Every Book I Read in 2014

Before we get too far into 2015, I thought I’d do a quick roundup of everything I read in 2014. It was a slow reading year for me; there were months in which I failed to finish a single book. But I did read a lot of things that I liked. (And one or two things that I really hated!)

I wrote about many of these books during the past year on this blog. (Here are reviews from January-March, April-June, and July-September.) If you’ve also read any of the below, hit me up. I’m far too lazy (i.e. nervous to share my honest opinions) to actually review all of the books I read, but I will always make time to talk about them.

Top Five Novels
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Hild by Nicola Griffith
A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Novels I Liked A Whole Lot
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Speedboat by Renata Adler
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
Faithful Place by Tana French
Friendship by Emily Gould
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Novels I Love That I Reread
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

Novels That I Didn’t Like As Much As I Hoped I Would
We Think the World of You by J.R. Ackerley
HHhH by Laurent Binet
Broken Harbour by Tana French
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Novels I Awarded Fewer Than Three Stars On Goodreads
Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson
Chronicle of A Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Memoirs I Loved (Only One of Which Is Not A Graphic Memoir)
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart

Actual Graphic Novels
Black Hole by Charles Burns
Berlin, Vol. 2: City of Smoke by Jason Lutes

Three Non-Fiction Books (One I Loved, One I Really Liked, One I Liked)
Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama From the Golden Age of American Cinema by Anne Helen Petersen
Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild Obsessive Hunt For the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich 
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

 

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Songs of 2014

It’s mid-December, which means it’s time for me to share my favorite songs of the year. There are 75 here. That seemed like a manageable number. For variety’s sake, I only included artists once (unless they were featured on another artist’s song I liked, in which case I allowed them to be included again, because I like to make things complicated). I did include one cover – ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ – because I listened to it so much that I couldn’t resist. Also, there’s at least one song that was released in 2013 here. You can blame PC Music, which I became deeply obsessed with this spring, for that.

All songs are linked below. I’ve also created a Spotify playlist and a Soundcloud playlist (for songs not available on Spotify).

