Towards the beginning of 2014, I made a goal for myself. It was probably somewhere in February or March, so it wasn’t really a New Year’s Resolution, but definitely a goal. I realized that I hadn’t been reading as much as I would have liked, so I set a goal to read 25 books in 2014. I had never kept track of how many books I could read in a certain amount of time before, so I had no idea if this was a reasonable goal or not, but I needed a number and 25 sounded good, so I went for it.
Here are those books:
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I really enjoy historical fiction as a genre, and this was perfect. It takes place in Nazi Germany, and it is an intriguing story about a girl who will do whatever it takes to get her hands on a book.
2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I read this book based on a recommendation from a friend, and I am so very glad that I did. John Green is a young adult novelist, and he writes brilliantly. This particular story is about a young girl who has cancer, which was incredibly appropriate for the time that I read it. I know what you’re all thinking, but this is not your typical “cancer story”. It is poignant and extremely well-delivered.
3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I don’t think I need to tell you what this book is about, as I was incredibly behind in reading it. Most of you have probably already read this book. Anyway, I loved it. It was full of adventure and mischief and humor, all things that I thoroughly enjoy.
4. Looking for Alaska by John Green
Another masterpiece by John Green (look closely, you’ll find a theme on this list). This one is about friends at a bording school. I can’t tell you too much more without giving away spoilers, but it’s a fantastic book.
5. Bossypants by Tina Fey
Hilarity. As if I expected anything less.
6. Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
This is the sequel to The Devil Wears Prada. I needed something to read on the beach on spring break, and this did the trick. It was a little slower than the first one (as if sequels are ever as good as their predecessors), but still an interesting and easy read for lounging on the beach.
7. Paper Towns by John Green (find the theme yet?)
Clearly, I like John Green as an author. However, I also just really like YA fiction, at which he is fantastic. This novel is about a girl who leaves clues for a boy and his journey as he follows those clues.
8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
I’m not sure how I escaped high school without reading this, but somehow, I managed to. This is a classic novel about a dystopian society and what life is like for a boy names Jonas. I’m not sure how I feel about the ending, but I will let you form your own opinions about that.
9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
This was a book that I read to my fourth grade class. It took a while for them to get into it, as it is a little bit slow in the beginning, but, after a while, they were begging me to keep going. There are some great themes in the story that are applicable for children and adults alike. I think my students particularly enjoyed the science fiction aspect of the story.
10. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
This is the first installment in a series of three. I had a difficult time getting into this book. It was pretty obviously supposed to be some sort of combination of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, but it’s not nearly as well-written as either of them (as if that would even be possible). Maybe it was my own fault for trying to compare it to J.K Rowling’s masterpiece, but the storyline just seemed lacking to me. Once I was about three-quarters of the way through the book, I realized that the problem was that there was no “bad guy”. Even with all of the magical elements, the lack of a villain made for a rather boring story. Towards the end, a villain appears, but it was too late. The ending was pretty intriguing, but not enough for me to pick up the next two books in the series. Maybe one day I’ll go back to them, but for now, I have other books that I would rather read.
11. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
This was an interesting book about a high school boy named Sutter Keely. He’s always the life of the party and he thrives on “embracing the weird”. One day, he meets Aimee, who is nothing like anybody he’s ever met before. He sets out to transform her into a confident young woman, but before he knows it, he starts to change as well. I, personally, was a little perplexed by the unresolved ending of this book, but I still enjoyed reading it.
12. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik
If you have never read this book, please do so. It’s over-500 pages may look daunting from the outside, but as soon as you open the cover, you will be transformed into a fantastical world by Selznik’s amazing artistry and illustrations. Many of the pages contain only illustrations, so the pages turn quickly and the story rapidly unfolds. It is a brilliant story about Georges Melies (the French filmmaker) and a small boy who helped him uncover a past that he had long forgotten. The book has won The Caldecott Medal for its illustrations.
13. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
This was another one that I read to my class. They loved this book from the beginning. It takes place in the ’60s in America, during a time that is somewhat difficult for my kids to understand. Being international students, they sometimes have trouble grasping the idea that race matters (or mattered) so very much to some people. Hearing this book was a great learning experience for some of my students and it lead to some awesome class discussions.
