Thursday, January 08, 2015

2014: My Year in Books

2014 Reading Wrap Up and Reflection

Books Read: 65
63 Fiction, 2 Non-Fiction

I went into 2014 with no reading goals. After several rough reading years, this felt like the right thing to do. In fact, I was so dedicated to it I actually created what I called "The Un-Plan", which was a plan...not to plan anything. As odd as it sounds, it really worked and it was exactly what I needed. I needed to follow my reading heart, wherever it was going to take me.

With that in mind, let's looks at some of the highlights of the year.

Shannon Reads "Those Books" Exploration

The biggest bookish thing for me in 2014 was embarking on the Shannon Reads "Those Books" Exploration. I compiled a list of 400+ titles from 5 different book lists to cover what I call "Those Books". Books that everyone seems to have read (or says they do), from classic books to zeitgeist books, books that are influential, books that are highly referenced, and books whose themes pop up in pop culture all the time. I started the exploration in May, and read seven of "Those Books" throughout the year. I have absolutely loved this exploration, it has sparked a deeper interest in books and has me engaged in reading on a whole new level.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway was the first book I read for the "Those Books" Exploration, and it will always hold a special place in my heart for starting me on this journey. Another impactful read was Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald which took me ages to finish, but through it I was able to discover 99 New-to-Me Words as well as be able to Get Through a Reading Block. My favourites reads were A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (also my favourite of the year as a whole), The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock. The only title I didn't enjoy was Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James, although I am glad I finally did read it.

Favourite Books

There were many books that I loved in 2014, for all different reasons. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Teows is hands-down my favourite of the year, it's a Canadian novel and it has that Canadian way of sneaking into your heart when you aren't looking. I hesitate to do a run of the mill description because that doesn't feel like it does the book justice, so instead I will say it's insightful, curious, painful and sensitive. I loved it. When I finished reading it, I just held the book and stared into space. I didn't want to jump into another book, but rather sit and stay with this one.

Another of my faves is another Canadian pick: Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston. It is set in New York and follows a young actress who is performing in A Midsummer's Night's Dream, and has a hidden world where where fairies are real. Theatre, fairies, ... I didn't need to know anymore than that to be hooked. It's a YA title, and I flew through it, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

For the first time I decided to read a spooky book in October, and for this I chose The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Unfortunately I didn't finish reading it in October (it was too scary to read at night!), but I did end up loving it. It was thematically deeper than I expected and was expertly written. I took down a lot of quotes while reading it it, and "Insist on your cup of stars." is one that sticks with me. I imagine this will be delightful book to re-read. Quite a surpirze from a book that was made into what I consider the scariest films of all time.

Book to Film and TV Adaptations

It's no secret that I'm a fan of reading adaptations. I've known and shared this for years. I also know that I love reading book to film adaptations before the film happen, and preferably before trailer or casting information is out so I can visualize the characters without being influenced. But this year I also realized that for book to TV adaptations, I would rather watch the show first and then read the book. This was a huge revelation, and the reasoning came down to the fact that I like to think about all the possibilities of what could happen in the show and if I have read the book that mystery is gone (unless they make changes). Knowing this is a huge relief too, because it takes the pressure off trying to finish any books before series come out AND it lets me enjoy reading the book afterwards, which I did several times this year.

Book to Film titles I enjoyed reading this year including Labor Day by Joyce Maynard and The Maze Runner by James Dasher , which I have been trying to read this one for years. On the Book to TV side of things, I quite enjoyed reading The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson (A Walt Longmire Mystery #1), which is connected to the TV series Longmire which I only just found and fell in love with this year. I also appreciated reading Hemlock Grove: or, The Wise Wolf by Brian McGreevy, which the Netflix series Hemlock Grove was based on. It's a bit of a confusing read, even though I had watched the first season which this follows, but I did find some fascinating character insights which is what I like in this kind of read.

