2014 Big List of Books I’ve Read

2014 Big List of Books I’ve Read


Continuing the yearly tradition from 2012 and 2013, here is the big list of books I read during 2014.

Fiction: 23
Non-Fiction: 14
Comics/Graphic Novels: 10
Did Not Finish: 7

Total Spent: $35
Total Books Taken out from Library: 41
Total Saved by using the Library: $680 (at retail price)

Marbles by Ellen Forney / Graphic Novel

Page from graphic memoir Marbles by Ellen Forney
Page from graphic memoir Marbles by Ellen Forney

This is a graphic memoir from Ellen Forney about her initial diagnosis and coping with bipolar disorder. It is the best description of mania & depression I have ever read. And is absolutely perfect for the graphic novel format.

As an artist, she spends the latter half of the book debating about taking medication. Her worry is that bipolar disorder is actually the key to her creativity and antimanic drugs will take that away. She then goes through a brief history of famous writers who have been diagnosed as manic or depressive post-mortum. In the end she finds a combination of drugs that reduce her bipolar mood swings while keeping her creativity.

Although I have not experienced mania to that extent, her description of depression was quite spot on of my own experiences. She mentions getting out of bed just to go to sleep on the couch and how her therapist was proud of her for just getting out of bed. Because that truly is an accomplishment when in a severe depression.

The illustrations of her mood swings are very vivid. Providing a better explanation than words on exactly how she was feeling each time. Even though her bipolar disorder will never go away, after a two year struggle she has learned to manage it, which triggers to avoid, and when a mood swing could be coming on. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Saga written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples / Comics

Saga Vols 1-3
Saga comics Volumes 1-3 (current)

I first read the beginning of Saga’s Volume 1 immediately following Preacher and thought it was a rip-off. The storyline seemed too similar to me so I bailed. It took me a year to give it another chance after hearing many people rave about it. I’m glad I gave it a second chance.

The story line, while not original, is certainly interesting. I love that the point of view is from the child. The cast of characters are intriguing and I hope there will be more development. More than anything, the illustrations are wonderful.

Other Graphic Novels/Comics

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos / Fiction

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos
The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

I loved this short, straight forward, coming of age story. Revolving around an outcast who forms a band (of course) in high school then the emotions & adventures that happen to them. The main character is very interesting although the ending gets a little too predictable and sappy. But this was a great quick read I was able to finish in two days and I loved every word of it.

Jumper by Steven Gould / Fiction

Jumper by Steven Gould

The first half of this book is some of the best adventure sci-fi I’ve read. The idea of being able to teleport to places you’ve already been to is a really fun concept to think about. I love that the 18-year old male main character does exactly what you would expect of an 18-year old male who just found out he can teleport. First, he robs a bank. Then, he tries to impress a girl. Lastly, he avenges the death of his mother.

For this same reason, the last half of the book grew tiresome for me. Teenage boys are stubborn and, well, dumb, and this character is no exception. That means it is realistic. But still frustrating as a reader. It is still a really fun adventure story although I probably would have enjoyed it more as a teenager myself.

Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross / Fiction

Charles Stross' Laundry Files
Charles Stross’ Laundry Files

This was the first Stross novel I’ve read and I really didn’t know what I was in for. This is part of a series of stories in this weird sci-fi world Stross created. The world is a mix of sci-fi monsters & demons, with james bond spy plots, plus Douglas Adams-esque wit & humor.

I wasn’t completely able to follow the plot but I loved the world and the characters. This is a book that knows exactly what it is and owns that. The main character makes many jokes and references to spy movies, which means no one is taking this book seriously and that is a perfect fit.

This story can be enjoyed by both spy/adventure fans and fans of sci-fi, it really is a good mix of both.

Horns by Joe Hill / Fiction

Joe Hill's Horns
Joe Hill’s Horns

This is the first book I’ve read by Hill and I loved it. The story is slightly fantasy as it involves the main character waking up one morning with horns growing out of his head. His transformation to the devil is an interesting one. And he is also a crime solver as he needs to prove himself innocent of the death of his girlfriend from a few years ago.

I loved the writing, the pacing, the characters, and the plot itself. The ending got a little… weird. But it wasn’t completely expected, which is always a relief.

City of Thieves by David Benioff / Fiction

A City of Thieves; Historical Fiction of the Siege of Leningrad by David Benioff
A City of Thieves; Historical Fiction of the Siege of Leningrad

This fictionalized version of the Siege of Leningrad is partly based off of Benioff’s grandfather’s personal stories. Most of the historical events are true but many of the scenes have been embellished to make a good story. It works for me.

Despite the context of war, this is a story of two teenage boys who get in trouble and have to essentially perform community service to get out of it. They trek across the country side to run an errand for a general. Along the way they make friends, see how the war is affecting their country, learn about each other, and themselves.

Although it is a fictional account, history fans will find the story interesting. It is a coming of age story at it’s heart but the war aspect is very This story was based on Benioff’s grandfather’s experiences during the Siege of Leningrad as a teenager.

Other Fiction

Welcome to Shirley by Kelly McMasters / Non-Fiction

Kelly McMasters' Welcome to Shirley
Kelly McMaster’s Welcome to Shirley

This is part environmentalism and part memoir as the author grew up in the “atomic town” of Shirley she is writing about. Shirley, a small town on Long Island, NY, is located near a national laboratory that tends to have a leaky reactor.