14., 15., & 16. Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Honestly, I only read this out of pure curiosity. I wanted to know what all of the hype was about. I had enjoyed reading The Hunger Games, and I knew that this series was supposed to be similar, so I went for it – and I’m so glad that I did. For those who are wondering, it is slightly similar to The Hunger Games, but still totally different. It does take place in Dystopian America, but mostly just in Chicago. The city is split up into different factions which represent the different ideals that the society believes its citizens should uphold. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed either The Hunger Games or The Giver.
17. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
The main character of this novel is a high school boy named Colin. He has only ever dated girls named Katherine – nineteen of them, in fact – and he has gotten dumped by every one of them. After graduation, Colin and his best friend, Hassan, decide to go on a road trip. During this trip, Colin hopes to prove a mathematical theorem that will predict the outcome of any relationship (and hopefully win the girl).
18. The Pact by Jodi Picoult
This is a young-adult fiction book about a teen couple who make a suicide pact. However, something goes terribly wrong and the boy ends up on trial for the murder of the girl. This was a very thrilling and intense book and I was completely hooked from the first page to the last.
19. Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
This book consisted of three short stories, each written by a different author, that ultimately connected in the end. I must’ve been really missing winter, because I read this in June. Even if it was seasonally inappropriate, it made me laugh a lot. Each of these authors is brilliant at what they do, and each story was quite well-written.
20. The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
What better to read on the beach during vacation than Nicholas Sparks? He’s not my favorite author, but this was a nice easy beach read. It was about two childhood sweethearts (surprise, surprise) who have since lost touch and moved on in their lives. When a mutual friend dies, they both make it back to their hometown where they meet again (shocker) and spend their time reminiscing about the past. I’m sure you can figure out the rest of the story.
21. Divergent Series Short Stories (Four) by Veronica Roth
These stories were written in the perspective of the secondary character in the series, Four (yes, that’s his name). The stories that were written were some of the same events that happened in the main series, but just from the opposite view, which I found very interesting and helpful in understanding this particular character.
22. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
This was probably one of the most interestingly-written books that I have read in a long time. The main premise of the story is about this girl name Mia who is a senior in high school. She is an amazing cellist and her whole live revolves around music. Her dad used to be in a band, her little brother is learning the drums, and her boyfriend is the lead guitarist in an up-and-coming rock band. In the very beginning of the story, her and her family are in a terrible car accident. Both of her parents die on the scene, and Mia is unconscious. However, even though she is unconscious, she is somehow still able to watch everything that is happening to her and her family. So, while she is having this out-of-body experience, she has a major decision to make (hence the title).
23. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
As this is the sequel to If I Stay, I will also not be writing a summary of this book. However, I will say this: the first book was way better.
24. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Unless he writes another book, this is the last book written by John Green that I will be writing about on this blog. I’ve officially read every novel that he’s written. This book is about two high school boys, both named Will Grayson. They do not know each other and their lives are quite different. However, one day, they meet and their lives start turning in new directions.
I thought the way that it was written was really interesting. John Green wrote all of the odd-numbered chapters and David Levithan wrote all of the even-numbered chapters. According to handy dandy Wikipedia, “The only plot they decided on together was the fact that the two characters would meet at some point in the novel and that their meeting would have a tremendous effect on their lives. After this decision, they separately wrote the first three chapters for their half and then shared them with each other. After sharing, they then “knew immediately it was going to work”, as stated by Levithan.”
25. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This was not the first time that I read this novel. However, the first time that I read it was in 9th grade literature class and I probably didn’t even really read it then. I love to read, but I strongly dislike being forced to read things; at least I did when I was in high school. So, most of the time, I just didn’t read it. Lets just say I really liked SparkNotes.
So anyway, I decided to actually read it this time, and I really, really enjoyed it. It makes me wonder how many of those books from high school I probably would’ve enjoyed if I had just read them. But then again, post-college me has a very different taste in books than high school me did, so maybe I wouldn’t have liked it. I guess I’ll never know.
If you’ve never read it, read it. Even if you have read it, read it again. It’s brilliant.
—-I reached this point in August, but I wasn’t about to stop, so here’s what I read from August to December—-
26. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This was one of those books that keeps you on the edge of your seat (or bed/couch/wherever you may be reading) right from the beginning. It is jam packed with unexpected twists and turns that continue to keep you guessing right up until the last page. I really enjoyed reading this book and found myself not wanting to put it down.
