The Books of 2014

My goal for 2014 was to read 30 books. I did that, plus three. Of those, I only gave a 1-star review to one title, with everything else getting at least three stars. That’s a pretty good year of reading. I thought I’d recap the highlights here, as I tend to do at the start or end of every year.

I’d be hard pressed to pick one and say it was the best book of the year, as there were several that were excellent reads. The one that had the biggest impact on me, that came into my hands at the perfect moment, was Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. It was part of a “search for meaning” binge I went on this year that included Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi (the second best of this set) and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (the one I liked the least). I ended up teaching Hesse’s novel to my seniors last semester; they were not as moved by the story as I was, and all they remember about the movie is the sex scene.

I read all of Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series about a zombie apocalypse. This set of four young adults books was good overall, but there were things that irritated me, most notably the protagonist’s inability to learn anything as the story progressed. Still, not a bad series and I don’t regret my time in Maberry’s world.

Gabrielle Zivon’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and John Williams’s Stoner were two books I liked much, much more than I anticipated. Ironically, there was a huge similarity to the endings of each that I just now realized. Anyone who loves books should read Fikry and anyone who teaches, particularly English, should read Stoner. Fantastic books.

There were two novels given to me by students who are like adopted daughters to me. A gift of literature is incredibly personal and the best thing you can offer me, particularly when it is your own favorite. The first was Louis Lowry’s The Giver, which I enjoyed, though I think it suffered a little due to the hype and expectations built over the years prior to my reading. The second was David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, a bizarre and complex story that it took me a while to get into, but once I did I was completely hooked. I do have to admit that it took me forever to finish it and watching the movie helped me understand some parts that I didn’t get, maybe because of the delays between reading sessions.

There were a few non-fiction books on my list this year, including the (co-authored) autobiographies from KISS’s Peter Criss and Paul Stanley. The Starchild won a lot of respect for his story. Mostly, though, the books made me wish for an unbiased KISS biography to get to the truth of things like Peter and Ace’s treatment and behavior during the reunion era.

There were some re-reads this year, as always. Some are things I teach every year. The one I most enjoyed was Richard Adams’s Watership Down. Such memories attached to that wonderful book! It still boggles my mind that a junior high librarian who taught advanced reading to me in eighth grade had such an impact on my all-time list of favorite books. Thank you, Virginia Atchinson!

Missing from this list is anything by George R.R. Martin. C’mon man, I need more Song of Ice and Fire!

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