Favourite Author Alert

I remember watching a YouTube Book Tag at some point this year that was about favourite authors. I felt completely stumped with not being able to think of any authors that I add as a favourite, beyond the same list I would have come up with 20 years ago. I really wasn't thinking about books in terms of authors at all (sorry, writers!). And then I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. And then The Graveyard book by Neil Gaiman. And I loved them both dearly and I just want to give him a hug. I think it's safe to say Neil Gaiman is likely now one of my favourite authors. The worlds he creates are so fantastic, and the characters so wondrous. I fell in love with those books, hard.

Harlequin Faves

Given that 17 of the 65 books I read in 2014 were Harlequins, I think it's only fair to share the ones I loved this year. I've been very lightly continuing my Harlequin exploration of trying out at least one book from each of their lines. This year I managed to dive into both Harlequin KISS and Superromance. I LOVE the KISS title I read, The Dance Off by Ally Blake, it was very flirty and fun and had a proactive female protagonist! What a thought. And, it has a dance studio setting which seriously, why hasn't anyone else thought of that for romance novels? The Superromance I read was That Wild Cowboy by Lenora Worth, and I really enjoyed it. The difference with the Superromance line is that that they are longer stories. That actually wasn't the draw, it was the female TV producer wrangling in a cowboy to be on a reality TV series that was the pull. Although I did enjoy this one, it felt clear that it was the story I enjoyed not the fact it was a longer book.

My absolute favourite Harlequin of the year was a Harlequin Historical called To Tempt a Viking by Michelle Willingham and it was in second of the Forbidden Vikings miniseries. I was literally waiting for this one to be released so I could read it. The characters were introduced in the previous book in the miniseries, and I knew I wanted to find out where their story would go. I now always keep my eye out for what Michelle Willingham is writing, and hope there will be more viking ones in the future!

Habit Changes and A-ha's

One of the big changes I made this year was to reading a lot less YA (Young Adult) novels. I still have a few series I'm enjoying, and I'll admit I've even started a new series or two, but generally I was feeling like I wasn't enjoying YA as much. Although they are often enjoyable light reads, all too often I could easily predict what would happen ages before it did. I'm not pulling the plug entirely, but I find I enjoy it more if I sprinkle it throughout the year as opposed to have it be the bread and butter of my reading.

Other big changes include actively decided not to finish reading a book for the first time, ever. That was huge for me. Plus, I've realized that reading any super-hyped books, trendy, or brand spanking new releases that everyone seems to be talking about, doesn't serve me well. The few times I've tried to jump on this train, I haven't enjoyed the books. As much as I love being in the know, the fact that this has fell flat for me time and again lets me know it is time to let it go.

Another big realization was that I don't read a lot of science fiction, which I consider to be one of my favourite genres. I think I do, and I often love it when I read it, but I don't read a lot of it. In all of 2014 the only science fiction title I read was Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. I had some issues with it (mostly gender stuff, and given when it was written it's not surprizing), but otherwise it was a fascinating read and had a true science fiction heart to it. I really want to add scifi back to the mix of what I'm regularly reading.


This year I've also being sharing my reading and thoughts on books over at YouTube. As much as I love the idea about writing about books, I find I'm much more of a talker about them than a writer about them. Throughout 2014 I shared 50 book and reading related vlogs. Youtube, or "BookTube" as bookish folks call it, has a thriving community of people that love books and it's wonderful to connect with like minded folks from around the world about the awesomeness of books. I started the Shannon Reads "Those Books" Exploration on YouTube and have reviewed all of the books I've read for the exploration over at my YouTube channel, which is the most consistent thing I've been able to do all year! Speaking of, if you'd rather hear me chat though what my year was like, I did just that here:

Overall I'm very happy with how 2014 went in terms of reading. There were so many amazing books that I enjoyed, I became more directed in my reading choices and have read more than I have in many years prior. This feels absolutely wonderful.

If you want to keep up to date with what I'm reading and how I feel about the books I read, please swing by my YouTube channel or friend me on GoodReads.

Happy Reading!

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