – it looked fascinating. Glad to hear your validation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s