30 books in 2014

I will be posting a full review of each book I read in 2014! (a.k.a., everything on this list). Click the permanent link to “Book Reviews” on the right side panel. 

In 2013, I read 16 books. That doesn’t sound so bad, until you consider the fact that 3 were YA books, 3 were picture books, 3 were assigned readings for a Sociology class, 1 was a David Sedaris re-read, and 2 were so bad that I think they decreased my intelligence (Fergie Confidential and They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? in case you were curious). So, really, I only read 4 “books”: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimThe Sense of an Ending (which I didn’t like at all – I’m not sure what the fuss over Barnes is about), The Casual Vacancy (incredibly underrated), and Norwegian Wood (at last, a truly good one).

THEN I realized I watched episodes from 24 different TV shows and 54(!!) movies in 2013. Don’t get me wrong–I think that tv/cinema have a lot to offer. But analyzing a two-hour film vs. a 200-page novel requires a different set of skills.

I settled on the number 30 because it felt feasible for me; it’s just over a book every 2 weeks. Of course, some folks like Carrie over on The Mad Reviewer read close to 200 books a year! That’s too much for me, but I do fit pretty well into her “Slightly Sane Reviewer” category. (You can read more about her yearly book reviewing challenge here). 

Without further ado, the 30 books I plan to read in 2013:

1). The Ugly American and Slash

book covers

To be honest, I’ve been working on both of these for a while. I wanted to start fresh, but almost nothing bothers me more than not finishing a book. I’m roughly halfway through each, so finishing both of these will count as my “#1.” Slash is terrible, I’ve been avoiding it for months, and I’m determined to finish it once and for all.

  • Full review of The Ugly American here.
  • Made an executive decision not to finish Slash because it was terrible.

2-14: Books I already own

left book stack.jgp

 2). For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. [Sorry, the books in the photo are slightly out of order]. Amazingly enough, I’ve reached the age of 22 without having read a Hemingway. I read about 20 pages of this book last year and loved it. So that will be my reward after finishing the terrible Slash

3). Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Given the focus on South Africa recently, I figured I ought to read something besides Long Walk to Freedom.

  • Full review of Cry, the Beloved Country (plus the 1995 movie adaptation!) here.

4). The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. All I know is that it’s set in Chicago during the 1893 World Fair. Might as well read one book set in the miserably cold city where I live.

5). Of Wild Dogs by Jane Taylor. [In order from this point forward]. Taylor is fascinating and her book The Transplant Men was unlike anything I’d ever read. Plus, you know, I met and even interviewed her.

6). Death in a Cold Climate by Barry Forshaw. I bought this book after watching the Norwegian crime thriller Headhunters a year and a half ago. Naturally, I thought I should read an academic analysis of the entire Scandinavian crime fiction genre!

 7). The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. I’ve been meaning to read this since my freshman-year roommate called it excellent in 2009. Whoops!

  • Full review of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao here.

8). Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. This one’s even worse: A friend gave me this as a high school graduation present. For some reason, even though I apparently love Scandinavian crime fiction/film, I was dissuaded by “hit man” in the title. But it’s supposed to be good.


9). The Gus Van Sant Touch by Justin Vicari. I won this book a year ago as part of the Early Reviewers program on LibraryThing. I was excited at first because Gus Van Sant has directed films like Good Will Hunting and Milk. Then I read the introduction and it was terrible and pompous.  Nonetheless, I should fulfill my obligation!

10). Crazy Like Us by Ethan Watters. As you can see from the sticker on the spine, I was supposed to read this book for a class and never did. Nonetheless, I think it will prove interesting.

11). Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I adore the great Russian writers. It wouldn’t be a complete reading list without a beautifully written and creatively introspective contribution from one of the masters.

12). Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. I was skeptical because I inherited this from someone cleaning out her office. But it’s highly regarded, so onto the book list it goes.

13). Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research by Steven Epstein. For those of you who don’t know, I majored in Anthropology in undergrad. I bought this book for a class, forgot I bought it 9 weeks later, and re-discovered it on my bookshelf after I had already turned in my final paper. Sigh. But since I’d potentially like to  pursue a PhD in medical anthropology, onto the list it must go.

14). The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende. After studying abroad in Buenos Aires last summer, I ambitiously attempted to read an Allende book in Spanish. Mistake. Good thing I found this English translation.

15-22: Books I’ve been meaning to read

book covers 1

15). Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.  Fun fact: Karen Russell went to the same school as I did. (No, sadly I never met her – she graduated several years ahead of me).

16). Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis. Wouldn’t you know: another Nordic crime thriller. I know Kaaberbøl because she was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen award for her contributions to children’s literature. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she is also an acclaimed author of adult crime fiction.

17). The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. Even though The Sense of an Ending was a disappointment, I generally try to read the Man Booker prizewinning novel each year. Plus, Catton is from New Zealand!! And I want to move to New Zealand before the year is over.

18). John the Posthumous by Jason Schwartz. For some reason, I thought this book was written by Jason Schwartzman, the actor. Not so. Regardless, it’s supposed to be highly unusual which sometimes means good.

book covers 2

  19). The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith. I was a pretty big fan of J.K. Rowling’s first foray into adult literature, The Casual Vacancy. Most people disagreed with me about that. But everyone raves about The Cuckoo’s Calling so I guess I have to see what the fuss is about.

