Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Books Read (and Listened to) in 2014

I read (or listened to) 202 books in 2014, well, 205 if I count each volume of my trusty ol' childhood Mother Goose collection separately.  They were separate books after all, but still, pretty slim volumes at that.  So, 202 it is.  The 76 Caldecott books from the November resolution-of-the-month really bumped up the number.  Below are some reflections upon my annual reading.  I sure enjoy this annual literary tradition of recording and pondering the past years reading.  There are so many good books to read--an occupational hazard for me, really.  And some terrible ones, but mostly good.

One reflection right off the bat though:  I am, apparently irresistibly drawn to a book with a good (and often long) sub-title.

The numbers breakdown to:
126 Children's and Young Adult books
35 Adult books 
41 Audiobooks

To make sense of things I'll have to subdivide the list into categories.

The best adult fiction was Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik.  It was fantastically written so that the twist at the end come out of the clear blue sky.  So very clever. Plus, while I don't approve of violence, in general, I could really appreciate the way the main character is worn down my the modern life and seeking more, seeking something different.  Its funny, I always think I of myself as a huge fan of fiction, but you know, I don't think its true any more.  As the saying goes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  Hence, I only list one favorite work of fiction from last year.

The best adult non-fiction was Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World by Tristan Donocan.  I am a recovering soda pop junkie and so this historical narrative thrilled me.  It was amazing to learn about the rapid growth of this product and its influence on American culture.  That influence is much greater that I'd have thought.  Other contenders would be Bird by Andrew Zuckerman or The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obamascik.  Bird has only a few pages of text so "read" might be a strong word for it.  Still, those photos!    I poured over the images.  Huge, fantastically detailed photos of freakishly amazing avian critters that share our world.  The page background is just plain white allowing the stunning feathers and leg and plumes and eyes to stand out in strong relief.  The Big Year inspired me to start keeping track of how many birds I saw in 2014.  Until I read the book I never knew competitive birding was a thing!  I am a birder on a whole different level than these folks, but I founding it endlessly interesting and amusing.  I, uncharacteristically, watched the film that had been made from the book.  It was also enjoyable.  It starred Steve Martin and Jack Black...and oh, that other guy...Owen Wilson....yeah, that's it.

The best children/YA fiction was probably the Harry Potter books.  There, I said it.  See, for more than a decade I avoided these books.  I am not much into wizards and dragons and things.  The books got awfully thick toward the end.  I don't like to read a series until they are all published.  I don't like to read books just because everyone else is going crazy for them--as in go to the bookstore at midnight for the release party kind of crazy.  I had my reasons.  Being a librarian of my age bracket though people seemed positively aghast that I'd refused to read them.  So, I did.  Matt re-read them with me and we had wonderful book discussions.  Dang, they were good tales--except The Order of the Phoenix.  I sort of loathed that one.  It was most certainly just a sign of how well written it was, really, but I just hated reading it.  Harry is impossibly annoying and whiny (yes, yes, I know his world had steadily been going to hell in a hand basket and he is a teenager by this point) and Professor Umbridge is such a fascist that her presence on the page made me angry.  People who can make up the rules as they go with impunity do that to me, apparently even fictitious ones.  I really appreciated that it wasn't a separate magical world elsewhere, but one hidden right within our own.  I already gave my reviews of the Caldecott books, so I won't repeat myself here for my favorites or least favorites.

The best children/YA non-fiction was Look Up!: Bird-watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate.  I want to buy it for every child I know.  Its so informative, relate-able, and wonderfully illustrated.  I also enjoyed Hidden by Loic Dauviller et al.  I find graphic novels to be very fun to read.  Additionally, they can frequently convey a subject matter--politics, history, etc-- in such as way as to make it approachable to a wider audience with remarkable poignancy and clarity.  Locomotive by Brian Floca was the 2014 Caldecott winner and while it wasn't listed in my Caldecott reviews I was pretty fond of it.  I learned quite a few little things about the expansion of the railroad that I didn't know--or had forgotten since my history classes and, as could be expected of a Caldecott winner, it was richly illustrated, too.

The best audiobooks were Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History by Ben Mezrich, Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes from and Why We Need to Get it Back by Ann Vileisis, The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy, and Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation by Andrea Wulf. Sex on the Moon was an unbelievable--but true--story about an intern trying to steal moon rocks from NASA.  I must say I enjoyed the mystery and crime style drama with a geek twist instead of a serial killer one.  Founding Gardeners gave me some tremendous new insight into the significance of the agricultural roots of our country.  Plus, you know, I love growing things.

