I began the year with one main reading goal: to wallow in awesome. Since I loved 53% of what I read--an astonishingly high number for me--I'd say I did pretty durned well with that. I also really liked a goodly number of books, while most of the rest at least tied into things that entranced me.
This was particularly true of comics. While some entries in a particular series or crossover event didn't wow me, they almost always added something to other stories that did. Good times.
Comics also ensured I ended 2014 with an insane number of titles on my reading list. Turns out, it's easy to devour hundreds of books in a given year when you get caught up in a couple of manga series and/or rediscover the joys of superheroes. I did both, with prolific results.
But the stats, they come later. Let's move along to the main event: my 2014 Top 5.
Memory's Top 5 Books of 2014
As always, these are books I read in 2014. Not all of them were published last year. They're also listed in the order I read them, rather than my order of preference.
This is the best memoir, and one of the best comics, I've ever read. Abirached's account of one tense night during the Lebanese civil war is so gripping I forgot I was reading a book. Certain aspects of the ending still haunt me.
Holy tension, Batman.
I'm pretty sure Vaughan and Staples are trying to kill me. Like, I'm reading along, delighted and scared and totally engaged, when all of a sudden I'm bawling my fucking eyes out because of something Lying Cat said. And Lying Cat never says anything other than, "Lying."
Fucking Lying Cat, man. Best animal companion in comics, right here.
I'm scared to read Volume Four because I've Heard Stuff. I've been hoarding it until I basically have no choice. Maybe I'll have myself a SAGA readathon today, just so's I can start the year off with pain and heartache.
THE MAGICIAN'S LAND isn't just a powerful ending to a series that utterly entranced me; it's also a great big "fuck you, buddy" to the Death of Magic trope. The second I finished it, I turned to Murchie and said, "This is it. I've found my best book of 2014."
It doesn't get much plainer than that.
That never, ever happens to me.
I'll be happy if I read anything as good as WARCHILD in all of 2015. Seriously.
My paper reading journal says I gave THE SUMMER QUEEN five stars, but I only entered a 4.5 rating into LibraryThing. The latter appears to have stuck, both in my memory and during my review-writing process, but damned if I can leave the book off the list. There were times when I thought I hated it, but that was mostly because I was trying so bloody hard not to care. Fiction hurts less if you don't care.
Thing is, it also means less if you don't care. THE SUMMER QUEEN means a hell of a lot.
I can't get it out of my head.
First and foremost: L.A. WOMAN by Matt Fraction and Annie Wu. (Yeah, I know Murchie appears alongside one of the RIO BRAVO issues. That is Kate's villain, though, so we're gonna roll with it.) I couldn't include it above because I haven't been able to read the ending, but I'll be shocked as hell if it's not a 5-star read. You can probably look for it on my Best of 2015; certainly the Long List, if not the Top 5.
This arc forced me to add Kate Bishop to my (Highly Exclusive) List of Favourite Literary Characters. Kate Bishop is amazing and wonderful and I will not hear a word spoken against her. Not a word.
Also? Lucky, aka Pizza Dog, is the second best animal companion in comics. If you don't love Pizza Dog, there is something wrong with your soul1.
Second and leastmost: BOY, SNOW, BIRD by Helen Oyeyemi. It was my best book of 2014 until the last twenty pages, when it devolved into a transphobic mess that tainted the whole damned thing.
I will never, ever, ever stop being angry with BOY, SNOW, BIRD.
Third and finalmost, and sans picture: I compiled a Long List of the 46 books I rated 4.5 stars or above in 2014. It includes notable rereads as well as new-to-me titles.
Memory's 2014 Reading Stats
A few notes on methodology, first. I normally use Nicki's glorious and useful reading spreadsheet to calculate many of my stats, but a computer error wiped out both my working copy and my backup late enough in the year that I didn't want to retype all my information. I had much of it in hardcopy, since I also keep a paper reading journal and a running tally of certain stats, but I find it all too easy to make mistakes in that format. I double checked my POC and gender tallies in early December, but errors may still have crept in.
So far as ethnic diversity goes, I counted novels with POC authors, anthologies and literary magazines with at least one POC contributor, and comics where either the writer or the penciller was a POC.
By "comics" I mean "trade collections," not individual issues.
