2014 in Books


My year in books:

Book Goal: 30
Books Read: 39 (well, 38, but I’m on track to finish my 39th, Gary Shteyngart’s memoir “Little Failure” by Wednesday)
Books Set in/About Paris: 15
Favorite Book(s): “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman, and “An Object of Beauty” by Steve Martin (read for the second time).
Least Favorite(s): “An Extraordinary Theory of Objects” by Stephanie La Cava. Utter drivel that never made any sort of narrative sense. Thankfully it was short. “The Circle” by Dave Eggers. Conscious style choice or not, the book read like a 5th grader wrote it.
Longest Book: “Paris” by Edward Rutherfurd, 832 pages. Runner up: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, 784 pages.
Shortest Book: “Babylon Revisted, And Other Stories” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 94 pages
Funniest: “In a Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson, and “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain
Saddest: “The Paris Architect” by Charles Belfoure (fiction). A French architect in Nazi-occupied Paris during WWII builds hiding places for Jews. Achingly sad.
Books That Belonged to My Dad: 3 (“Down and Out in Paris and London”, “The Sun Also Rises”, and “Einstein’s Dreams”)
Books Bought in European bookshops: 6 (Paris: “Babylon Revisited”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “The Innocent Libertine” by Colette, “The Haunted Bookshop” by Christopher Morley, “The Secret Diary of Adrien Mole, Aged 13 3/4”, bought for me by this lovely lady. From Greece: “The Da Vinci Code”)
Prettiest Covers: (Oh, don’t judge. You know this matters to you, too.) “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter, and “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan, because the latter GLOWS IN THE DARK (!!)
Most Overrated: “Bridget Jones’s Diary”, “The Goldfinch”, and “White Teeth”

I already have a long “To Read” list for 2015, though I don’t think I’ll participate in a challenge on Goodreads again next year. It sapped some of the fun from reading, knowing I had to chug through a book (or books) that I otherwise would have shelved without guilt, just to add to my goal. If I can average two books a month, I’ll be happy.

What did you read this year of note?

31 thoughts on “2014 in Books

  1. Hi

    Most Overrated: … “The Goldfinch”, and “White Teeth”:
    I am really happy to read that others actually find these two books overrated. Took me several attempts to get through the first one:)

    As usual, great blogging Erin!

    1. Hi Annette! Glad to hear I’m not alone with those two. It took a lot for me to get through “The Goldfinch.” I stopped enjoying it very, very early in. xo

  2. I have a post like this in waiting myself. Great minds and all. I finally read The History of Love this year too!!! It’s been on my self for about 10 years. I’m glad I finally got around to it. How did you like the cuckoos calling? I bought it about a year ago, but when I found out it was JKR I felt really irritated and never read it.

    Oh, The Goldfinch, I still don’t think it was overrated, but I hear more people say this than not. And usually I am on the side of people crying ‘overrated’ (tinkers! ah, that book pretty much just sucked). For this one I know the part that I hear most people complain about is his youth in Vegas, that it was too long, unrealistic. But for me, it actually reminded me a lot of my youth, and while those years were just as short as they are now, they felt looooong. The definitely felt like hundreds of pages. If I wrote a biography I bet the biggest part would be then too. So I think that was the point (maybe?). But I could see where people just didn’t like the book. Obviously I am not one of them ;)

    1. I actually didn’t like “The History of Love” all that much! I did like “Cuckoos Calling” even though it wasn’t striking literature. The mystery was really well done and it was an easy read. But I bought it long after it was announced J.K. had written it, and I’m sure I’m biased towards her writing ;)

      I know I’m in the minority when it comes to “The Goldfinch,” but I just read “The Secret History” a few months ago and liked that book a lot more. But there are major noticeable similarities between the two; she has a set of character archetypes she clearly likes to stick to, and after having read “Secret History,” I’m more convinced than ever that “The Goldfinch” stunk. It was a re-packaged set of characters in a new environment (and yes, the Vegas years killed me from boredom). I like Tartt’s writing, just not “The Goldfinch.” xo

  3. Awesome list and well done on surpassing your goal! My No. 1 pick is “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton which I think you’ll love.

    It’s funny, I really enjoyed “The Secret History”, but as we’ve spoken about before “The Goldfinch” was pure drudgery at times. I expected so much more from “The Circle.”

    Also, Anthony Bourdain, love.

    1. Thank you, Hillary! I actually bought “The Luminaries” in Santorini because they had it in paperback before it was released in the states (not realizing that book is still massive and I’d later regret buying it when it came to packing our suitcases, haha). I haven’t started it yet, but it’s on my list for 2015!

      “Pure drudgery” describes it perfectly. Just because she can write doesn’t mean everything needed to be included, you know? I really felt like “The Goldfinch” didn’t even have an editor. If that is what came out of editing, I am terrified to imagine the mind-numbing dullness that was included in the original manuscript. And again, I loved “The Secret History”! That was a great read.

