A Review of Reading/Literary Highlights of 2014

An extra long post!  As a follow up to the previous yearsposts on analysis of the year of highlights: in 2014, I had a total of 60 books read, this was probably the least I’ve read since I started counting what I read since 2009 (and I started the count late that year, so it’s not like I can say whether 60 is least at all for me).

A breakdown of the reading list of 2014: 5 literary fiction; 4 children’s lit; 18 comics/graphic novels; 4 memoirs (5 counting Congressman John Lewis’ March); 3 on writing; 3 on law (technically); 8 mystery/thriller; 2 philosophy; 2 spiritual (technically); 1 on living tips (technically); 2 poetry; 10 collection/anthology (not counting the comics/graphic novels); 4 comedy/satire books 39 fiction and 19 non-fiction (not counting the 2 poetry).  21 ebooks.  2 or 3 were rereads.  5 were books for book club.  On, and a list of incomplete reads (for any number of reasons, and I’m hardly going to list the incomplete books, since I gave up trying to keep track of that).

Thanks to the Brooklyn and New York Public Libraries for the majority of the books read (as usual).

I was surprised by how much comics/graphic novels ended up on the list, most of which I read simply because they were available from the library and I was curious to see what they were and if they were any good (mixed reaction, really).   I really enjoyed Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, a great read, which went along with my reading of writing books, which lead to this year’s NaNoWriMo project of writing a sort-of superhero story.

I really binged on ebooks during the middle of the year, to the point that it was probably unsurprising that I haven’t exactly gotten back to my Nook by the end of the year (well, NaNoWriMo was, as usual, a big disruption to my usual reading).

It turned out that 2014 was not the year in which I finally read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, or Umberto Eco’s In the Name of the Rose, as much as I was hoping to do last January.  I also didn’t get to Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, even though it somehow was the top of a pile at one point.  And, unfortunately, Linda Greenhouse’s Becoming Justice Blackman was unfinished in 2014, but hopefully will be finished in 2015 (I can’t be that terrible).

Another Barnes & Noble close occurred in 2014, in the form of the closing of the old flagship store.  There was also the closing of Rizzoli.

I really enjoyed the appearance of Congressman John Lewis at Strand, promoting the graphic novel, March, Book 1, which he co-wrote with Andrew Aydin, one of his aides.  Hopefully, Book 2 will come out soon.  With the movie Selma out, there are a lot of ways to explore and re-examine the Civil Rights Movement, and the timing could not be better.

I got sad (and continue to be sad) about not keeping up with the technology of e-reading, as Barnes & Noble discontinued the Simple Touch.  I also increased buying books from Strand.

2014 was the year that I finally read a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold.  Such a fascinating book.  (unfortunately, 2014 was also the year during which Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away).

2014 was also the year of the passing of Maya Angelou.  There was also the passing of Eric Hill, the author and illustrator of the Spot the Dog series; author PD James; the passing of Norman Bridwell, the author and illustrator of the Clifford the Big Red Dog series; and the passing of many others that I gave some pause outside of this blog (including, but not limited to, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, and others).

I checked out the New York Public Library’s exhibits on The Beatles and on Sesame Street (see here and here on the promotions of the Sesame Street exhibit).

LeVar Burton’s Kickstarter project to get Reading Rainbow as a different kind of experiment for the 21st Century brought up a lot of thoughts.

The recent question of North Korea and hacking concerns reminded me of my reading Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son – a lot of confusion, fear, and absurdity (real or fiction?  Who knows anymore?).

I also read Oscar Hijuelos’ Empress of the Splendid Season; fascinating reading.  And other authors who I’m so glad to have finally read: Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven was a rich and moving read, and turned out to have been a balance to reading Larry Watson’s Montana 1948, a book on the questions of balancing law and morality in the immediate post-World War II Montana, from the late 20th century outlook and dry but poignant writing.

I attended the Brooklyn Book Festival (and did not resist getting books). I did post some photos from the Festival.

I read a bunch of fascinating memoirs in 2014.  I highly recommend Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book, The Sky is Not the Limit, to inspire and encourage minorities and women in pursuit of fields that they would not have pursued.  Vaclav Havel’s To the Castle and Back was an insightful read, as I notedThe Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In by Paisley Rekdal and The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese American From Number Two Son to Rock n’ Roll by Ben Fong-Torres were really fascinating for presenting different perspectives on Asian-American experiences.

Re-reading Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was a good time.

I’m glad to have attended what I could of the Moby Dick reading marathon and the reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe in November and December 2014.

I continued reading my favorites, of Batman and Nero Wolfe.  Batman: The Court of Owls was a strange read (if only because DC Comics’ New 52 made things feel a little off) and Batman: L’il Gotham was great fun (Dustin Nguyen’s playing with the Batman characters in the pre-DC Comics New 52 world).

Author Robert Goldsborough revisited the world of Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe, by covering how they met in Archie Meets Nero Wolfe – a fun but weird read, since Archie’s 1st person narration didn’t quite have a period feel of the 1930’s and he seemed older than he was (which, with Archie never aging beyond the age of 30, tends to happen, I think, even when Rex Stout wrote the series).  Rex Stout’s Over My Dead Body was a strange but funny read – the habits of Wolfe and Archie are thrown off the rails by the appearance of Wolfe’s long-lost (adopted) daughter, an adult whose secrets weren’t fully fleshed out (which also tends to happens with Stout’s works).

I closed out the year reading former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ Horoscopes for the Dead.  It was funny, poignant, and sometimes even profound.  Full of images and sound, words and feelings; Collins is one of my favorites, and I’m not much of a poetry reader. I was glad to have ended 2014 with this book.  On with reading in 2015!

(cross-posted at sswslitinmotion.tumblr.com)

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