Christmas is over and New Year’s plans are being made – another year is quickly coming to a close. As I look back over my reading goal for 2014, I feel largely content with what I accomplished. I did not read all of my 30 designated books/genres this year, falling short in 2 categories. I also had to reduce my overall Goodreads goal from 60 books to 55. I thought I could squeeze in everything during my break from work, but even with a two-week vacation, I’ve had little time to read. Cooking, baking, and visiting friends and family have had priority this past week.
This was my second year in a row to set specific reading goals for myself, and I am glad to have done it. I have definitely read more widely in the past two years than ever before! Most surprisingly, I discovered that I like poetry. Well, certain kinds of poetry, I should say. The Ted Kooser kind, specifically. Kooser’s accessible but deeply thoughtful and emotional poems were some of my best reads from these two years. I fully intend to continue with my poetry reading.
I do not intend, however, to make a reading list for 2015. I know the first three months of the new year will be too busy for much personal reading to take place (full-time teaching job plus 6 hours of graduate classes plus my school counselor practicum). And after the unexpected events of 2014 (moving halfway across Texas, starting a new job, and going back to graduate school), who knows what 2015 will have in store for me. John and I are discussing buying a house this year, for starters.
So below is my final reading wrap-up for 2014. Maybe I’ll return to this type of goal in 2016!
1. The New Testament in Modern English – Unfinished. This is especially sad considering that I had this on my reading list last year, as well. I did begin a daily devotional–The Upper Room–with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law this fall, however, which has helped to meet my spiritual needs this year.
2. Theology – Done (thrice)! In February I read Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline by Lauren F. Winner and granted it 4 stars. In March I read Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food by Rachel Marie Stone. And in August I finally finished up Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen. I wish I had read this one years ago, as it’s easily a 5-star book and deserves to be read and reread many times over.
3. Pulitzer Prize Winner – Done! Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout left me with mixed feelings and therefore earned an average, 3-star rating from me on Goodreads.
4. Mystery – Done! I read, and was sorely disappointed by, Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James. It was a 2-star book.
5. Spy/Crime Novel – Done! While traveling in Wyoming over the summer, I made my way through The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson, the first book in the Walt Longmire series. It kept me intrigued, and I gave it a solid 4 stars.
6. Science Fiction – Done! I listened to the audiobook version of Michael Crichton’s Micro. I flew through a number of Crichton thrillers while in junior high, but I had not picked up a Crichton since then. I decided it would be fun to return to Crichton for this year’s science fiction book. Yet Micro was flawed both in story idea and execution; I only gave it 2 stars.
7. Fantasy – Done! My husband, sister-in-law, and I all read Westmark by Lloyd Alexander for our fall book-club chat over Thanksgiving break. I enjoyed the novel and gave it 4 stars.
8. Christian Romance – Done! To help distract me from the stress of testing season last spring, I read Sophie’s Heart by Lori Wick. My mother-in-law is an avid Christian romance reader, and Sophie’s Heart was her top recommendation for me. I can see why, as I gave the novel 4 stars on Goodreads.
9. Popular History – Done (twice)! Over spring break, John and I listened to Ed Herrmann narrate David McCullough’s The Johnstown Flood. Riveting and thorough, I granted The Johnstown Flood 5 stars. John and I also listened to the audiobook version of Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927 during our winter holiday travels after I won a free copy from Goodreads. It made for a 4-star listen.
10. Social Criticism – Done! While driving back and forth to work this fall, I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures. Overall, the essay collection earned 4 stars from me, with some of the essays being of 5-star quality. For example, I never considered condiments fascinating until reading “The Ketchup Conundrum.”
11. Biography – Done! I also listened to Bill Bryson’s William Shakespeare: The World as Stage on my weekday drives through the Texas hill country. I found it intriguing at times and dull at times; it earned 3 stars from me.
12. Memoir – Done (twice)! Where Rivers Change Direction was a fantastic 5-star read about Mark Spragg’s youth on a dude ranch in Wyoming, while Amy Cohen’s The Late Bloomer’s Revolution earned 4 stars for its humorous take on young adulthood and dating.