The first half of the story is simply her auto-biography. She also gives a wonderful history of the town of Shirley. As a New York native, I found all that pretty intriguing. Then the second half turns to environmental awareness as she becomes a teenager and many of her neighbors get cancer. A very rare type of a cancer. Such a rare type of cancer that it doesn’t make sense so many people in such a concentrated area would get it.

That is when the town started looking into the near-by reactor. McMaster’s research is sound and her personal attachment only makes this feel more authentic than if it came from an outsider. The story of her life and all the history actually works very well together. Nothing is too sappy or over exaggerated. Simply knowing that that is where she came from makes the environmental hazards of the laboratory feel even that much worse, as a reader.

A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell / Non-Fiction

History of Food Sitwell

This is a history book told chronologically through the lens of food.

Each chapter is a recipe though the text is often more about the time period than the actual recipe or food. The opening chapter is circa 1958-1913 BC and describes how the Egyptians used food for daily life, ceremonies, animals, and other ways. The recipes are put there to provide context but are not really meant to be followed.

There was an incredibly interesting chapter on the first supermarket in the US, Piggly Wiggly. He goes into detail on the history of self-service supermarkets and the man who invented them. It was incredibly interesting. And for the life of me I can’t remember what the recipe was for that chapter.

The recipe and the chapter text seemed to correlate less and less as the time period grew newer. I loved the history segments in the beginning of the book but my interest did wane by the last quarter. The modern recipes just weren’t as interesting.

This is a book more for history nerds than foodies.

On Writing by Stephen King / Non-Fiction

On Writing by Stephen King

I’ve read several of the ‘best’ writing reference books by authors now and there is definitely a reason why this one always makes that list. Honestly, I was skeptical that King’s advice would be practical because of all his success. But it really is.

Heads up, the beginning quarter is an autobiography. I understand why he did this but it was quite boring for me. I wasn’t reading this to learn about King, I wanted to learn about writing.

So he more than makes up for this in the rest of the book. He actually goes beyond my expectations by talking about sentence structure, contractions, adverbs, publishing, agents, literary journals, writing environments, and even provides good & bad examples of his own writing & editing.

There were certainly some take-aways I got out of this story that I really put to use in this year’s NaNoWriMo writing. I stayed clear from adverbs; King hates them. I did most of my writing in one spot, at home, instead of jumping around from one coffee shop to another facing many distractions.

He also makes strong points on limiting dialogue, showing not telling, and not to worry if you don’t have a plot. As he says, get your story down first, the plot will come later. People’s lives have stories, not plots. That is some of the best writing advice I’ve heard.

Tell-Tale Brain by V. S. Ramachandran / Non-Fiction

Tell Tale Brain

I started getting into pop-neuroscience books last year after reading Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. The Tell-Tale Brain was a book Sacks referenced so I decided to go straight to the source. While it is readable for the layman, it isn’t quite as “pop” as Sacks’ writing. I enjoyed it though some parts were a bit over my head.

The two most interesting topics were phantom limb syndrome and blind sight. Both are amazing medical conditions where the brain ‘sees’ one thing but our physical bodies ‘do’ another. He goes into details with case studies and the entire thing is very fascinating.

A Season of Saturdays by Michael Weinerb / Non-Fiction

A Season of Saturdays College Football Michael Weinerb

I picked this up at the library to get ready for the start of the college football season. This is another history book within the context of college football. Although it is very football focused, it also includes history about various colleges, rivalries, the ivy leagues, and the sport of football itself.

Weinerb never gets too technical in terminology but this is a book about football and you probably would only enjoy it if you enjoy college football.

Other Non-Fiction

The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson / Did Not Finish

bill bryson the lost continent small town life
Bill Bryson’s cross-country trip across the United States; he is miserable the entire time

This book completely turned me off of Bill Bryson. His behavior and attitude throughout most of the book is pretty despicable. He is absolutely miserable, insulting every person and town he drives through. There are nothing but complaints despite he is going on an amazing road trip across the United States. At the time he wrote this, he was living in Britain and he won’t let you forget it.

The story itself is strange because there is little context as to why he is taking the trip or what he expects to get out of it. Basically the opposite of his A Walk in the Woods. He doesn’t like anything he sees, mocks everyone, and is generally a curmudgeon.

I read 3/4 of the book then couldn’t stand to hear him complain about the New England towns. The entire book is completely repetitive and I simply had enough at that point.

Other Did Not Finish Books


4 Replies to “2014 Big List of Books I’ve Read”

  1. Nice recap Leslie! Marbles looks like it’s awesome, and it sounds like Jumper the movie stayed true to the book. I enjoyed the movie. On Writing was a good book, and I agree with what you said: I wasn’t super excited to know about Stephen King, but his life was kind of interesting. I love pop science books too. I’ve got some recommendations if you’re interested. Here’s to more reading in 2015!

    1. I am always interested in book recommendations! I don’t really have a “to read” list (because reading isn’t a chore) but I will put books on hold at the library then feel like it’s Christmas when they come up available months later!

    1. I am not on GoodReads! I removed my account when Amazon bought them and just track the books I read in Excel now. I actually want to do a whole post on the DNF books because I’ve realized most of them are books for non-readers, which is why they’re so unpalatable for me.

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