  1. A.G. Cook ft. Hannah Diamond: ‘Keri Baby’
  2. Beverly: ‘Honey Do’
  3. Alvvays: ‘Archie, Marry Me’
  4. Taylor Swift: ‘Blank Space’
  5. Angel Olsen: ‘White Fire’
  6. Tinashe ft. ScHoolboy Q: ‘2 On’
  7. Ryn Weaver: ‘OctaHate’
  8. Sun Kil Moon: ‘Ben’s My Friend’
  9. Fear of Men: ‘Descent’
  10. Yumi Zouma: ‘The Brae’
  11. Dreamtrak: ‘Odyssey, Pt. 2 (A.G. Cook Remix)’
  12. Cymbals Eat Guitars: ‘Warning’
  13. Lana Del Rey: ‘Brooklyn Baby’
  14. Jessie Ware: ‘Champagne Kisses’
  15. SOPHIE: ‘Lemonade’
  16. Caribou: ‘Can’t Do Without You’
  17. A Sunny Day in Glasgow: ‘In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing)’
  18. Kero Kero Bonito: ‘Sick Beat’
  19. Jessica Pratt: ‘Back, Baby’
  20. Swick & Lewis Cancut ft. Tkay Maidza: ‘Wishes’
  21. Doss: ‘Softpretty’
  22. Leon Bridges: ‘Coming Home’
  23. EMA: ‘So Blonde’
  24. Hannah Diamond: ‘Every Night’
  25. How To Dress Well: ‘Words I Don’t Remember’
  26. QT: ‘Hey QT’
  27. Rustie ft. Danny Brown: ‘Attak’
  28. Allie X: ‘Catch’
  29. Young Thug ft. A$AP Ferg & Freddie Gibbs: ‘Old English’
  30. Julia Holter: ‘Don’t Make Me Over’
  31. Grimes ft. Blood Diamonds: ‘Go’
  32. TOPS: ‘Outside’
  33. Katie Rush ft. Samantha Urbani: ‘Dangerous Luv’
  34. Perfect Pussy: ‘Interference Fits’
  35. Thee Oh Sees: ‘Encrypted Bounce’
  36. Panda Bear: ‘Mr. Noah’
  37. tUnE-yArDs: ‘Wait For A Minute’
  38. Ariana Grande ft. Zedd: ‘Break Free’
  39. Future ft. Pharrell, Pusha T & Casino: ‘Move That Dope’
  40. Saint Pepsi: ‘Baby’
  41. GFOTY: ‘Bobby’
  42. Frankie Cosmos: ‘Birthday Song’
  43. Shura: ‘Just Once’
  44. Becky G: ‘Shower’
  45. Drake: ‘0 to 100 / The Catch Up’
  46. Charli XCX: ‘Boom Clap’
  47. Sales: ‘Getting It On’
  48. Tink ft. Jeremih: ‘Don’t Tell Nobody’
  49. Shamir: ‘On the Regular’
  50. Lapsley: ‘Station’
  51. FKA twigs: ‘Two Weeks’
  52. Ex Hex: ‘Don’t Wanna Lose’
  53. Wye Oak: ‘Glory’
  54. You’ll Never Get to Heaven: ‘Caught in Time, So Far Away’
  55. Marissa Nadler: ‘Drive’
  56. Shabazz Palaces: ‘Forerunner Foray’
  57. Redinho: ‘Playing With Fire’
  58. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks: ‘Little Fang’
  59. Dum Dum Girls: ‘Too True To Be Good’
  60. Grouper: ‘Clearing’
  61. Sinead Harnett: ‘No Other Way (Ryan Hemsworth Remix)’
  62. Tomas Barfod ft. Nina K.: ‘Pulsing’
  63. Spoon: ‘Do You’
  64. Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne: ‘Rather Be’
  65. Billie Black: ‘I Don’t Need Another Lover’
  66. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: ‘Simple and Sure’
  67. Snakehips ft. Sinead Harnett: ‘Days With You’
  68. ScHoolboy Q: ‘Break the Bank’
  69. Real Estate: ‘Talking Backwards’
  70. ILoveMakonnen: ‘Club Goin’ Up On A Tuesday’
  71. Zola Jesus: ‘Dangerous Days’
  72. Cloud Nothings: ‘Psychic Trauma’
  73. Cam’ron / A-Trak ft. Juelz Santana & Dame Dash: ‘Dipshits’
  74. Sharon Van Etten: ‘Our Love’
  75. White Lung: ‘Face Down’

***

Every Book I’ve Read So Far This Year (And Whether Or Not You Should Read Them, Too), Part Three

I think the last time I wrote one of these, I was lamenting my lack of motivation to read anything. I’ve felt much more motivated during these past few months, though I continue to acquire more books than I can or am willing to get through. Since July, my life has been all peaks and valleys and nothing really in between. That sort of unsteadiness has not made reading easy, but I’ve been trying! I promise. (Not that literally anyone cares how many books I get through in a calendar year besides me.) Anyway, here are the books I’ve read during the last three months and why I think you might – or might not – like to read them too. 

***

July

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

What’s it about?

A group of friends – “the Interestings” of the title – who meet at a summer camp for the arts in the seventies grow up. The novel follows them across decades, as their ambitions, talents, and class shape their lives and relationships with one another.

Did I like this book?

Yes. I thought some of the story was a bit clunky, but I generally found it hard to put down.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yeah! If you’re like me, someone who has been classified as “creative” since childhood, and have struggled with what you’re supposed to do with that creativity and the ambitions and expectations that go along with it, then I definitely think this is worth reading.

Friendship by Emily Gould 

What’s it about?

Two female friends in New York struggle with their relationship when one discovers that she’s pregnant. 

Did I like this book?

Yup! I remember reading it on the couch one afternoon, thinking about canceling plans because I didn’t want to stop reading. It also made me laugh out loud a few times, which is always a good sign.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

One thing I loved about Friendship was how well it portrayed modern female relationships within a certain demographic. Of course, that demographic happens to be my own, which is I’m sure why I related to it. I wouldn’t say you need to be a white, Brooklyn-dwelling woman in her late twenties to enjoy it, but it might appeal to you more if that is the case. 