I handled gender a little differently this year. In the past, I've included books with authors, artists, or editors of multiple genders on both my female/non-male and male tallies. This year, any book with a female byline on the cover appeared only on my female tally, mostly because that's how my late, lamented spreadsheet did it.
Okay. Stats time.
I read 409 books and 107,259 pages overall. 199 of the titles were comics, so my prose totals remained about the same as always.
257 were e-books, 107 were library books, 26 were keepers (paper books I admitted to to allowed to remain in my personal collection), and 13 were sellers (books I passed along to others when I'd finished them).
There's some overlap between the e-book and library categories. The sellers category is smaller than usual this year because I made an effort to purchase only books I was reasonably sure I'll want to keep forever and ever until I die. Or books I couldn't get from the library; whichever. I also acquired far more e-books than paper books throughout 2015, due in large part to the Hugo voter packet and a 90% off sale at Kobo.
I reread 64 books. I abandoned 4 past the 100-page mark and a much larger number before that. (I only count a book on my yearly reading list if I made it at least 100 pages in.) I read 64 chunksters, 152 books with significant queer content, and 53 books in translation.
218 books earned 4-star ratings or higher, with 4 stars being my "I loved this" rating.
I read 205 books by POC authors, but only 147 books with POC protagonists. A definite imbalance there.
257 of my total books were by non-Americans.
Finally, I read 240 books with female/non-male bylines and 168 books with solely male bylines.
Genres and marketing categories break down as follows, with some overlap between them:
- Fantasy - 221
- Science Fiction - 174
- Young Adult or Children's Lit - 59
- Historical - 53
- General Fiction - 33
- Short Fiction - 33
- Romance or Erotica - 26
- Nonfiction - 13
- Horror - 12
- Poetry - 4
- Crime Fiction - 3
My SF reading exploded this year, partly because of the comics and partly because I read little else in the month after I finished WARCHILD. Once I was reading things again, I mean.
2014 Goals In Review
My 2014 goals were pretty simple. First and foremost, I wanted to read awesome stuff and ignore anything that wasn't awesome. There were a few hiccups, especially once I got back into superhero comics and had to read through some dull arcs to get the full story, but for the most part I read great stuff and abandoned anything I didn't like. Usually within the first hundred pages.
Second, I wanted 25% of my reading list to be by chromatic creators. My numbers slipped a bit late in the year as I caught up some white authors I'd been neglecting, but my final total still came up to 50%. Reading diversely doesn't have to be hard if you dig around, ask for recs, and follow authors and artists whose work you've come to love.
Third, I wanted to use my library as a proving ground whenever possible. This worked brilliantly. If the library owned my desired book, I borrowed it instead of buying it. If they didn't, I bought it from a charity booksale, a local indie, or when it was discounted on Kobo. Consequently, I saw a dramatic reduction in both the amount of money I spent on books I didn't end up adding to my library (or even reading in their entirety) and the number of books I passed along to other people.
Fourth, I read only female (or non-male) bylines in January. It was a great success, and I'd like to aim for a similar month at some point in 2015.
Fifth, I wanted to read more crime fiction. I failed miserably. Maybe 2015 will be better.
2015 Reading Goals
Read awesome stuff. Ignore anything that isn't awesome (with the possible exception of comics I've gotta wade through for more stories about my faves).
Read at least 35% POC in 2015. (Aiming low often helps me achieve stellar results. I figure I'll increase my actual goal by 10% per year for the next few years in the hopes I'll end up beating it by a large margin. It worked well on the non-American writers front.)
Read some frickin' crime fiction. Appearances to the contrary, I love crime fiction.
Destroy la TBR once and for all. I want to read intuitively, slipping from book to book with nary a care for the dozens lying unread on my floor because I won't have dozens lying unread on my floor. To this end, I'll let myself add a maximum of two books for every five I knock off of there, with two major exceptions: I'm allowed to add as many comics as I like, and I can add additional novels by POC if I find my numbers slipping. My 2014 reading left la TBR very white.
How was your 2014? What were your top reads of the year?
- It's okay if you don't like Pizza Dog! I was being hyperbolic! You're free to love or hate whoever you want to hate.
As long as you don't hate Pizza Dog. Or Lying Cat. Or Nighteyes (who is the best animal character in all of fiction).
(No, no, that's hyperbole again. Hate whoever you wanna hate.) (Or do I really mean that?)