The worst book--or maybe I should say the book I enjoyed the least-- was probably A Mad Desire to Dance by Elie Wiesel.  I picked it up because I have a mad desire to dance and I've only read Night, his holocaust memoir.  He is so acclaimed and all so I figured I'd give it a go.  I should remember I am rarely impressed when I pick up a book for the latter reason.  I was confused a lot.  Or maybe it was too deeply allegorical or metaphorical and I just didn't get it.  I don't know.  The Gathering by Anne Enright was another I found almost completely unpleasant.  That may be to a lack of cultural understanding on my part.  Again, I don't know.  I also found all of the sequels to Bunnicula to be consistently disappointing.  Its a shame, too, since Bunnicula is a pretty great story, I think.

One more thought:  Edgar Allen Poe is one messed up dude.  I'd never really read much by him--a short story here or there in literature classes in school, but that was all.  I read two collections of poems and short stories in succession.  Weird.  Dark.  Freaky.  I told Matt that I had the same feeling as when I read things like Stephen King.  They are clearly brilliant writers with creative minds, but I just want to ask them, "What happened to you!?!"  Why is the product of that brilliant, creative mind so darn black and sinister?  So, it was an interesting exposure, but I don't see myself becoming a big fan or anything.

Books Read (or Listened to) in 2014:
* indicates an audiobook


  • The Great American Book of Church Signs (Donald Seitz)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Seuss)
  • Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book (Diane Muldrow)
  • Lone Star (Catherine Palmer)
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle (Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell)
  • Hidden (Loic Dauvillier & Marc Lizano & Greg Salsedo)
  • Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation (Andrea Wulf)*
  • The Wild Girls (Pat Murphy)*
  • The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Norman Doidge, M.D.)*
  • Raising the Peaceable Kingdom: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Social Origins of Tolerance and Friendship (Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson)*
  • Things I've Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter (Azar Nafisi)*
  • Locomotive (Brian Floca)
  • This is Not My Hat (Jon Klassen)
  • A Ball For Daisy (Chris Raschka)
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee (Philip & Erin Stead)
  • The Lion and the Mouse (Jerry Pinkney)
  • The House in the Night (Susan Marie Swanson & Beth Krommes)
  • Flotsam (David Wiesner)
  • The Hello, Goodbye Window (Norton Juster & Chris Raschka)
  • Kitten's First Full Moon (Kevin Henkes)
  • The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (Mordicai Gerstein)
  • My Friend Rabbit (Eric Rohmann)
  • The Three Pigs (David Wiesner)
  • So You Want to be President? (Judith St. George & David Small)
  • Joseph had a Little Overcoat (Simms Taback)
  • Snowflake Bentley (Jacqueline Briggs Martin & Mary Azarian)
  • Rapunzel (Paul O. Zelinksy)
  • Golem (David Wisniewski)
  • Officer Buckle and Gloria (Peggy Rathman)
  • Smoky Night (Eve Bunting & David Diaz)
  • Grandfather's Journey (Allen Say)
  • Mirette on the High Wire (Emily Arnold McCully)
  • Black and White (David Macaulay)
  • Tuesday (David Wiesner)
  • Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story From China (Ed Young)
  • Song and Dance Man (Karen Ackerman & Stephen Gammell)
  • Owl Moon (Jane Yolen & John Schoenherr)
  • Hey, Al (Arthur Yorkins & Richard Egielski)
  • The Polar Express (Chris Van Allsburg)
  • Saint George and the Dragon (Margaret Hodges & Trina Schart Hyman)
  • The Glorious Flight Across the Channel With Louis Bleriot (Alice & Martin Provensen)
  • Shadow (Marcia Brown)
  • Jumanji (Chris Van Allsburg)
  • Fables (Arnold Lobel)
  • Ox-Cart Man (Donald Hall & Barbara Cooney)
  • The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses (Paul Goble)
  • Noah's Ark (Peter Speir)
  • Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (Margaret Musgrove & Leo & Diane Dillon)
  • Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale (Verna Aardema & Leo & Dianne Dillon)
  • Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale (Gerald McDermott)
  • Duffy and the Devil (Harve & Margot Zemach)
  • The Funny Little Woman (Arlene Mosel & Blair Lent)
  • One Fine Day (Nonny Hogrogian)
  • A Story, A Story (Gail E. Haley)
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (William Steig)
  • The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: A Russian Tale (Arthur Ransome & Uri Shulevitz)
  • Drummer Hoff (Barbara & Ed Emberley)
  • Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine (Evaline Ness)
