What an absolutely fabulous year of reading it's been.
I launched this site in February, and it's been so much fun. Writing about the books I've read and loved has enhanced my reading pleasure in so many ways. As a lover of lists and statistics, I'm celebrating the end of this year of reading with a look back at some of my favorite titles and bookish experiences.
Ten Favorite Titles Read in 2014
No, not all of these books were published this year, but each one is a genius work of art and comes with my personal stamp of approval.
1. Margarettown by Gabrielle Zevin
This one broke my heart and put it back together all sloppy, but I'm so glad it did. One of the best love stories I've ever read. I'm not a big re-reader, but I'm sure I'll revisit this one many times in the future. Read the original post.
2. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
One of my favorite authors writing in one of my favorite genres--creative non-fiction. A collection of essays about Patchett's life and love. Great writing and deep personal insight. Read the original post.
3. The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
I have a hard time tearing myself away from all the glorious fiction out there to make time for non-fiction, but Kiernan's in-depth look at the personal stories of the women who worked to build the atomic bomb was fascinating and perfectly executed. I ended up seeking out more books on the topic because it so fully captured my interest. Read the original post.
4. The Secret Place by Tana French
Tana French is one of the best thriller writers out there, hands down, and I almost peed my pants when I was approved for an advance copy of her latest Dublin Murder Squad volume. This one is a bit of a departure from her other work, as the plot centers around a girls' boarding school, but French delves fearlessly into the tangled world of teenagers and takes her readers with her. Read the original post.
5. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman is both the nerdiest and sweetest leading man in my recent memory. This story of how a Sheldon Cooper-ish genetics professor sets out to find love warmed me all the way down to my toes (and there's a sequel too, in print now). Read the original post.
6. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
This book is about a lot of things, including Allie Brosh's self-deprecating and hilarious memories of herself as a child, but it includes the funniest and best-illustrated comic about depression you'll ever have the cathartic pleasure of reading. Read the original post.
7. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue is ridiculously talented, and I was enthralled by this story of a plucky, rough-around-the-edges prostitute searching for her friend's killer in 1870s San Francisco. (Right?! How's that for an original setup?) In my hopelessly biased opinion, this book didn't get nearly the attention it deserves. Read the original post.
8. The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
I had never heard of Rebecca Makkai before reading this book, but I'll be a devoted fan from here on out. Seriously, this layered, complex, generation-spanning tale is so stunningly good, I'll be first in line to read whatever she comes out with next. Read the original post.
9. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
This one deserved every bit of the hype it got. And then some. Mitchell's prose is just glorious, and the effortlessly incorporated sci-fi elements put it over the top. Read the original post.
10. Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville
My favorite book of the year. Criminally under-hyped and under-read. It makes no sense to me that this wasn't the WWII book that got all the awards attention (sorry, Doerr fans). Fairy tale elements, pitch-perfect characterization, and a gut-wrenching twist--it doesn't get better than this. Beautiful and heart-breaking in all the right ways. Read the original post.
Exciting Bookish Experiences
Beyond just the reading I did, I had several fun bookish experiences this year. Meeting Anne Lamott at a book signing was one of the highlights, awkward though it was. I also had the pleasure of attending a reading by National Book Award winner James McBride, which turned out to be more of a gospel concert/jam session. And just this month, I headed over to a local middle school and talked books with some fun and funny sixth graders.
Special Reading Events
We sponsored several group reading events here on the site, some more successful than others. I was surprised and pleased when a handful of readers joined me in plowing through Eliot's 19th century masterpiece Middlemarch (which turned out to be the oldest book I read this year!). My sweet and supportive husband Adam helped me journey through an entire Summer of Sci-Fi, and now I can claim that genre as one I genuinely enjoy. Unfortunately, the first annual LiterScary Challenge was a flop, as it turned out House of Leaves is one of the few books I hated this year. Oh well, better luck next year! (I predict a Stephen King selection, just to be on the safe side. No more big meta-fiction risks for me, at least for a while.)
171 Books, And Still Hungry For More
According to my bosom pal and invaluable tool Goodreads, in 2014 I read 171 books and 62,180 pages. I'm going to try really hard not to obsess about that number--I don't want to spend next December all freaked out that I've only read 130 books and trying to squeeze 50 more titles into my brain before the new year. I mean, reading is supposed to be fun, right? :)
Thanks to everyone who has supported Reading With Hippos in its inaugural year, whether by shopping our store, participating in Challenges, interacting with us on social media, or most of all, reading our recommendations. I hope we've led you to some great titles this year.
What was your favorite book you read this year? Comments are open below. I'd love to hear about your year of reading!
Happy New Year, and Happy Reading!