My 48 Books of 2014

By February 1, 2015Reading

Alright then — I’ve taken the liberty of listing out every book I read in 2014. Join me, if you like, as I trace my reading through last year’s days and weeks and try to learn something from it about how and what I read.

First the list itself; then some brief reflection and analysis. (Also: you cancompare with last year’s list here!)

Books and lists and lists and books. Seriously, what’s better?


In the order in which I read them — or I should say, finished them — as I’m prone to jumping from book to book, reading in fits and fragments…

Animal Farm (Orwell, George) — 4/5

The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc. (Jonathan Lethem) — 4/5

The Library at Night (Alberto Manguel) — 5/5

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything(Steven D. Levitt) — 3/5

The Neon Bible (John Kennedy Toole) — 4/5

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar (Cheryl Strayed — 4/5

This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works (ed. John Brockman) — 3/5

What Have I Ever Lost by Dying (Robert Bly) — 4/5

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) — 5/5

The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy(Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin) — 5/5

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Chip Heath) — 4/5

Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor E. Frankl) — 4/5

20 Lines a Day (Harry Mathews) — 4/5

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures (Anne Fadiman) — 5/5

Zazie in the Metro (Raymond Queneau) — 4/5

The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (Seth Godin) — 3/5

The Writing Life (Annie Dillard) — 5/5

Einstein’s Dreams (Alan Lightman) — 3/5

Motherless Brooklyn (Jonathan Lethem) — 4/5

Stories of Your Life and Others (Ted Chiang) — 4/5

The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined (Salman Khan) — 4/5

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X) — 5/5

The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafón) — 4/5

What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World (Taylor Mali) — 3/5

Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment (Project Projects) — 3/5

The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins) — 5/5

Who Owns the Future? (Jaron Lanier) — 4/5

Pulphead (John Jeremiah Sullivan) — 5/5

The Conversions (Harry Mathews) — 4/5

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon) — 5/5

Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (David Bayles) — 4/5

The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett) — 3/5

64 Things You Need to Know Now for Then (Ben Hammersley) — 2/5

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (Jon Gertner) — 5/5

What We See When We Read (Peter Mendelsund) — 4/5

Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger, Expanded Third Edition (ed. Peter D. Kaufman) — 4/5

The Hidden Dimension (Edward T. Hall) — 5/5

The Grammar Of Fantasy: An Introduction To The Art Of Inventing Stories(Gianni Rodari) — 5/5

My Unwritten Books (George Steiner) — 5/5

The Day I Became an Autodidact (Kendall Hailey) — 4/5

Dune (Frank Herbert) — 5/5

The Lost Books of The Odyssey (Zachary Mason) — 4/5

Fragments: Interviews with Jean Baudrillard (Jean Baudrillard) — 3/5

What To Do When It’s Your Turn (Seth Godin) — 3/5

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (ed. Jocelyn K. Glei) — 3/5

My Poets (Maureen N. McLane) — 4/5

Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career (Elizabeth Hyde Stevens) — 5/5

Designing for People (Henry Dreyfuss) — 4/5


Statistical overview:

  • Total books read in 2014: 48
  • Fiction: 13
  • Nonfiction: 33
  • Poetry/Other: 2
  • Average rating: 4.06/5

Favorites:

The Library at Night, Tiny Beautiful Things, Flow, The Physiology of Taste, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, The Writing Life, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Moonstone, Who Owns the Future, Pulphead, The Idea Factory, The Hidden Dimension, My Unwritten Books, Dune, Make Art Make Money.

Around 15 really great, satisfying reads — about the same as last year, actually. Since I read slightly fewer books overall, that hints at a marginally improved rate of picking winners, but I think I can do better still. My average book rating this year was almost identical to that of my 2013 list at just over 4/5. My refusal to abandon books, even mediocre ones, is probably holding me back; I’ll have to compensate by challenging myself more.

Least favorites:

Freakonomics (super basic and dated), The Dip (very simple; should have stayed an essay or blog post), Einstein’s Dreams (aspirations of Calvino, but sans skill and poetic sensibility), The Maltese Falcon (okay, this one was fun in parts, but also mad sexist), 64 Things You Need to Know Now for Then (disappointingly simplistic; could have used an editor).

Challenges:

Flow, The Physiology of Taste, Who Owns the Future, The Hidden Dimension, My Unwritten Books, Fragments: Interviews with Jean Baudrillard. Interestingly enough, also similar to last year in that only around a half dozen or so books really made me think. Goal for next year: increase that ratio!

Surprises:

Tiny Beautiful Things (deeper and more moving than expected), Who Owns the Future (powerful, provocative ideas, despite a kind of garbled style), The Idea Factory (Bell Labs — wow!), Poor Charlie’s Almanack (enjoyed Munger’s wisdom, but not how the book was edited), The Grammar of Fantasy (gem of a used bookstore find), My Unwritten Books (a humbling intellectual treat), Make Art Make Money (random Kindle serial find that turned out to be awesome).


Also published on Medium.

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