I’ve completed my reading goal for the year! I set my goal on Goodreads back on January 1, 2014. This year I shot for 70 books, which I wrapped up in a mad rush during the last two weeks of the year.
One interesting thing I’ve discovered since finishing my undergraduate (with all the general education and other random classes attached) is that I willingly read a lot more non-fiction than I used to. Case in point: In 2012 out of my 75 books, 4 were “for fun” non-fiction. This year, I’m split even at 35/35. I think it’s a craving to keep collecting information that could be used in stories–but now I don’t have information served to me, I get to pick it. In the past year, I’ve moved through illuminated manuscripts and Venice to star maps and plague.
Below I’ve listed some of my favorite discoveries from 2014. Enjoy!
1. Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell
Middle grade fiction. All her life, Sophie has been told she’s an orphan, found in the remains of a shipwreck when she was a baby. But when she discovers her mother may still be alive, she and her adopted dad are off to Paris to find a cellist in a city full of music. Stuffed with some of my favorite tropes (book-loving dad, kindly thieves, and unseen worlds under our noses (or over our heads, in this case)) and written in lovely prose, this book quickly won my heart.
2. Venice – Jan Morris
Non-fiction (travel). Venice comes alive in the pages of this book, which beautifully captures the country’s history, tradition, and oddity, all presented in Jan Morris’s uniquely beautiful (and hilarious) voice. My copy is drowning in blue underlines. I laughed, I gasped, I wanderlusted.
3. All Fall Down – Sally Nicholls
Young Adult. It’s 1349, and the Black Death is racing across England to Isabel’s village. In the face of a disease that is turning the country inside out, Isabel tries to hold together her crumbling family. But no one is safe, and no house will be untouched. Captured in remarkable prose, this is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful story of loss and hope.
4. Plague Hospitals: Illness and Isolation in Early Modern Venice – Jane L Stevens Crawshaw
Non-fiction. I had to pick one of my very obscure non-fiction reads, and this was by far my favorite. With fascinating perspective on religion and its interaction with illness, Jane L Stevens Crawshaw covers plague hospitals in Venice (and wider Italy) and their impact on healthcare and society. My only sorrow is that it’s a rare book, and costs just about a fortune (I got my copy from the British Library on loan).
5. Mapping the World: Stories of Geography – Caroline and Martine Laffon
Non-fiction. This book is gorgeous, full to the brim of colorful ancient maps. But it’s the text that makes it a fabulous piece. Caroline and Martine Laffon take their readers across cultures, across history, to explore how we all represent our place in the world–whether we sing it, like the Native Americans, or whether we make it in logical grids, like the Greeks.
6. The Dreamer: Vol III – Lora Innes
Graphic novel. Beatrice Whaley finds herself trapped in two lives. As a modern day teenager, she has school, boys and drama to juggle. But when she sleeps, she finds herself in the midst of the Revolutionary War. Beautiful art, history, characters and story. I would highly recommend this graphic novel to any history nerd, adventure lover, or romantic. (Disclaimer: I knew about The Dreamer before this year, but I took time to reread all the volumes in the last weeks of December. I couldn’t help falling in love all over again.)
Letter To An Unknown Soldier: A New Kind of War Memorial (Kate Pullinger, Neil Bartlett, and various others) – Fiction? Of a sort? A really interesting book built out of letters about WWI, written by contemporary people from across demographics. Contradicting views and eye-opening true (and imagined) tales make it a deeply thought-provoking read.
The Promise (Nicola Davies, Laura Carlin) – Picture book. Geared more for teens than small children, this book is about bringing green to a world of iron and concrete. It is breathtakingly gorgeous in the way that the best picture books are.
Half a King (Joe Abercrombie) – YA (possibly 15+). Good fantasy that isn’t toned down a lick. This book definitely kept me on my toes, and I didn’t see several of the twists coming (which is a rare thing!).
Dreamlander (K.M. Weiland) – Fiction. I’ve long been a fan of K.M. Weiland’s writing blog, and was pleased to find myself enjoying her fiction as well. Dreamlander is about a contemporary man who himself waking up in another (fantasy) world. When he screws up the space/time continuum, he has to put the worlds back together before everything is destroyed.