The Year in Books - 2014

At the start of 2014, I set a goal to read 10,000 pages by year's end:

In 2013, for the third straight year my goal was to read 25,000 pages. And for the third straight year, this goal was met, and the quantifiable nature of the endeavor continues to make it easier to motivate myself and to track progress.

I reached the 25,000 page goal by October 2013, only to see my reading habits grind to a halt after the birth of my second child, it appearing that the time consumption of parenting increases exponentially rather than geometrically with each child. As such, I read barely 1,500 pages in the last ten weeks of 2013, suggesting the necessity of a much lower target in 2014. That meager pace would see me read barely 8,000 pages in a full year, which I simply cannot abide. Thus I will aim slightly higher: I will read 10,000 pages in 2014.

Here's what I read in 2014:

  1. A Hologram for the King - Dave Eggers
  2. The Time Machine - H.G. Wells
  3. Around the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne
  4. The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells
  5. The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells
  6. Johnny Cash - Robert Hilburn
  7. Monsters - Rich Cohen
  8. The Black Echo - Michael Connelly
  9. A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
  10. The Good Lord Bird - James McBride
  11. The Cove - Ron Rash
  12. Arik - David Landau
  13. The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  14. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia - Mohsin Hamid
  15. Days of Fire - Peter Baker
  16. The Black Ice - Michael Connelly
  17. The Concrete Blonde - Michael Connelly
  18. William Cooper's Town - Alan Taylor
  19. The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
  20. An Army at Dawn - Rick Atkinson
  21. My Name is Red - Orhan Pamuk
  22. The Last Coyote - Michael Connelly
  23. The Day of Battle - Rick Atkinson
  24. The Guns at Last Light - Rick Atkinson
  25. 1491 - Charles Mann
  26. Trunk Music - Michael Connelly
  27. John Quincy Adams - Fred Kaplan
  28. Angels Flight - Michael Connelly
  29. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
  30. Righteous Victims - Benny Morris
  31. The Book of Unknown Americans - Cristina Henriquez
  32. This Is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper
  33. The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell
  34. My Promised Land - Ari Shavit
  35. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - Ron Hansen
  36. John Brown, Abolitionist - David Reynolds
  37. Invincible - Amy Lawrence
  38. The Martian - Andy Weir
  39. All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
  40. Wonderland - Stacey D'Erasmo

I made steady progress throughout the year and surpassed the 10,000 page goal half-way through August. I then more or less maintained that pace through the remainder of the year, finishing the year having read 40 books totaling 16,537 pages, or just over 400 pages per book. I leaned a little heavily toward fiction this year with 26 fiction books to just 14 nonfiction, though the fiction side was padded with some lighter reading in the form of the first six novels in Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, inspired by my enjoyment of the Amazon-produced pilot of a new TV show based on Connelly's famous protagonist.

Amongst the 26 fiction titles I read in 2014, no single novel stood too far above the rest, a sign of the overall strength of the year's selections. Particular favorites were David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks, continuing Mr. Mitchell's remarkable run of top-shelf novels, Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch, which overcame some significant narrative bloat through the sheer power of Tartt's prose, Bernard Malamud's much-older Pulitzer Prize-winning The Fixer, a tragic reminder of the individual suffering within the larger framework of anti-Semitic violence, and Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which has universal appeal sufficient to draw any reader into the growing pains of young Francie Nolan. Special acclaim is also reserved for Andy Weir's The Martian, a gripping account of an astronaut stranded on Mars that is deeply grounded in the science side of science fiction.

Amongst the 14 nonfiction titles I read in 2014, the best were Days of Fire, Peter Baker's even-handed and comprehensive history of the Bush/Cheney administration, and The Guns at Last Light, the final volume in Rick Atkinson's World War II trilogy, the entirety of which is a worthwhile project. For something less intense, I can also recommend a pair of books telling the tale of two of my favorite sports teams: Rich Cohen's Monsters, which recalls the feats, fights, and ferocity of the 1985 Chicago Bears, and Amy Lawrence's Invincible, which follows Arsenal's remarkable undefeated 2003-2004 season.

All in all, another wonderful year in reading.