  • Always Room for One More (Sorche Nic Leodhas & Nonny Hogrogian)
  • May I Bring a Friend? (Beatrice Schenk de Regniers & Beni Montresor)
  • Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak)
  • The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats)
  • Once a Mouse... (Marcia Brown)
  • Baboushka and the Three Kings (Ruth Robbins & Nicolas Sidjakov)
  • Nine Days To Christmas: A Story of Mexico (Marie Hall Ets & Aurora Labastida)
  • Chanticleer and the Fox (Barbara Cooney)
  • Time of Wonder (Robert McCloskey)
  • A Tree is Nice (Janice May Udry & Marc Simont)
  • Frog Went A-Courtin' (John Langstaff & Feodor Rojankovsky)
  • Cinderella (Marcia Brown)
  • Madeline's Rescue (Ludwig Bemelmans)
  • The Biggest Bear (Lynd Ward)
  • Finders Keepers (William Lipkind & Nicolas Mordvinoff)
  • The Egg Tree (Katherine Milhous)
  • Song of the Swallows (Leo Politi)
  • The Big Snow (Berta & Elmer Hader)
  • White Snow, Bright Snow (Alvin Tresselt & Roger Duvoisin)
  • The Martian Child: A Novel About a Single Father Adopting A Son (David Gerrold)*
  • Animal Grossapedia (Melissa Stewart)
  • The Little Island (Margaret Wise Brown & Leonard Weisgard)
  • The Rooster Crows: A Book of American Rhymes and Jingles (Maud & Mishka Petersham)
  • Prayer For A Child (Rachel Field & Elizabeth Orton Jones)
  • Many Moons (James Thurber & Louis Slobodkin)
  • The Little House (Virginia Lee Burton)
  • Make Way for Ducklings (Robert McCloskey)
  • They Were Strong and Good (Robert Lawson)
  • Abraham Lincoln (Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire)
  • Mei Li (Thomas Handforth)
  • Animals of the Bible (Dorothy P. Lathrop & Helen Dean Fish)
  • How it Ended: New and Collected Stories (Jay McInerney)*
  • 100 Small Comforts: Wise and Witty Words to Lift the Spirit (Michael Woloschinow)
  • Faces of Hope 10 Years Later: Babies Born on 9/11 (Christine Pisera Naman)
  • Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11 (Christine Pisera Naman)
  • Zen Shorts (John J. Muth)
  • Hi, Koo: A Year of Seasons (Jon J. Muth)
  • Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! (Mary Reid & Betsey Chessen)
  • Autumnal Tints (Henry David Thoreau)*
  • September Roses (Jeanette Winter)
  • This is the Part Where You Pretend To Add Value (Scott Adams)
  • Teamwork Means You Can't Pick the Side That's Right (Scott Adams)
  • Seven Years of Highly Defective People: Scott Adams' Guided Tour of the Evolution of Dilbert (Scott Adams)
  • At Night (Jonathan Bean)
  • Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me (Daniel Beaty & Bryan Collier)
  • A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent And Experienced Travelers (Nancy Williard, Alice Provensen, & Martin Provensen)
  • Mumbet's Declaration of Independence (Gretchen Woelfle & Alix Delinios)
  • Islam: Religion of Peace or War? (Christian Broadcasting Network)
  • Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need to Get It Back (Ann Vileisis)*
  • The Real Mother Goose, volumes 1-4 (Blanche Fisher Wright)
  • The Vow: The True Events That Inspired the Movie (Kim & Krickett Carpenter)*
  • Twelve Creepy Tales (Edgar Allan Poe)*
  • Collected Stories and Poems (Edgar Allan Poe)*
  • Obsessed: America's Food Addiction--And My Own (Mika Brzezinski)*
  • Allegiant (Veronica Roth)*
  • God Loves You (Michelle Medlock Adams & Pauline Siewert)
  • Go The F*** to Sleep (Adan Mansbach & Ricardo Cortes)
  • Insurgent (Veronica Roth)*
  • The Indie Rock Poster Book (Andy J. Miller & the Yellow Bird Project)
  • Divergent (Veronica Roth)*
  • Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals (Rory Freedman)
  • Wild Tracks!: A Guide to Nature's Footprints (Jim Arnosky)
  • Fortunately, the Milk (Neil Gaiman & Skottie Young)
  • Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way (Ruth Reichl)*
  • The Race for the Chinese Zodiac (Gabrielle Want & Sall Rippin)
  • The Chocolate War (Robert Cormier)*
  • A Little Book of Slime: Everything That Oozes, From Killer Slime to Living Mold (Clint Twist)
  • What's Inside?: My Body (Angela Royston)
  • Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie (Maya Angelou)
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (Mary Roach)*
  • Look Up!: Bird-watching in Your Own Backyard (Annette LeBlanc Cate)
  • Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama (Selina Alko)
  • Bird (Andrew Zuckerman)
  • Toilet: How It Works (David Macaulay)
  • The Back of the House: The Secret Life of a Restaurant (Scott Haas)*
  • Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • A Trick of the Light (Lois Metzger)
  • No Way Home: The Decline of the World's Great Animal Migrations (David S. Wilcove)*
  • Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie & Ellen Forney)
  • A Mad Desire to Dance (Elie Wiesel)*
  • An Apple A Day: A Memoir of Love and Recovery from Anorexia (Emma Woolf)
