2014: My Year of Reading

Hello fellow bookworms. How was your reading year? I found 2014 to be such a good reading year personally, even better than previous years actually as I’ve realised that some of my reading habits seem to have changed a bit- whether consciously or unconsciously, though I am finding that to be the case from year to year now I am keeping a detailed track of everything I read.

I’m branching out and reading more classic novels and books that perhaps I mightn’t have considered previously- some based on the recommendations of friends and others because of reviews I have read online or seen in magazines. A few books because I’ve chanced upon one novel I enjoyed by that author and wanted to read more of their back catalogue. It’s been really fun broadening my literary horizons this past year and experiencing some new authors and genres, though I am still sticking to reading a lot of old reliable favourite authors too.

2014 shall also henceforth, be known as The Year of the Penguin. Oh yes, I collected some more of those bad boys and my Penguin Classics shelf is now growing exponentially. Hooray!  I also received just a “few” Penguins for Christmas from my parents and my other half! I’m a very lucky girl.

Christmas Books

So, I completed 253 books in the year. Of these, 24 were non-fiction which doesn’t seem like such a bad ratio- though I would certainly like to experience more non-fiction this year I think. My goal on Goodreads was actually to read 250 books in 2014, a somewhat modest total in comparison to previous year’s ambitions, but I did really want to read some longer books this year and thought this would allow for me squeezing those chunksters in there. It can sometimes take me days to get through a really in-depth piece of fiction and from what I can recollect, finishing Crime and Punishment took me almost two weeks way back in February (whilst reading it in conjunction with other lighter reads), as did The Woman in White, so there you go!  I also changed jobs part way through the year and being so busy cut into my reading time massively, so having a lower reading total was certainly a good thing in that respect, though I whizzed through quite a lot of novels whilst I was on holiday in September which boosted my total again by a significant amount.

I must say that I can’t really think of any absolutely terrible books I’ve picked up this year, having enjoyed the great majority of what I’ve read. But I do have some favourite books I experienced in 2014 (most of which weren’t published last year), which are as follows:

 A Fine Balance- Rohinton Mistry; oh woe. A book that seriously moved me to tears. This incredible story of two impoverished tailors set against the political upheaval of 1970’s India left me thinking about it for simply ages afterwards. It is bleak, yet also beautiful and wonderfully atmospheric. It truly pulled me right inside the storyline, almost to the extent where its remarkable characters actually felt like people I knew; I was truly sorry to finish this one. Happily, I received a couple more books by this author for Christmas, so I’m sure I will be reading them fairly soon. I only hope they are as memorable as this one.

The Girl with all the Gifts- M.R. Carey; a paranormal-fantasy novel with a real difference that has topped a lot of people’s favourite lists for 2014. I don’t want to say too much about this book for fear of spoiling it, but I loved this unusual read and the distinctive voices of its characters. You can read more about what I thought of it here.

The Signature of All Things- Elizabeth Gilbert; a bit of a marmite book this one by all accounts, but I listened to it in audio book format and really enjoyed it. It’s an epic story of love, faith, botany and family spanning almost a century; though by the finish it admittedly did feel a bit like it had gone on forever! I loved all of the intricate details and gorgeous descriptions woven into the storyline and fell in love with its cast of larger than life characters.

The Woman in White- Wilkie Collins; a classic that took me a long time to get through, but one that was certainly well worth the wait. Filled with tragic heroines, evil villains and romance, this is such a wonderful, atmospheric book.

Madame Bovary- Gustave Flaubert; probably my favourite classic novel to date- I adored Emma Bovary and learning about the ups and downs of her scandalous romantic life. Beautifully and engagingly written, I devoured this remarkable book.

A Man Called Ove- Fredrick Backman; this runaway Swedish bestseller is now quickly becoming an international literary phenomenon and deservedly so. I adored this wonderfully quirky book, filled with black humour and some utterly poignant situations and I also fell in love with Ove himself. I’m so glad Lovereading sent me a review copy!  On a particularly quiet day at work in my old job *ahem* I managed to read this book in one pleasurable sitting and then immediately wanted lots of other people I know to read it, just so we could talk about it. I then lent it to a colleague in said old job and have since never seen it again. Woe. Come back to me, Ove.

Angel-Elizabeth Taylor; no- not that one. This is the story of an aspiring author who becomes famous for her absolutely terrible books. Angel Deverell is really a memorable protagonist and I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful classic novel. I’ve read a few books by Elizabeth Taylor over the past couple of years and this is my favourite of hers so far.

The Casual Vacancy- JK Rowling; I finally got around to reading the first non-HP book by this author. I have loved her writing under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, so it was no surprise that I really enjoyed this realistic character-driven story too, set in the fictional town of Pagford. Bleak and depressing, it felt pretty true to life. It’s not hard to see why it divides opinion though- as suffice to say, it is the polar opposite of Hogwarts!

I Am Pilgrim- Terry Hayes; I adored this chunky thriller, which I read at the start of December. In fact, I could barely put it down. It’s sure to appeal to fans of Robert Ludlum with its fast pace and exciting, dramatic plot. This would make a cracking film, too.