      How can anyone not love Anthony Bourdain?? xo

  4. You read all of these books, wrote a blog, did your photography, had a full-time job, and a wedding! You have become Super Woman!

    1. Ha! I wouldn’t consider myself Super Woman, but while we’re on the topic, let’s not forget that I also moved abroad for two months and took French classes and worked on a novel. But who’s bragging? ;) xo

  5. Cool selection! So many books about Paris.
    I’ll have to read one of them…And yeah, I never really liked White Teeth.
    Greetings from Sweden!

    1. Hello, Mika! Or “Hej!” :)

      So many books about Paris, what can I say. I’m sure I’ll have just as many (if not more!) next year. I enjoyed parts of “White Teeth,” but overall it felt like a lot of try-hard, show-off-y, “look what I can do!” writing. Which spoils pretty quickly. xo

    1. I have four bus rides a day (two to work and two home) that give me ample reading time. I don’t think I would be nearly as productive on my reading list if I didn’t have that commute! xo

  6. Une très belle sélection des livres Erin ! C’est impressionnant! L’unique chose que je lis en ce moment c’est le magazine “Elle” chaque semaine ! Je n’ai pas le temps mais je crois que ça sera une bonne résolution pour l’année prochaine ! Lire!! xo

    1. J’aime lire les livres, depuis j’etais jeune. Si tu lis un livre chaque mois, ce sera une bonne résolution! Tu peux lire avec tes enfants! xo

  7. That’s quite the list! I had a goal to read one book a month this year and I think I ended up with a total of 13… so I made it! Though I was hoping for more. I agree with your analysis of The Goldfinch (I think we have had this talk before…) and I enjoyed Kitchen Confidential, and the perspective of Bringing Up Bebe, but otherwise I haven’t read anything else on this list!

    1. That’s not bad! 13 is something to be proud of. I am just happy that people still read, haha. Goodreads has renewed my faith in our society’s literacy. :) I read “Bringing Up Bébé” super prematurely, as I am no where near having a bébé, but I really enjoyed it. What did you read this year? I always need new suggestions! xo

      1. I’ve been meaning to do a books-read update! Seeing this post got my head back in the game. I’ll post about them all soon! I read some good ones :)

  8. I’m so glad you posted this. I see a few favorites like Z and Einsteins a Dreams (I have two copies of Einstein!) and others I’ve thought of buying. It’s a great list to reference! And you are so inspiring with how many books you read per year. Xo

    1. Ha, I have two copies of “An Object of Beauty” and “Paris,” one each in hardcover and one paperback copy that I actually read. The hardcovers just look prettier on my shelf ;) xo

  9. Einstein’s Dreams is one of my favourites and I’m running out of copies because I keep handing them out to different people. Happy reading in 2015!

    1. It’s such an amazing book, I can’t blame you for hanging out copies! That’s the kind of gospel I think we should be spreading. xo

  10. In 2014, I liked “On Beauty” by Zadie Smith, “Just Kids” by Patti Smith, and “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (still reading it but getting closer to its end so I’ll consider it a 2014 book ;)).

    I’m curious about “White Teeth” and, because I enjoyed “On Beauty”, I’d like to give it a try. But I also take my sweet time in finishing a book these days, so it’ll likely be a little while before I get to it. I also think it’s good to change it up with genres and authors, which is why I’ll delay reading it for a bit. Refreshing to hear honest views on books. I’m impressed by how many books you’ve read this past year!

    By the way, Erin, do you recommend any French-language books? I’m trying to read more in French. As a Canadian and former Montrealer, I tend to read mostly Elle Quebec these days. ;)

    1. Hi, Vanessa! I have to say, I was wholly underwhelmed by “White Teeth,” but that might have been a combination of how much praise it has received continuously (too much) and the 14 intervening years since it was published. It just read as very first-time-novelist to me, with so many “Look what I can do!” moments and a lot of snide author asides, where she would break the narrative to say things like, “Now, let’s review,” or something similar, and then launch into a bulleted list of events or something. It was strange. I also didn’t relate or feel empathy for any of the characters, and there are a lot of them.

      But really, don’t let me deter you from reading it! It was assigned for the book club a few friends and I have, and mine was the minority opinion. Clearly it’s received all this praise for a reason, but it was lost on me personally. Doesn’t mean you won’t like it! Especially if you liked her other book.

      And I wish I were advanced enough to read any French books, but the only things I can hack just yet is Elle Decoration France (my husband got me a subscription!) and my French textbook. One day, though! I do have a book that belonged to my dad, that has facing pages of the same story in English and in French, so you can read side-by-side. It’s similar to this book. Joyeux lire! xo

  11. Merci Erin! Ooh by the sounds of it, I may have a similar experience with_White Teeth_ then…Knowing my reading speed these days, I may only get to it in 2016 (or beyond)… ;) The book that you have from your Dad sounds lovely.Magazines are definitely the way to go! Short and sweet articles. I would like to eventually read Vietnamese-Quebecois writer Kim Thuy’s_Ru_ thought (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/ru-by-kim-thuy/article545169/)

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