  • On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein (Jennifer Berne & Vladimir Radunsky)
  • The Dark (Lemony Snicket & Jon Klassen)
  • Anorexia: A Stranger in the Family (Katie Metcalfe)
  • Sarah's Key (Tatiana de Rosnay)*
  • Howl and Other Poems (Allen Ginsberg)
  • I Shall Not Be Moved (Maya Angelou)
  • Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women (Maya Angelou)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)
  • Slamming Open the Door (Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno)
  • Dancing: Poems (Al Young)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)
  • The Way of Love ( Joan Walsh Anglund)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia (Harriet Brown)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Yellow Square: A Pop-up Book for Children of all Ages (David A. Carter)
  • Bunnicula Meets Edger Allen Crow (James Howe)*
  • Capacity: Math Counts (Henry Pluckrose & Ramona Choos)
  • Return to Howliday Inn (James Howe)*
  • Nighty-Nightmare (James Howe)*
  • The Celery Stalks at Midnight (James Howe)*
  • Howliday Inn (James Howe)*
  • Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery (Deborah & James Howe)*
  • The Six Rules of Maybe (Deb Caletti)*
  • Gracias/Thanks (Pat Mora & John Parra)
  • The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln (Kate Clifford Larson)*
  • Man is the Only Animal That Blushes...Or Needs To: The Wisdom of Mark Twain (ed. Michael Joseph)
  • Jet Plane: How It Works (David Macaulay)
  • Castle: How It Works (David Macaulay)
  • Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History (Ben Mezrich)*
  • Jumanji (Chris Van Allsburg)
  • Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom (Jennifer Holland)
  • Hurry Down Sunshine: A Father's Story of Love and Madness (Michael Greenberg)*
  • The Family Book (Todd Parr)
  • Whoo-oo Is It? (Megan McDonald & S.D. Schindler)
  • Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk)
  • This is Not My Hat (Jon Klassen)
  • Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America (Barbara Ehrenreich)
  • Buff Ducks (Precious McKenzie & John Reasoner)
  • Intensity (Dean Koontz)
  • Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague (Geraldine Brooks)*
  • The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)
  • Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World (Tristan Donovan)
  • The Gathering (Anne Enright)*
  • The Book of Genesis Illustrated (R. Crumb)
  • Bird, Butterfly, Eel (James Prosek)
  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman)
  • The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Jane Rogers)*
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)
  • St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves (Karen Russell)*
  • Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech)*
  • Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance: Reflections on Raising Chickens (Martin Gurdon)
  • Two Rings: A Story of Love and War (Millie Werber & Eve Keller)*
  • A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy (Thomas Buergenthal)
  • Jane, the Fox, and Me (Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault)
  • The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession (Mark Obmascik)
  • Mountains (Seymour Simon)
  • Cathedral of St. Helena, Helena, MT
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (Charles M. Schulz)

  • And with that we're off to another new year of reading!  I just enrolled in an adult reading program for 2015 through our public library.  52 books (of 200 pages or more) in 52 weeks.  Should be a swell time!

    2 comments:

    1. I always love reading your year in review lists. I ordered several of these from my local library and can't wait to dig in!

      I have read some pretty great books recently, but haven't been recording how many I have read or what they are. I am still reading a good many gardening books. It's amazing the diversity in such a small genre!

      My favorite recently read book was Midnight in Siberia by David Greene. He was an NPR representative for Russia and he and a colleague travel the entire length of the Siberian Express, getting off and interviewing people all across the trip. It was wonderful, though I wonder if I should have read it when it is so cold out. Brrr. :)

      Happy New Year!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. That sounds like keen cold weather reading. Really get you into the mood and tone of the book! :) I am glad you like the list and reviews, as such. I sure like reflecting back in the titles. Some jump immediately to mind. Others I have to think on to remember the details. Some are certainly better than others.

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    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!