Honourable mentions of some other cracking reads in 2014 must also go to The Dead Wife’s Handbook, a stellar debut by Hannah Beckerman and The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley. From both Lovereading and Netgalley, I have read some really terrific review novels this year and these were just a couple of them that stood out to me. I’ve also been sent some books directly by publishers this year- some I’ve enjoyed, others not so much, but I’ve certainly appreciated the experience and would like to thank anyone who has sent me these review copies.

Again, my reading has been more fiction-focused in 2014, just like it was in 2013. I did read some really good non-fiction reads this year though, mainly biographies or books about animals, medicine, true crime or travel, but for me it is pretty hard to immerse myself in non-fiction the same way that I do in fiction. That said, my favourite non-fiction reads were Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens- a very good book about wildlife research in Botswana- and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, which was a devastating story exploring idealism and faith in science and ethics. Both were pretty unputdownable. I’d wanted to read Henrietta Lacks for ages and was glad I finally had the opportunity as it taught me a lot.

At the end of 2013, (which seems like a very, very long time ago now!) I also made some literary resolutions to see me through this year. I’m actually pretty pleased as I did seem to stick to them for the most part- though regrettably I messed up on resolution number 3 and 4 by about March. It is impossible for any bookworm not to buy books. Fact. Happily, I was lucky enough to be gifted with a lot of books this year though, as well as receiving some review copies, so I didn’t spend anywhere near as much on novels as I usually do. After a Kindle breakdown in early June I also got the opportunity to read a lot of paperbacks that were waiting on my shelves, so I suppose some clouds do have a silver-lining after all.

I have continued reading more classics from the Guardian definitive list of books which has been a major achievement for me. I reckon I have completed just over 100 of these to date, which is pretty good going as I would like to have got through 300 of them by the time I hit 35 (in just over four years time!) so I seem on target for that, too- at least at the moment. In killing two birds with one stone, a lot of these reads were already books I had sat waiting on my shelves. Hurrah.

I’ve also managed to slow down my reading pace somewhat instead of ploughing my way through books at my usual warp speed. In doing this, I also read more chunky books which I enjoyed immersing myself in.

I didn’t actually have that many books that I couldn’t finish this year either- certainly less than 20, so that’s number 6 crossed off the literary resolutions list, too. I’m not sure if it’s because I am being more discerning about my choice of reads, but I’ve not tended to pick up that many bad books this year. I sometimes go through bouts of reading where no matter what I pick up, I don’t enjoy it and it gets put back on the shelf for a second attempt later on. I think this happened once in February and again later in the year when I couldn’t bring myself to finish The Count of Monte Cristo, but that’s about it. Probably that’s partially just down to me having too many books and not being quite sure of what I’m in the mood for reading next! Bookworm problems.

I won’t be setting any new literary resolutions for this year, or at least ones that are worth documenting. We have our wedding in early May (eeek!) closely followed by our mini-moon and I’m expecting to be quite busy until then, so I’m not even going to set a reading goal for 2015 either. I figure that whatever I have the time to pick up in the next five months will be a bonus! I’m certainly expecting to have less time to review too, but we’ll see.  Not setting goals takes away some pressure, which is nice.

As far as my reading goes, I’m planning on keeping reading more classic novels and chunkier tomes and trying authors I haven’t read before. I won’t even try to promise not to buy as many books next year, because let’s face it: that is never going to happen!

On the personal resolutions front, I’m delighted that my weight loss has steadily continued last year, after hitting a plateau part way through, which was a bit discouraging for a while. I’ve shed nearly three and a half stone in the past eighteen months and am firmly on track to hit and maintain my goal weight for my wedding day. It’s a bonus that I will feel nice in my dress, but for me the main thing is that I look-and feel- so much healthier now and miraculously, I’ve even learned to love exercise. I genuinely admire people who are happy and confident in their own skin no matter their size, but I never actually liked myself when I was bigger. Now that I have made permanent changes to my lifestyle, I hope I will have a longer, happier and healthier future.  I have read quite a few blogs already this year when bloggers are talking about their own resolutions for 2015 and weight loss and dieting seems to be top of most agendas. Take it from me- you can do it! If I can lose the weight, then anybody can. As for me?  I’m setting no more personal resolutions this year, other than (fingers crossed) continuing to remain healthy and active and spending more time with my family and friends.

How was your reading year? Are there any amazing books you would like to recommend?

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2 responses to “2014: My Year of Reading

  1. I’ve had a copy of A Fine Balance on my shelf for years but haven’t yet read it. I really need to. I also have a copy of The Girl with All the Gifts yet to be read. A Man Called Ove is one I really hope to read this year. I gave my mother-in-law a copy for her birthday this past year and it was her favorite book of the year.

    I loved The Women in White–such a good book. It’s been years since I read Madame Bovary. Wasn’t The Deepest Secret good? I ended 2013 with that one and really liked it.

    Good luck with the continued wedding planning! I’m sure it will be wonderful. 🙂

    Have a Happy New Year!

    • Thank you for your well wishes! I heartily recommend A Fine Balance- though if you are anything like me, you will certainly need some tissues as it is a massive tear-jerker. I hope you have a brilliant reading year in 2015- all the best! 🙂

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