Countdown to 2015: 2014 Books

Last year, I read 12 books! This year I also read 12, although 2 of them were A Series of Unfortunate Events books that I am reading to my babysitting charge. I’m glad I’ve kept up my reading pace.

Overall, I read 3 Children/Young Adult series books, 7 non-fiction (1 biography, 1 graphic/cartoon memoir, 2 historical accounts, and 3 business/sociology books), 1 book of poetry, and 1 adult fiction series. All were by American authors. 3 I read for my company book club. 1 was by an author I work with. 2 I read because they related to something I was writing. 1 (the poetry book) I read in conjunction with an online class. These stats are fairly similar to last year’s, although I didn’t read any adult fiction that wasn’t part of a series nor did I read one non-American author. I did, however, read a book of poetry, which isn’t usually on my reading list. Next year: Continue with this variety, but make sure I read a fiction book. Continue with poetry, especially in conjunction with online classes.

I also read 7 New Yorkers (half of what I read last year) and 8 New York magazines (3 more than I read last year) in between each book, plus the New York Times and various other magazine and website articles. Next year: Read more New Yorkers.

My favorite book(s) of the year:
Thornton Wilder: A Life

Worst book of the year:
I didn’t read any bad books this year.

The List:

1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
I’m glad I read the book after seeing the musical. I think the characters were more alive on the page, and it brought back the experience of seeing the show.
Finished: January 27, 2014

2. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough
I read How Children Succeed for our company book club. It had some interesting ideas about what makes us successful in high school, college, and in life, and it made me think about how I responded to school and what tactics make me most successful today. It also made me think a lot about the Marshmallow Test.
Finished: March 4, 2014

3. The Tales of Hoffman: From the Trial of the Chicago 8/7 by George C. McNamee,  Daniel Greenberg, and Mark L. Levine
If you were ever interested in the Chicago 8 (7) trial (1969-1970), this book is the trial verbatim. It’s edited, so it often feels like stuff is missing, and even though it’s edited it can sometimes be repetitive. I still find it hard to believe that much of this craziness happened. There are many good lines from the defendants, but here is one quote, one of the last speeches of the trial from defendant Jerry Rubin: “You are jailing your youth. And you are jailing it for the crime of dreaming, dreaming of an alternative. You are jailing it for the crime of idealism…. There is this slogan, you can jail the revolutionary, but you can’t jail the revolution.”
Finished: April 20, 2014

4. Children of the Uprising: The Children of Paranoia Series by Trevor Shane
It’s been such a cool experience reading Trevor Shane’s books not only because are they great but also because he works in my office and I get to discuss them with him as I read them. This was the final book in the trilogy, and I’m happy to report that the ending was satisfying (albeit depressing). Really good stuff.
Finished: May 21, 2014

5. Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
I read this for my company book club. I now understand electronic trading but still do not understand regular trading. I can’t wait for the inevitable film adaptation, which will give this book the dramatic arc it wanted to have. Do writers write books like this with an eye toward film adaptations? Because that’s what the writing seemed to indicate.
Finished: June 24, 2014

6. All the Wrong Questions Book 2: When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket
While it’s not as deeply felt as the Unfortunate Events series, Lemony Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions series is still fun, clever, and adds to the overall mystery of the secret organization first introduced in A Series of Unfortunate Events. I especially enjoyed the kiddie-noir style and any mention of and visits from characters from the previous series. The more this turns into a larger explanation of the origins of VFD, the better.
Finished: July 18, 2014

7. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
I read this book for our company book club. It’s written by one of the founders of Pixar, and it’s not only an account of how Pixar happened but also how he was able to sustain it. I found it interesting as a look at how creative and corporate can work hand-in-hand because in my own life I find that the two feed off each other. While there are some slow passages (and too many metaphors!), I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at Pixar and the thoughts on why the company (which depends entirely on creative people) has worked for so long.
Finished: October 31, 2014

8Thornton Wilder: A Life by Penelope Niven
Thornton has always been one of my favorite writers–I like to refer to myself as a “die-hard Thornton Wilder fan”–and through this biography and learning about his life, my love for him has deepened. I love his thoughts, his writing, his family, his itinerant lifestyle, his devotion to his siblings and friends, his belief in the independence of women. I feel a connection to him as a writer and person.
Also from this book, I realized a danger in reading biography–that it tricks your mind into thinking of life as something lived rather than something you are living, something pored over and analyzed rather than something experienced in the moment. I kept trying to see the entirety of my own life, wondering how a biographer would write and research it through emails, Facebook, Twitter, and online blogs and journals rather than antiquated letters and diaries. I think I will take a break from biography for a while, but I’m glad to have read this one and look forward to reading and seeing the remainder of Thornton’s work. Love you, Thornton.
“We’re all People, before we are anything else. People, even before we’re artists. The role of being a Person is sufficient to have lived and died for.” –Thornton Wilder to his sister Isabel, 1937″
Finished: December 23, 2014

9. Song of Myself: and Other Poems 
by Walt Whitman
I read “Song of Myself” in conjunction with an online class, and I don’t think I would have gotten much out of the poem had I not done that. I was able to read commentary on every section (of the 1891 deathbed edition) and watch short video lectures. I also read the first 1855 edition of the poem and compared the two. There is still much to read. This book contains a “lexicon” that explores Whitman’s language in the poem, as well as other selected poems by Whitman. There are also discussion section videos on the course website to watch. I’d like to get through all of that at some point. This poem felt like a journey, and I enjoyed reading and ultimately knowing this poem in such a comprehensive way.
Finished: December 31, 2014

10. With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote by Ann Bausum
I started this book in early 2014 and wanted to finish it before the year was out. I didn’t quite make it, but I’m including it in this list anyway. It’s a short, easy read on the history of how women fought for and earned the right to vote. Surprisingly, most people don’t know/weren’t taught this story. I didn’t really either until I started looking into it for a project. Women went to prison, led hunger strikes, were force fed. Some died of exhaustion. And to think that the history books say that women were “given” the right to vote. If only.
Finished: January 1, 2015

11. The Austere Academy(A Series of Unfortunate Events book 5) by Lemony Snicket
I read this book with my babysitting charge, and it was nice to revisit. This book is a turning point in the series, as new characters and plot elements are introduced, and with the exception of book 7, it just keeps getting better.
Finished: Spring, 2014

12. The Ersatz Elevator(A Series of Unfortunate Events book 6) by Lemony Snicket
I also read this book with my babysitting charge. I had remembered enjoying this particular book in the series, with the addition of Esme Squalor, and it was fun to re-read.
Finished: Summer, 2014

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