  • Full review of The Cuckoo’s Calling here.

20). Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This one I know because there was a blurb about it in Vogue a couple of months ago. (Yes, I read Vogue. Mostly for the food articles). A celebrated Nigerian author? Yes, please.

21). Skull Wars by David Hurst Thomas. I had to read the introduction for my Archaeology class. It was fascinating. Compelled to read the rest.

22). Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss. Another case where I was required to read an excerpt for a class and fell in love. I have been meaning to read this for quite some time (over 2 years, to be exact).

23-28: On Recommendation

book covers 3

23). And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. Both my sister AND my mom told me to read this. I’ve read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, so I might as well.

  • Full review of And the Mountains Echoed here.

24). The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’ve seen this on top booklists everywhere. So into my queue it goes.

25). The Border is Burning by Ito Romo. I graduated from high school in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes like to call it my hometown. Romo’s also from San Antonio and this book is supposed to be amazing.

26). Anything that Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear. I’ve already mentioned my affinity for the food essays in Vogue. So this was a natural addition to my list.

27). Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I recognize Atkinson’s name. I don’t think I’ve read anything by her before, and this should be remedied.

28). Revenge by Yoko Ogawa. He’s been compared to Murakami, and I usually wouldn’t pick a book containing “Eleven Dark Tales,” so yay for variety.

29-30: Your picks

cat's cradleamerican gods

29). Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. A recommendation from The English Professor. I haven’t read a Vonnegut yet, and this should be fixed!

30). American Gods by Neil Gaiman. This one was recommended by Matt of The Little Engine that Couldn’t. Gaiman is hugely popular right now so I’ve kind of avoided his books, but that’s silly considering how much I enjoyed his novella Coraline.

Additional books NOT on this list that I read in 2014:

  • The Walking Dead: Compendium 2 – full review here
  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – full review here
  • The Preservationist by Justin Kramon – full review here
  • The Googlization of Everything by Siva Vaidhayanathan – full review here
  • Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler – full review here
  • Dreaming of Light by Jayne Bauling – full review here
  • Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (review forthcoming)
  • Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroch – full review here

Good luck to all those who have resolved to read more in 2014!

Photo credits:  GvL took the pretty bookstack photos. I made the collages in Photoshop & Powerpoint. 

20 thoughts on “30 books in 2014

  1. I love your list – I have a good number of those books on my to-read list as well. I actually bought Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee a couple of months ago. I’ve read so many good things about it. Will look forward to your reviews!

    1. It’s only rarely that I buy books, so the fact that you paid for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee sounds like a strong recommendation to me! I’m hoping to finish up the first book on my list this weekend so that I don’t get behind right away.

  2. Wounded Knee and Swamplandia are also in my pile of books to read! And don’t worry about Hemingway, I’ve got to 33 and still haven’t read any! I aim to change that though!

    1. Yeah I’d heard negative stuff about Hemingway’s writing style, but after all the prosaic stuff I’ve read his writing comes across as refreshing. I bet you’d like it! I’m really really excited about Swamplandia, too.

  3. Have you read Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go,” or Ian McEwan’s “Atonement”?
    I’ve been slacking on my reading, so I think I will set a goal for myself as well. It’d make a good New Year’s resolution.

    1. No, I haven’t read any of those! I read Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and found it very strange. I have a copy of “Atonement,” so I’ll read that if I finish everything else on this list! And I’ve heard many good things about “Never Let Me Go.” Yes – reading more is always a good thing!

  4. Have you read “The Great Gatsby”? Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle, ” John Irving’s “A Prayer for Owen Meany” are good ones. I don’t know what particular genre interests you, or if you want to read some of the classics like Dickens or delve into Shakespeare. The most frustrating thing for me is to walk into a library or a bookstore and realize I will never be able to read even half their contents. I have a long list of reading material for your future lists if you are interested.

    1. Yes, I’ve read “The Great Gatsby” twice! And “A Prayer for Owen Meany” was wonderful and tragic. I haven’t read a Vonnegut, though, so I will happily add “Cat’s Cradle” to the list. (I have a lot of contemporary fiction on my list, so I could use a book written a while ago). I am not much of a Dickens fan (shocking, I know) and as for Shakespeare, I feel like I’ve already read most of his more exciting works in school (e.g., Macbeth – my favorite). But yes, more suggestions are always welcome!

      I certainly empathize with your frustration re: bookstores and libraries. I, too, feel frustrated by the fact that I’ll never read all the books I’d like to. At the same time, I find it comforting to know that there will always be excellent literature waiting for me. 🙂

  5. I like that you set a realistic goal. I’d recommend a book, but (sigh) my reading list would bore nearly anyone. It starts with A Practical Guide to the Qualitative Dissertation, digresses into Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes and get worse as I go on. Enjoy your reading!

    1. I am almost certain I’ve read part of Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes for my–you guessed it–Ethnographic Methods in Anthropology class. So your choices are not boring to me! But I already have a couple of Anthro picks on the list (The Politics of Inclusion and Skull Wars) so I think that should satisfy me for this year!

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