“We read to know we’re not alone.”
I’m the kind of person who enjoys reading, but don’t do it as much as I’d like. (Translation: I’m like most people.) Sometimes I’ll go though book after book as if I’m training for a marathon (or maybe a 10K)… other times I’ll go a month (or two) without picking up a book.
My goal is at least 12 books a year – aka one a month. This year I read 14, so yay.
The books I read in 2014 range from non-fiction to young-adult to classic literature. I feel most accomplished after reading a piece of classic literature, but it also takes more energy. Sometimes after a long day of work, working out, and cooking dinner I just want to get in bed and read something a little more… effortless. Cue non-fiction (at least the kind of non-fiction I read) and young-adult books.
I’d like to share with you the books I’ve read this year, what inspired me to read them and what I thought about them.
Books I read in 2014 (in order of appearance):
Beloved by Toni Morrison
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
I started reading Beloved at the end of 2011. I got around 50 pages in… and then I left the country for four months. It was a library book so I left it behind and vowed to return to it one day (note: I hate leaving books unfinished.) At the end of 2013 I started a Toni Morrison Kick – first The Bluest Eye, then Sula. At the beginning of this year I was ready to revisit Beloved.
Toni’s words are poetry. They dance off the page and into your heart. “Does she know how beautifully she writes?” I found myself wondering.
Beloved is beautiful… and dark. So dark. Reading it in January, when it was cold and dark and hopeless outside (Seasonal Affective Disorder, anyone?) seemed to fit the book. It’s about slavery. Rape, torture, murder, pain and heartbreak. I am forever haunted by this book. But it was worth it. Truth is always worth it.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
“I cannot think well of a man who sports with any women’s feelings.”
I’ll be honest… Valentine’s Day was rolling around and I was single and feeling it. So I decided to bury my head in a book and get lost in someone else’s love story. Austen novels are often about unrequited love (at least until the end), so I knew she would understand where I was coming from.
As predicted, Jane Austen delivered. Mansfield Park is now my second favorite Austen novel (second to P&P, of course.) It made February a much more enjoyable month – I looked forward to every chance I had to crack open the book. I would name my future daughter after the protagonist, Fanny Price, if it wasn’t such an ugly name.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
I’m kind of a sucker for whatever is popular – hence why I gave the first two Twilight books a shot (the first one was so bad I figured the second had to make up for it… wrong. So wrong. Sorry, Stephanie Meyer! You’re just not my jam.)
At the beginning of the year I saw this John Green book EVERYWHERE… so like I caved (like I usually do.)
Coming off an Austen novel didn’t give this book much of a chance, I now realize. I was shocked at how poorly it compared. The characters annoyed me, the writing was full of clichés. But then I remembered it was written for 16-year-olds. So that helped. A little.
This much I will say… I saw the movie in June (by myself) and pretty much bawled my way through it. I mean, kids with cancer… how can you not??
Divergent by Veronica Roth
“…he is smart and brave, and even though he saved me, he treated me like I was strong. That is all I need to know.”
Like The Fault in Our Stars, I caved and got on this bandwagon. The movie was coming out and I decided I wanted to read the book first. I liked it.
…and then I didn’t see the movie, because Rotten Tomatoes rated it so poorly.
(I eventually watched the movie on one of those obnoxiously long plane rides I take for work… and consequently told myself I could never watch it again because I was lusting after Four, aka actor Theo James.)
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
“People, I have discovered, are layers and layers of secrets. You believe you know them, that you understand them, but their motives are always hidden from you, buried in their own hearts. You will never know them, but sometimes you decide to trust them.”
Surprise surprise, I read the second book in the series. I also liked this one. I never read the third and final book, however, because so many people told me they didn’t like the ending. I didn’t want to finish the series with a bad taste in my mouth so I stopped here.
Note: I still don’t know how the series ends… so please don’t tell me.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
“Sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched.”
If you didn’t already know, Mindy Kaling is hilarious. I found myself sitting on the couch, reading her book, laughing out loud. Eventually one of my roommates was like WHAT are you reading.
I had wanted to read this book for a while (since it came out a few years ago), but I don’t normally buy books. I’ll get them out of the library, borrow them from friends or receive them as gifts.
