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
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
- Stoner by John Williams
- House Rules by Jodi Picoult
- Possession by A. S. Byatt
- Timescape by Gregory Benford
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- Summertime by J. M. Coetzee
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Favorite Nonfiction Books Read in 2014
- Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
- The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin
- Time Reborn by Lee Smolin
- The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch
- The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
- The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin
- Short Night of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan
- How Jesus Became God by Bart D. Ehrman
- Hellhound on his Trail by Hampton Sides
- 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
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
|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.
7 thoughts on “2014 Year in Reading”
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.