My Reading Year 2014

Here I go again, for the sorts of people who might be interested in this kind of thing. Also, since most of these were audiobooks I am using the words, "read" and "listen" interchangeably, as a shorthand for, "I have absorbed the content of this book in some form or another." If this bothers you, well, I think I know who you are. Anyhow, on we go!

Book I Read That I Liked Well Enough, But Was Glad When it Was Over 
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tart

I’m not sure how I feel about this book, exactly. Greatly enjoyed it in parts, got fed up in others, and breathed a sigh of relief when I was finally done. Overall I would describe reading it as a stressful experience, one that put you into the same frame of mind as the mind-bogglingly unfortunate protagonist.  

That said, I think the whole tome was worth it for this paragraph alone.

Best Book I Read that Came out in 2014
Thunderstruck, by Elizabeth McCracken. Stories that capture loss oh-so-perfectly. And leave you hungry for more. 

Best Book I Read That Did Not Come Out in 2014
The Pale King, David Foster Wallace. For many reasons, this one hit home. And it had several moments that left me laughing hysterically on the Metro and causing fellow passengers to look at me funny. 

Best Art Book
The Art of Richard Thompson (see my gushing here). 

Best Revisiting Childhood
Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary 

I'm always going back to my favorite children's books from time to time, just because. A few months ago I stumbled on Dear Mr. Henshaw in the used bookstore, and read so much of it I finally decided to pony up the $4 and buy it. This book is sadder reading it as an adult but it also makes you remember certain truths about being a kid that seem worth carrying in the back of your mind, like the way a compliment by a well-respected adult could have you glowing for days.

Book I Felt Kind of Guilty About Abandoning, Then Didn't When I Read Nabokov Wasn’t a Fan Either. 
Crime and Punishment, Fydor Dostoevsky. 
Says Nabokov: "Dostoevsky is not a great writer, but a rather mediocre one-with flashes of excellent humor, but, alas, with wastelands of literary platitudes in between." 

From   Truth is Fragmentary  , by Gabrielle Bell

From Truth is Fragmentary, by Gabrielle Bell

Books I Abandoned Without Regret
The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud, and Us, by David Nichols.
Like most people, my first reaction when abandoning books is to say, 'I didn't like the characters.' Which is always true, but also never the real reason the book isn't doing it for me. It's more that the characters didn't inspire curiosity; I didn't care what they'd do next, and didn't want to spend any time with them; their reactions to their situations were too dull/predictable/implausible. Which is mostly what happened here. 

Best Comics 
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast, a comic memoir I picked up on a whim and devoured in under 24 hours. This is a funny, brutal account of the complications that arise dealing with aging parents, all the more horrifying for how clear-eyed it is. 

I also read Gabrielle Bell’s Truth is Fragmentary on a trip to Istanbul, which wound up being the perfect thing to read when bopping around a foreign land by yourself.

Worst Movie Adaptation from a Much-Loved Novel
Please please please never watch the movie version of A Long Way Down, especially if you’re like me and adore the book. It pained me to turn off a film starring Aaron Paul and Toni Collette after fifteen minutes, but I couldn't bring myself to watch more than that.  

Classics that I Probably Should've Already Read by Now, But Hadn't 
Last year it occurred to me that I hadn’t read anything published earlier than 1999, so I tried to get better about finishing books that have actually stood the test of time. My favorites: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Nine Stories, Raise the High Roofbeam Carpenters / Seymour: an Introduction by J.D. Salinger. I also may have been the only person who hadn't read Of Mice and Men in middle school, so I did. And then it made me cry on the bus.  

Anything you read this year you recommend? As always, let me know in the comments, or become my friend on Goodreads
 

My Reading Year: 2013

Bookshelf - Dana Jeri Maier

I realize this is probably only interesting to a handful of people and has little to do with art, save the fact that I listened to a good number of these while drawing. But for fellow readers, here you are. And please note I'm using the word "read" interchangeably with "listen to" since most of these books were audio versions, except for the comics, obviously, and a few I read on my Kindle. (If you are the sort of person who thinks that audiobooks don't count as reading, well, I have nothing to say to you.) Looking at this I am wondering if it might be good for my psyche to read a book that came out before 1996, but I guess I'm a sucker for modern fiction. Plus anything at all by Lionel Shriver.

Best books I read that came out in 2013 Big Brother, by Lionel Shriver My Dirty Dumb Eyes, by Lisa Hanawalt Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, by David Rakoff (though the illustrations accompanying the print version seemed to counter the tone of the poetry) The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, by Adelle Waldman

Two Lionel Shriver short stories I read this year were excellent: Kilifi Creek, in the November 25 New Yorker (probably one of the most memorable things I've read all year), and Prepositions, about the subtle difference between what it means to die on 9/11 rather than in 9/11.

Best books I read that did not come out in 2013 Half Empty, by David Rakoff Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems, by David Rakoff Fraud, by David Rakoff Tenth of December, by George Saunders An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken 21 Dog Years, by Mike Daisey Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walters I Don't Care About Your Band, by Julie Klaunsner A Perfectly Good Family by Lionel Shriver (I am two books away from being a Lionel Shriver completist, people!)

I finished Infinite Jest on Saturday (started in June), and am currently listening to the footnotes. This is a lot more interesting than it sounds.

Books I did not finish I abandoned The Wisdom of Psychopaths, Silver Linings Playbook, Lost Memory of Skin, The Good Nurse, This is How, Benediction, Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!, and The Creationists. I feel vaguely guilty about not finishing the last two, but not enough to revisit them.

Comics Comic-wise I read Paying for It by Chester Brown (an autobiographical comic that somehow managed to make a year of sleeping with prostitutes boring and self-congratulatory), Heads or Tales by Lili Carre, and The Infinite Wait by Julia Wertz. I'm pretty sure Paying for It would be much more interesting if the plot stayed the same but the book was written and illustrated by Lisa Hanawalt.

Book I was surprised to like as much as I did Lean In got a lot of flack for offering contradictory work-life balance advice (and yes, the phrase 'work-life-balance' definitely go off into a corner and die). But it also contained some of the most eye-opening statistics about women in the workplace, and how they often shoot themselves in the foot by underestimating or downplaying their abilities. I felt a very reassured and less alone after reading this, and genuinely wish it had been around for me to pick up five years ago.

Book I was surprised not to like I wasn't a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, despite it getting rave reviews (though to be fair, the only fantasy books I've ever gotten into in my life have been the Harry Potter series). But I will say that Gaiman is an excellent audiobook narrator.

Books I read that I enjoyed, but didn't feel like shouting from the rooftops re: how much I liked them or anything Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, Gone Girl, The Cuckoo's Calling and Me Before You

For books I read in 2012 and earlier you can refer to an old flowchart I made, or become my friend on GoodReads.