I also recently saw the movie and was quite impressed. The movie does a pretty good job of following the events in the book, which could not have been an easy task because of the way the book is written. Well done, Hollywood.
27. Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks (No, not Tony Hawk)
The title of this book pretty much gives you all the information you need. This is the hilarious true story of a man who accepts a bet to travel around the circumference of Ireland with a refrigerator. I probably looked quite insane on the bus/train while I was reading this book because I was constantly trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) to stifle bursts of laughter. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a lighthearted read.
28., 29., & 30. Gathering Blue, The Messenger, Son by Lois Lowry
I chose to write about all three of these books at the same time because that seemed to make the most sense to me. These three books are the final three installments in The Giver Quartet. I read The Giver earlier this year and I found myself pretty dissatisfied with the ending. I knew that there were more books in the series, so I eventually bought those books and continued the journey. This series (or “quartet” as Lowry calls it) is quite different from other series because the stories don’t really all connect until the final book.
All four books are fantastic and Lois Lowry is a brilliant author, but I think Gathering Blue was my favorite.
31. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
I started reading this after watching the first two seasons of The Mindy Project. I realized that Mindy Kaling (writer and star of the tv show) was brilliantly hilarious and I wanted more. I saw that she had written a book a couple of years ago and knew I had to get my hands on it, so I ordered it. This was another book where I found myself trying to control my laughter on the quiet and subdued public transit of Singapore.
32. Fatherhood by Bill Cosby
Now I know what you’re thinking – I am not, nor will I ever be, a father, and therefore probably should not be reading a book with such a title. I read this book after a recommendation from a friend (who will also never be a father), so I figured it was okay. This book is a compilation of hilarious stories about Bill Cosby’s kids and his life as their father. Again, a great book to read for a laugh or two.
33. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park is the story of two teenage outcasts as they explore the awkward territory that is dating in high school. I’ve heard fantastic things about Rainbow Rowell, but this book was not a favorite of mine. It was a bit slow until the very end, where things suddenly picked up and took a very exciting turn.
34. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
I really enjoyed this book. It is written for middle-schoolers, but I think it is applicable to adults as well.
This is the story of Holling Hoodhood, who is a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High. Holling, a Presbyterian, is forced to spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of his classmates, Catholic and Jewish, attend religious instruction. During this time that he spends alone with Mrs. Baker, Holling is asked to do chores. Eventually Mrs. Baker begins to use this time to teach Holling Shakespeare, which opens up Holling to a whole new world.
35. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
This was one of those books that kept popping up on my “Suggested Reads” list on Amazon, but for some reason, I kept putting it off. Once I gave in and started reading it, I could not put it down. Wild is the true story of Cheryl Strayed and her journey as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. Her story is heartbreaking and inspiring and terrifying all at the same time. Cheryl is a brilliant writer and story-teller and I am so glad that she chose to share her journey. I can’t wait to see the movie, but unfortunately, it doesn’t come out until February here in Singapore.
36. Wish by Jake Smith
I spotted this book in a bookstore over the summer, and after reading the back, promptly added it to my ever-growing “books to read” list. I didn’t read it until December, which was perfect, because I ended up buying it for my dad for Christmas. I originally read this book because it was about baseball, the Tigers were in off-season, and I was needing a baseball fix. What I didn’t know until I started reading was that the story takes place in Michigan and deals heavily with the Tigers and Comerica Park. The story is fictional, so the players are made up, but it was still a nice surprise.
The story is about a man whose son has Leukemia. During their stay in the hospital, they are visited by a Tigers player. The young boy’s biggest wish is to see his dad play in a major league baseball game. The boy shares this wish with the Tigers player (unbeknownst to his father) and the plan starts unraveling.
37. Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
This is the book on which the movie Field of Dreams is based. I’ve never seen the movie, but I really didn’t like this book, so I’m not sure if I will see it. I found this book to be quite slow and a little boring, which is unfortunate, since this was my last book of 2014.
Well friends, we’ve reached the end of 2014 and the end of this blog post (bravo to those of you that read all the way to the end). 2014 definitely had its ups and downs, but these 37 books helped me to get through the best and the worst of it. Here’s to another year of life and books.