A Year in 50 Books

Um…so this is awkward.

This poor blog has been so untended and uncared for over the last few years it looks like an online version of Grey Gardens. Apologies if you find racoons nibbling on or pigeons roosting in previous posts.

That out of the way, this blog post is devoted to one of my passions of 2013 – reading 50 books in one year.

A coworker (hey, Jenna!) inspired me to give it a shot at the end of last year, so I signed up with Goodreads and committed to reading 50 books this year. The tracking tool, which provided stats as to how well I was progressing kept me motivated and on track, as did the fact that my Goodreads friends could see how well I was doing. Apparently I respond well to the threat of public shame.

I read 49 books on my Kobo (on three Kobos, actually. Kobos do not interact well with hardwood floors. Funny story – I dropped my Kobo Aura HD on the floor and killed it when I was 61% through my 50th book. I had to steal Chad’s Kobo to finish up.) and listened to one audiobook. Chad’s a huge fan of Audible and bought Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep before I did, so rather than repurchasing it I listened to it. An interesting, but slow way to get through a book.

I bought a ton of books, but I also took at least half out of the library. For those who don’t know, the Toronto Public Library lends eBooks – you get them  for three weeks and then they are deleted from your device. This is also a great way to stay on track in a reading challenge. Knowing that you have a deadline and that your book will literally disappear if you don’t finish is a great motivator to get it read. I would request a bunch of books I wanted to read and just wait for them to show up. I didn’t have control over when they came in, but the flow was pretty steady. Go get a library card if you don’t have one. Now. Or after the holidays.

I have the TTC and its record of terrible service to thank for getting through so many books. My commute affords me the time to read at least twice a day, and the often broken-down subway trains frequently extends my reading time. So thanks for that!

Now, what did I read? I read what I wanted to read – some of it was new, some was older. I could really use an infographic here, but given my complete lack of artistic skills, I’m settling for lists:

Ten favourite books (in no particular order)

1. Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Man, I loved this book. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it – it’s a great mystery story with rich, dark characters and a perfectly twisty plot. One of my favourites for sure.

2. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. The last book I read, and definitely one of the best. It’s the story of a woman, Ursula, who is reincarnated as herself dozens of times, carrying with her moments of deja vu and the instinct to do things differently this time. Lovely. I can see why it’s topping many Top 10 lists this year.

3. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I read this back in April and I still think about it at least a few times a week. Brilliant.

4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Sweet. Heartbreaking. Bang on. A teen romance that hits every note perfectly. Rainbow Rowell was a great discovery for me this year – I also read Attachments, which was great.

5. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. A riveting book about a mild-mannered single teacher with bitterness, passion and the longing for more boiling underneath the surface. Loved this.

6. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. Another author discovery for me. I also read Prep and American Wife – I can’t get enough of Sittenfeld’s writing style. This one is about twin sisters, one of whom has a “gift” for seeing the future. So, so good.

7. Truth in Advertising by John Kenney. This was the second book I read this year, so it’s been a while, but this is a great book for anyone who’s ever worked ad an ad or a PR agency. Funny stuff.

8. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly Mccreight. A straight A student jumps off the roof of her school. Her mom doesn’t buy it, and tries to figure out what happened. Reminiscent of Gone Girl in terms of piecing together a patchwork story, I found this hard to put down. A good read.

9. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta. The only non-fiction to make my top 10, this is a heart-wringing story about the daughter of a single alcoholic mother. Extremely well written.

10. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. A lovely book spanning decades and continents. Just lovely.

Ten biggest disappointments (in no particular order)

1. Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland. It’s like he stopped trying with this one. I haven’t loved a lot of his recent work, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that this one would suck, but I was really disappointed.

2. Inferno by Dan Brown. I knew what I was getting into with this, but COME ON. I think he actually copied and pasted entire paragraphs from some of his previous books, changing Da Vinci for Dante. Bah.

3. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. This had huge buzz when it came out, but I just couldn’t get into it. I struggled to finish this one, but refused to stop and let this ruin my 50 Book Challenge. That’s what I get for trusting a review by Sarah Jessica Parker.

4. In Calamity’s Wake by Natalee Caple. The story of Calamity Jane’s abandoned daughter trying to find her notorious mother. It just didn’t do it for me.

5. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani. This should have been good. In fact, I was kind of mad when I finished it – why did the author take what could have been a great story and make it so blah? A teenaged girl is shipped off to a WASPy riding camp after mysteriously shaming her family during the peak of the depression. Should be kind of good, right? Nope.

6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I know, I know! I’m supposed to love this book. Triumph of the human spirit, etc. It just didn’t grab me like I hoped it would. I’d still kind of like to see what they’ve done with it in movie form.

7. The Returned by Jason Mott. I loved the premise of this, but don’t feel like it hit the mark. One day people suddenly start returning from the dead – not like zombies, but like themselves…sort of. I was excited about this, but it just didn’t work for me.

8. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. Not terrible, but not great. I have to stop believing that just because Oprah endorses something it’s going to be good. My bad.

9. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. I read The Engagements by the same author this year and really liked it, so thought I’d check out her other books. This was plodding and lacking in likeable characters. Boo.

10. Elite by Kiera Cass. A group of friends and coworkers started a Young Adult Book Club this year, and invited me to join. The problem – I’m kind of over dystopian future teens with special gifts. My big mouthedness got me booted out of the club, but I did read two of the books (though I secretly worried they wouldn’t even count in my challenge). This is the second in the trilogy (why are they always trilogies?) and went nowhere. The first one was marginally better, but I’m kicking this sequel down to the 10 worst basement.

The Rest (in order of reading)

  1. The Red House by Mark Haddon
  2. Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
  3. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
  4. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  5. Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
  6. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
  7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
  8. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  9. Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
  10. The Selection by Kiera Cass
  11. A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French
  12. The Demonologist by Andrew Piper
  13. Every Day by David Levithan
  14. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  15. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
  16. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
  17. The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
  18. The Submission by Amy Waldman
  19. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  20. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  21. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  22. The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
  23. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
  24. Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
  25. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
  26. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
  27. Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman
  28. The Guts by Roddy Doyle
  29. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
  30. Tenth of December by George Saunders

That’s it! If you have any questions about any of the books in terms of recommendations, let me know!

As for 2014, I’m going to try for 52. Wish me luck!

And watch this space for more regular book updates. Now that I’m dusted this blog off, I might as well use it. Right?




Filed under Book Challenge, Books

4 responses to “A Year in 50 Books

  1. You got booted from a book club? Impressive.

  2. tiffiny223

    I like the idea of this challenge! I may have to take it on myself this year. That being said…I’m so sad you didn’t like “The Book Thief”! That is one of my all time favs…love the point of view. Sigh. Alas, people are so different and that’s what makes the world go round. (I’m actually nervous to see what they’ll do with making it into a movie.) But thx for the lists.

  3. RG

    Dude, I’m going for 60

  4. Pingback: A year in books: my 52 book challenge | Always a Critic

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