The Gainesville library is not my favorite… but they’re all I have. Eventually they got this book in their circulation, and for that I am grateful.
One More Thing by B.J. Novak
“If you love something, let it go.
If you don’t love something, definitely let it go.
Basically, just drop everything, who cares.”
B.J. Novak… also hilarious (both he and Mindy are from the TV show The Office, for those of you who don’t know.) This book didn’t make me laugh out loud, but I was still impressed with B.J.’s short stories. Some of them were weird, if I remember, but overall I liked his style.
Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
“If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, Chase, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated.”
I think someone at work recommended this book, or was ranting and raving about it, so I decided to give it a try. (Also, Brené Brown on the cover is a pretty good sign.)
I read it when I was on family vacation in Michigan. It was a good beach book – something I could easily pick up and put down in between splashing in the water with my niece and nephew.
Glennon has some views I don’t agree with, but she also has some good insight.
For this kind of writing (by young-ish, Christian married moms who are figuring it all out), I prefer Shauna Niequist. (Please don’t tell Glennon.)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
“A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.”
OMG this book. It captivated me. It’s one of those books I thought about during the day and couldn’t wait to get to at night. The kind of book that became a friend during the time I was reading it.
I had heard about the movie… and I probably knew it was a book. But it was never on my list. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a girl at work about it and she lent it to me the next day (shout-out to Sarah from Marketing!)
I still haven’t seen the movie. I don’t know if I want to… mainly because the ending is so sad.
A Movable Feast by Earnest Hemingway
“We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”
Ah, Hemingway. I always feel like I should like him more than I do. Don’t get me wrong – I like him, I just don’t looooooove him.
My brother gave me this book for Christmas a year or two ago, and it has sat on my shelf ever since. I knew I would get to it eventually. This summer I did.
One Saturday in early August I went to a local coffee shop, ordered chai, and read Hemingway all afternoon. It was lovely.
Love Illuminated by Daniel Jones
“Vulnerability is what love is all about. And vulnerability involves yielding control, revealing weakness, embracing imperfection, and opening ourselves up to the possibility of loss. Only when we open ourselves up to the possibility of loss can we allow for the possibility of love.”
For years I’ve followed the NY Times column Modern Love. I even sent in my own essay back in 2008… definitely didn’t get it published. (So embarrassing.)
This book, Love Illuminated, is written by the editor of the column. He talks about love and all the things he’s learned about it after reading all the essays that have been sent in (mine wasn’t mentioned, believe it or not.)
I got this book for my birthday from my girl Carly (thanks, girl) and read it during a trip to Peru and back.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
I reallllllly wanted to buy this book in an airport sometime earlier this year, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it (like I said, I don’t normally buy books.) Thankfully I got it for my birthday (also from Carly.) (Seriously, thanks.)
It’s short and inspiring and kinda made me want to become a shepherd, if only for a season.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
This book was recommended to me back in 2012 by my friend Hosanna. She was on the squad I was leading – we shared tents and stories, we talked about unrequited love and good books.
I needed something to read toward the end of this year, so I checked out my roommate’s bookshelf and saw this guy.
I read Dorian Gray in the bathtub and before bed… which I learned is not a great idea for someone who is prone to bad dreams. It was a little more gruesome than I anticipated. (But still, Oscar Wilde is brilliant.)
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
“Here’s who it’s okay to share a bed with: . . . A heating pad. An empty bag of pita chips. The love of your life.”
If ever given the chance to meet, I think Lena and I would be good friends. I looked for her when I was in NYC earlier this month. (No luck.)
That being said… I was really excited about her book. And then I was really let down when I read it. Maybe if she had written it in ten years, when she has some more life behind her, I would have liked it better.
Kind of an anti-climactic way to end the year (after starting off with Beloved!) but ah well. You win some, you lose some.
I’m not sure what I’m going to read next – probably Unbroken (over 16,500 reviews on Amazon!) and Tiny Beautiful Things (by my girl Cheryl Strayed.) Also, one of these days I’m finally going to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them! Also, in general I’d love to know what you’ve been reading. (That is, if you’re still even reading this blog post HA!)