13. Book-That-Has-Been-Made-into-a-Movie – Done! While relaxing at my in-laws’ house over spring break, I raced through Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, which was easily a 4-star novel. I’m still waiting on enough free time so that I can watch the movie version of the book!
14. Comedy – Done! Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris was a humorous 4-star read.
15. British Classic – Done! I loved, loved, loved A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. How is it that I had never read it before? It’s a new 5-star children’s lit favorite.
16. American Classic – Done! John, Kalyn, and I agreed upon Little Women by Louisa May Alcott as our winter book club read. I gave it an easy 5 stars.
17. Author-I’ve-Wanted-to-Read-but-Never-Have: Edith Wharton – Undone.
18. Current Bestseller – Done! Sue Monk Kidd’s latest, The Invention of Wings, was my first read in April. I was somewhat disappointed in this historical fiction novel about abolitionist Sarah Grimké and her fictional slave, Handful. I gave the book an average 3 stars.
19. Travelogue – Done! I whisked myself to the south of France courtesy of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, which I granted 4 stars.
20. Cookbook – Done – sort of. I’ve utterly stalled out on cooking recipes from Ellie Krieger’s Comfort Food Fix. I got 25 recipes done but then life happened. I’ve decided to scrap my goal of cooking every single recipe from the cookbook, but I think it’s fair to say that I’ve looked at every page in the cookbook at some point over the past year.
21. Culinary Memoir – Done (twice)! I heartily loved A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg and gave it an unabashed 5 stars. But Wizenberg’s follow-up, Delancey, could not compare to its predecessor; it earned 3 stars from me.
22. Historical Fiction – Done! My big summer read was Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. It’s a classic for good reason, and I gave it 5 stars.
23. Christmas-Themed Novel – Done! John and I read aloud The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan to one another. This children’s novel was only okay; we each gave it 3 stars.
24. Education – Done (twice)! In March I felt compelled to read two education books. As a teacher, I cannot help but be invested in the field of educational writing. The first of these reads was The Paideia Proposal by Mortimer Adler, which I granted 4 stars.
I also read Results Now: How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning by Mike Schmoker. My previous school district was making a push towards authentic literacy, and Schmoker is one of the authentic literacy champions. I agree with much of what he promotes, and I gave Results Now 4 stars.
25. A Collection of Poetry – Done! Ted Kooser’s Delights and Shadows transforms simple, everyday scenes into extraordinary moments. 5 stars, hands-down.
26. A Play – Done! After years of watching My Fair Lady, I finally read Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. I surprisingly (to myself, at least) liked it better than the movie and gave it 4 stars. When a book and movie version of the same story are being compared, typically I like whichever I encountered first. This was not so with Pygmalion, nor A Little Princess, for that matter. The original texts are classics for good reason.
27. Young Adult Lit – Done! I read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. While the book is well-regarded in young adult circles, I only gave it 3 stars. I’ve decided that young adult lit is not for me; I find it either vulgar for the sake of being vulgar or utterly predictable. Or both.
28. Carnegie Winner – Done! I selected Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech to be my final summer read. I found the children’s novel to be uplifting and fun but also flawed; it received 3 stars.
29. Newbery Winner – Done (four times over)! After reading Little Women, I felt pulled to read Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs. I enjoyed it, but gave it an average 3-star rating on Goodreads.
After the 2014 Newbery winner–Flora and Ulysses: the Illuminated Adventures–was announced, John and I purchased the novel for our Newbery collection. I was disappointed in the book, however, and gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.
In May I also read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell and Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry while teaching the Newbery winners to my 4th grade class. I granted the books 5 and 4 stars, respectively.
30. Graphic Novel – Done! I laughed and cringed (in the best of ways) through Allie Brosh’s 4-star Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. She bravely put down certain thoughts on paper that most of us have but pretend we don’t. And her artwork was hilarious.