Faithful Place by Tana French

What’s it about?

Detective Frank Mackey, who appeared in French’s The Likeness, discovers that the woman he thought might have run off on him years ago may never have left their poor Dublin neighborhood at all. When Rosie Daly’s suitcase is found in an abandoned house, Mackey returns to the neighborhood and the family he left behind decades ago to investigate her disappearance.

Did I like this book?

This one is definitely up there with The Likeness, which was previously my very favorite Tana French book.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes, definitely. I love this series and would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery. And in this case, a good family drama. 

Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich 

What’s it about?

Petrusich explores the small and fanatical community of 78 collectors and the stories behind the music they love. 

Did I like this book?

I loved it. I’ve been obsessed with reading about these collectors and famous 78s since I first discovered The Anthology of American Folk Music – compiled by Harry Smith, from his extensive collection of 78s – when I was in college.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Sure, if you’re big into American cultural history or the origins of American music or record collecting. Or if you just want to read some well-written creative non-fiction.

*** 

August

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

What’s it about?

Everything you ever wanted to know about Scientology. From the story behind L. Ron Hubbard to Tom Cruise, Going Clear does not disappoint. 

Did I like it?

Yes. This book was completely impressive in its scope. And was extremely well-written. 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

If you’ve ever wondered about Scientology, are interested in belief systems and modern religion, or enjoy reading The New Yorker, yes.

*** 

September

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

What’s it about?

This ambition novel alternates between the stories of Marie-Laure, a blind Parisian girl, and Werner, a German orphan, in the years leading up to and during the Second World War. We learn at the beginning that both end up trapped on the French island of Saint-Malo while it’s under siege and it takes the rest of the book to find out how and why they got there.

Did I like it?

Oh my God, I loved it. So, so much. I’ve talked about my obsession with historical fiction here before, so this shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes. This was one of my favorites – if not my favorite – this year. It’s cleverly crafted and the prose is gorgeous. I think the imagery from this book will stick with me for a long time.

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

What’s it about?

A group of children are kidnapped by pirates when their ship traveling from Jamaica to England is captured.

Did I like it?

This was a reread for me, so yes. I’m a big Richard Hughes fan. 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

This book isn’t for the faint of heart. Disasters, abuse, and murder abound. However, Hughes’ examination of the child’s psyche is, to me, incredible and makes A High Wind in Jamaica well-worth reading.

Every Book I’ve Read So Far This Year (And Whether Or Not You Should Read Them, Too)

Finally! The first quarter of the year has passed and I can share the first of my reading roundups. I did not, as I had anticipated, start this year in reading off with a bang. It’s been hard for me to keep my usual pace, but I was able to get through a bunch of books, some of which I’ll recommend that you read!

JANUARY

hild

Hild by Nicola Griffith

What’s it about?

Hild is a historical novel, the imagined story of St. Hilda of Whitby, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who became instrumental in converting England to Christianity during the 7th century.

Did I like this book?

Yes. It wasn’t a page-turner, but it’s one of the best examples of historical fiction I’ve encountered in a while. I was really impressed with the period details and the amount of research that undoubtedly went into this book.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

I’ve encountered few characters as complex and fascinating as Hild. She’s obviously the main event, but I think it’s worth noting that Griffith does an incredible job developing Hild. Also, the world of the Anglo-Saxons was not something I was intimately familiar with and I really enjoyed getting lost in Griffith’s imagining of it.

I highly recommend this novel to lovers of historical fiction or, even, fantasy, since the setting has a lot in common with something like The Mists of Avalon. 

***

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart

What’s it about?

This is about the life of Gary Shteyngart, author of novels such as The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Absurdistan, as told by Gary Shteyngart himself.

Did I like this book?

I did. I liked it more than his novels. I thought it was funny and touching and I wrote a little something about all that here.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

If you’ve read his other work and liked it, definitely! If you’re not a Shteyngart fan, I’d probably skip it. But if you’re neutral and also happen to be a writer looking for inspiration or just like funny memoirs, you should check it out.

