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2014 Reading in Review

2014 was the year I gave up on the reading spreadsheet and decided to just let Goodreads sort out my reading. As a result, I don’t have fancy statistics to show, and this post has been a bit more difficult to write (and included me getting halfway through creating a new spreadsheet before giving up) but I decided to just go with it and highlight what I thought was worth it.

I didn’t manage 150 books, but 144 is a number I’m very happy with. My reading was mostly speculative fiction, with fantasy in particular dominating the books I chose for personal enjoyment. This year, that was most of them. My system of reading a review book and then a personal book got dropped, so although the “immediate” TBR pile still has a few of them in there, they seem to make up more like one of each six or seven books I read rather than every other book. I love the freedom of choosing whatever I like. It may have kept me away from reviewing, because of the guilt thing, but I missed reading whatever I felt like whenever I wanted. As a result of this I had an amazing time re-reading the October Daye series in (not coincidentally) October, along with lots of other books I chose myself. Although I felt like I did away with all of my rules as the year went on, I kept reading more books by authors of colour – the figure isn’t high, but the consistency is there, and I can and do plan to work on that balance in 2015. Mostly female authors, mostly fantasy of various kinds, that seems to be where I’m happiest in my reading life right now, and I’m okay with that.

My own personal reading highlights, reviewed and not reviewed:

Books

  • life after lifeEdward III and the Triumph of England by Richard Barber – review – perfect for my target period and really interesting besides (or so I would think!)
  • Life after Life by Kate Atkinson – review – I just loved this book. I loved the time travel aspect and the way it looked at how tiny events can result in huge life changes. I’ve recommended this to so many people this year and I don’t see that ending. I’m so excited for the follow-up, I just hope it’s as brilliant.
  • Cinder, Scarletand Cress by Marissa Meyer – these books completely captivated me. This was the first time in a long time that I stayed up too late reading, and I want more of that in my life. I was in London for work and read Cinder and Scarlet in one night (consuming a really amazing curry in the meantime). Never have I been so grateful for my ereader – and the meeting the next day still went well.
  • A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan – this hit just the right notes for me at the right time. Very anticipated and very enjoyable.
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki – I so wish I’d written about this book after I read it. I absolutely adored it and, like Life after Life, have gone about recommending it to everyone I know who reads books regularly.
  • The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – The only reason I haven’t read Blue Lily, Lily Blue yet is because I can’t bear the idea of waiting for the fourth book, and also because I think I want to read these two. So brilliant. Wish I’d written thoughts down (again).
  • We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – review – I’ll let my words speak for themselves this time.
  • americanahThe Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez – review – you can’t go wrong with either of Henriquez’s books.
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – mini review – I loved so much about this book. I’m glad I at least wrote something to express that.
  • Written in Red by Anne Bishop – this was a surprise to me. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. In some ways it reminded me of books I’d read when younger and I’m not sure I can articulate why I liked it so much. Maybe because I love closed-in communities and stories (boarding schools, spaceships, etc.) and this fit right in. I remember it really fondly and I’m looking forward to book 2.
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – review – a book I liked so much it inspired me to write about it. More of these in my life and no books I feel required to review and I might just become a blogger again.
  • My Notorious Life by Madame X by Kate Manning – review – One of only two historical fiction choices on this list, I was so unexpectedly pleased with this book that I had to include it. It is not only a good read, it feels important.

Authors

  • I love everything that the writing team of Ilona and Gordon Andrews produces. No questions. This year, I only read Clean Sweep, but trust me when I tell you I have a re-read of the Kate Daniels series planned this year.
  • Rainbow Rowell – Fangirl and Attachments this year. Love stories <3
  • Rachel Bach – I read the Paradox trilogy this year and loved Devi and her quest to save the universe. I have really high hopes for future writing from her.
  • Seanan McGuire – as I mentioned above, I read the entire October Daye series in a row before I read the latest installment and I loved doing it. I had forgotten so much about Toby’s earlier books and the way things changed. Plus, going back at this time was honestly perfect because the last book was a game changer and it became clear that McGuire laid the groundwork from day 1. Amazing.

2014 is also the year I blogged less than ever (since making a start), and I’ve not made my general malaise about writing much of a secret. I’m trying to remove requirements and write when I feel like it, about what I want. I am trying to remember this blog is for me – so often I only write about something if I have it for review or if it’s exceptional. I want to write a sentence about everything I read, even if it’s just I loved this and I think this is why, or why not. I want to make this into a hobby I enjoy again, because what I’ve learned with my haphazard year of blogging is that I don’t want it to end. I’m not a professional at this and I don’t need to be.

The same honestly goes for reading. I’d like to achieve more diversity, and I think the best way to do that is to continue making sure I’m reading diverse books every single month, like I did this year, but more of them. I’d like to read more non-fiction, but I think I can do that if I disregard my numerical targets. I have a lot of exciting non-fiction waiting for me, more than ever. I did put a numerical target in place – the same as last year, 150 books – more because I think that’s the amount I naturally read than a stretch. I just like having a number there.

I think I’ve stopped accepting review copies, too. I still get emails. I star them sometimes and think I’d like to read those books. But then I remember the pressure and I think, you know what, I’ll just buy it if I want to read it. I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy the books I really want to read, and in any case I have two bookcases full of books I haven’t read yet. No point adding to those.

In other aspects of my life, much of this year was great, and should go down as such in memory. We have made strides financially, professionally, and educationally. We saw the culmination of years of work and effort – our debt is gone and my husband completed the degree course he’s spent six years on with a first. I was promoted at the beginning of November and for once I’m not getting the two-year job change itch. I’d like to stay where I work. Personally, I rediscovered one of my favourite hobbies, which is crocheting, and although I may not have exercised enough this y ear, and really should do more in 2015, I am the same dress size as I was when I was 21 (albeit a bit tighter) but I will take that as a victory since it definitely hasn’t been the case for all of the years since then.

Nothing is ever perfect, and I don’t want to pretend it is; there are a few things going on which are not in the public eye and which I’d like to keep out of it. But this was, primarily, a good year for me and I’d like to remember it that way.

So, for 2015, let’s keep it simple. More of the good stuff, less of the pressure. No expectations or requirements, just goals. And we’ll see how we get on.

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