Monthly Archives: December 2014

Best of 2014

Okay, it’s time for my best-of list. I made this list really quickly because I’m not sure agonizing over what I put here will lead to a better list. I go with my gut impulse instead. But I think my gut impulse is pretty reliable!

Best Fiction:

  • Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill
  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
  • A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
  • Kindred, by Octavia Butler

Best Mysteries:

  • A Kiss Before Dying, by Ira Levin
  • Black Water Rising, by Attica Locke

Best Nonfiction:

  • Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant, by Roz Chast
  • Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward
  • My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead
  • On Immunity, by Eula Biss

Best Poetry:

  • Bough Down, by Karen Green

Best Short Story Collection:

  • I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, by Matthew Salesses

Best Essay Collections:

  • Notes From No Man’s Land, by Eula Biss
  • Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin

Books I Brought Up in Conversation and Recommended Most Often:

  • Being Wrong, by Kathryn Schulz
  • A Kiss Before Dying, by Ira Levin

Funniest Book (and best book to have on hand Christmas day to make your bookish family read chapters of):

  • Texts from Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg

And a shout-out to the best book published by a friend, which is really great book and could go on my best-of list easily: Michelle Bailat-Jones’s Fog Island Mountains.

Happy reading in 2015 everyone!


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2014 Wrap-up

It’s time for a wrap-up of the year. I’m feeling resistant to both best-of lists (I’m sick of them! although I’m not sick of yours, dear reader, and I am still going to do one of my own) and thinking in terms of years — does it matter that a year is ending, really? But still, I want to keep up my tradition of looking at reading stats for the year. So here goes:

  • Books read: 78 (down from the previous three years, but that’s what having a toddler, a job, a bicycle, friends, and a strong desire to sleep will do to you)
  • Audiobooks: 10 (up from the previous year’s 2. Audiobooks are a great way to keep reading even when you’re busy)
  • eBooks: 18 (a little bit down from 2013)
  • From library: 12 (This includes some library audiobooks and ebooks)
  • Fiction: 53 (the exact same percentage as last year)
  • Nonfiction: 23
  • Poetry: 2 (up from last year — by 2)
  • Essay collections: 9 (higher than last year)
  • Biography/autobiography: 10
  • Theory/criticism: 1
  • Short story collections: 3 (same number as last year but a higher percentage)
  • Mysteries: 8
  • Graphic Novels: 1 (really a graphic memoir)
  • Books in translation: 3 (down)
  • Books by writers of color: 15 (up, both in terms of number and percentage. I worked at this one and can still do better)

Gender breakdown:

  • Men: 21
  • Women: 55 (a higher percentage than last year)
  • Collections with men and women: 2


  • Americans: 57 (slightly higher than last year, which was already pretty high)
  • British: 12
  • One each by authors from Canada, Italy, Korea, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nigeria, and the Virgin Islands, plus two books with writers from more than one country.

Year of publication:

  • 19th: 2
  • First half of 20th century: 4
  • Second half of 20th century: 15
  • 2000-2009: 12
  • 2010-2014: 45

So many super-contemporary authors! Even more than last year, and that number was pretty high. Ah, well. I’m just in a place where I want to read new and newish books. That may change in future years. In other trends, I haven’t read as many writers from countries other than the U.S. and the U.K. as I’d like, but I did read pretty diversely within those two countries. Not such a bad year! I’ll be back soon with my favorites of the year.


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Loitering, by Charles D’Ambrosio

I am not one to pass up a good essay collection — in fact, I’m one to chase down a good essay collection — so I was eager to read Charles D’Ambrosio’s new book Loitering. It includes some essays from an earlier book called Orphans and adds new material. I liked it very much — so much, in fact, that I wish I hadn’t read it as an e-galley and would like to buy myself a hard copy so it’s on hand for future rereading. The essays cover many different topics — whaling, Russian orphans, housing developments, J.D. Salinger, among others — and they also tell personal stories and present a persona who kept me engaged through the whole collection. D’Ambrosio has had some serious struggles in his life, and he writes about them movingly, and always with intelligence instead of self-pity. He is someone I felt I could trust to think deeply about whatever issue he confronts, and whose mind I was happy to have as company. I appreciated the variety of the collection, with interesting subjects you might not read about elsewhere. I also loved his writing style. But mostly I loved D’Ambrosio’s take on the world — a slightly jaded, perhaps disappointed outlook, but one that still is curious and receptive and trying to make sense of the world.


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