***

FEBRUARY

Berlin: City of Smoke by Jason Lutes

What’s it about?

This is the second volume in a planned trilogy of graphic novels about Berlin during the Weimar Era. This chapter takes place after the 1929 May Day demonstration, picking up with main characters, art student Marthe Muller and journalist Karl Severing, in addition to several other Berliners. The focus here is not only on the tense political climate, but also on Berlin’s nightlife and party scene.

Did I like this book?

I didn’t like it as much as I liked the first volume, Berlin: City of Stone. (You should start with that one anyway.)

Should you read it? Why or why not?

If you’ve read the first volume, well, you’re probably going to read this eventually. I highly recommend reading the first volume to anyone who is interested in German culture, the Weimar period, or World War II, as I think Lutes does a really fantastic job of portraying what it was like to live in Berlin – across class, religion, gender, and race – in the decade before the war.

***

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel

What’s it about?

Bechdel explores her relationship with her mother and her understanding of herself through psychotherapy in this graphic memoir.

Did I like this book?

I loved this. Many of you may have read Bechdel’s Fun Home, which I liked very much when I read it. However, there were things about Are You My Mother? that I related to on a much deeper level, specifically the exploration of the mother-daughter relationship and the focus on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes. Especially if you’ve ever been in therapy for a significant period of time. Also if you’ve ever had a mother.

 

***

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

What’s it about?

This book, based on the blog of the same name, is a collection of graphic essays about cartoonist and writer Allie Brosh’s life.

Did I like this book?

As I had expected, this book made me laugh. It also made me feel a lot of other things, which I wrote about here. And Brosh’s ability to tell a story in her own unique way makes me feel not-a-little-bit jealous.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yeah! I mean, if you hate reading about someone struggling in the funniest way possible, don’t. But otherwise, yes.

***

MARCH

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

What’s it about?

This novella is the story of how a man was murdered in a Caribbean backwater.

Did I like this book?

I did not. I felt it was heavy-handed and surprisingly boring for a short book about murder. I wanted to think it was good, probably because of who wrote it, but…it was frankly a chore to get through and I’m pretty sure I only finished it because we read it for book club.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

No. For the reasons I stated above.

***

We Think the World of You by J.R. Ackerley

What’s it about?

Frank, a middle-aged London man, attempts to connect with his lover Johnny, a married, working class man who has been jailed for theft, by caring for his beloved dog Evie. In the process, he must navigate relationships with Johnny’s wife and mother and sort out his growing attachment to Evie.

Did I like this book?

Yes? I think. I read this while I was at jury duty on-and-off over three weeks because I was reading a non-fiction book at home, so I had kind of a slow and weird experience with this one.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone. I thought it was a bit difficult to get through and, at times, made me uneasy. But I think if the premise sounds interesting to you, you should give it a try.

***

Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson

What’s it about?

Oh, God. Okay. It’s about an elderly Chicago man, a Holocaust survivor named Ben Solomon, who decides that another elderly Chicago man, another Holocaust survivor who is a wealthy philanthropist named Elliot Rosenzweig, is actually a man he grew up with named Otto Piatek, a Nazi known as “the butcher of Zamosc.” From there, the reader experiences both a modern-day legal drama as Ben sues “Otto” over stolen property and the story of Ben’s experience during the Holocaust.

Did I like this book?

To be honest, this was one of the worst books I’ve read in a very long time, if not ever. It’s not all bad, but…much of it is. The way the story is told is ridiculous, as most of the stuff that takes place in the past is told in dialogue. Pages and pages of dialogue. Also, the history is super basic. (Like a character who is supposed to be smart asks what a ghetto is because she doesn’t know. And that’s just one offensive detail.) And I could have done without the legal drama, which seems jammed in here merely because the author was looking for a way to make this about the law, as he himself is a lawyer.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Nope. Don’t do it. If you find yourself wanting to pick it up, just call me and I’ll recommend another book. (Even another book in the same genre, if you want!)