It’s the time of year to assess one’s accomplishments and progress in the past 12 months, and today I’m sorry to admit I’ve read only 21 books in 2014.
I’m a writer after all, and good writers read. My goal was to read 57 books so I didn’t achieve even half my aspiration. I know this thanks to the Goodreads Reading Challenge which tracks my reading achievements meticulously. I also know I have 138 books marked “to read,” which symbolizes nearly seven years of reading at the rate I’m going.
So I need to step it up in 2015.
While I set some new goals, I’m sharing my favorite books from the past year so if you’re interested in adding to your already long reading list, here are some good ones.
I’m giving Honorable Mentions to two fiction books and one memoir:
“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn lives up to the hype. Reading the book is an experience. I saw the movie, too, and I have to appreciate Ben Affleck’s portrayal of a thoroughly unlikable guy, but the book is even better. Read with popcorn if necessary.
“The Middle Place” by Kelly Corrigan was the second-best memoir I read this year. Corrigan writes about cancer with humor, and I loved her nonlinear storytelling.
I chose only one fiction book and one memoir as my Best In Show reads this year, so “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt has to settle for an Honorable Mention, but I love this book so much I’m still carrying it around (and I mean that literally). The writing is descriptive in fresh ways, and the story is so satisfying. The only thing wrong with this book is the length, and that’s only a problem if you’re trying to read 57 books in a year. I still savored every word.
My Best In Show award for fiction goes to a fine book recommended by many friends who got to it sooner than I did: “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver has been around a while, but it’s still a marvelous read that raises real and important questions about the world while telling a compelling story. I’m reminded to read more Barbara Kingsolver.
Interestingly, like “The Poisonwood Bible” is set in the Congo, my Best In Show memoir is also set in an exotic locale: “A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story” tells the story of Afghanistan’s recent history while telling the personal story of memorist Qais Akbar Omar. I met him when he spoke at this year’s Association of Personal Historians annual conference, and the only thing better than his book is hearing him share his humor and earnestness in person.
In my review of “A Fort of Nine Towers” from my blog on memoirs and writing, I called it “a piece of literature, an enlightening historical and cultural document and a beautifully told story.” Even two months after finishing it, I remember how I wept when I closed the last page, so sorry the story had ended but relieved knowing Qais Akbar Omar was still living and creating more if his story. That’s a sign of a great memoir and book.
Have you read something amazing in 2014? I’m making my list for 2015, and I’d love to hear recommendations. Here’s to more good reads in the coming year.