Monday, 29 December 2014

My Year of Reading (2014)


Hello, people of the Internet!* ;) I hope everyone reading this had a Merry Christmas! In this post I'm going to sum up my year of reading. To be honest I didn't read very many books in 2013. I didn't keep a record of the number of books that I read in that year but I'd be very surprised if I read more than... 20? *winces* My private new year's resolution of 2014 was to read at least 35 books and in the end I surpassed that amount. At this moment in time I've read 51 books :) A list of those books is below. You'll notice that I've put 52 books on the list though and that's because I'm only a few chapters away from finishing Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four. I'll be finishing that book tonight so I've still included it on my list of books that I read in 2014. I've also read the first few chapters of Georgette Heyer's Regency Buck but I don't think I'll be finishing that one before New Year's Eve so I've left that one out of this year's list.

I'm pretty happy with the amount of books that I read this year. Even if I were to take out all of the books that I read but didn't finish I would still have surpassed my aim. I managed to review almost everything that I read too although I have fallen behind a bit during the last few weeks. I might make a mini-reviews post to cover those books.

I have several reading aims for 2015. I'm aiming to read at least 60 books and I want at least five or six of those books to be non-fiction titles. I only managed to read one non-fiction book this year. When I was a child the amount of fiction and non-fiction books that I read was pretty much the same. I used to read a lot of child encyclopaedias and history books. But now I hardly ever read non-fiction and I want that to change. I know that I'll always prefer to read fiction books over non-fiction but I want to broaden my horizons. I also want to finish some book series next year. In 2014 I started a few book series but I didn't get round to finishing any of them and I'm a little bit disappointed with myself about that. I'm also disappointed with myself for not reading War and Peace this year. Up until last year War and Peace had never been a book that I particularly wanted to read but that all changed when I read Anna Karenina. That book was my favourite read of 2013 and it made me want to read Tolstoy's other masterpiece only I never got round to in 2014. Hopefully 2015 will be the year! Finally, I also want to do some read-along blog events in 2015. I've already put my name down for a read-along of Jane Austen's Persuasion and I'm really looking forward to doing it. I re-read Persuasion over Christmas and - drum roll - it's my new favourite Jane Austen novel! It's finally overtaken Pride and Prejudice! Although Pride and Prejudice is still a very, very close second!

The books that I read in 2014 were:
  1. Death Cloud by Andrew Lane (2010)
  2. Coriolanus by William Shakespeare (1623)
  3. Venetia by Georgette Heyer (1958) *abridged audiobook read by Richard Armitage*
  4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2004)
  5. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966)
  6. Frederica by Georgette Heyer (1965)
  7. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (1848)
  8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012)
  9. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (1996)
  10. Allegiant by Veronica Roth (2013)
  11. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1838)
  12. Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer (1944)
  13. Longbourn by Jo Baker (2013)
  14. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (1998)
  15. Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley (1997)
  16. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (1962)
  17. Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid (2014) 
  18. The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer (1934)
  19. DNF The Iliad by Homer (c. 750BC)
  20. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (2013)
  21. N Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier by Charles Spencer (2007)
  22. Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier (2009)
  23. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (1982)
  24. Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy (1891)
  25. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer (1926)
  26. Venetia by Georgette Heyer (1958) *unabridged paperback*
  27. The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen (1935)
  28. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (1912)
  29. Evelina by Frances Burney (1797)
  30. Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer (1932)
  31. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
  32. DNF The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick (2014) *unabridged audiobook read by Ashley Clements*
  33. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1820) *unabridged e-book*
  34. Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1623)
  35. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1820) *unabridged audiobook read by Tom Mison*
  36. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin (2000)
  37. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (2012)
  38. R Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
  39. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (2006)
  40. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin (2005)
  41. R Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)
  42. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (1938)
  43. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (1887)
  44. William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher (2013)
  45. R Venetia by Georgette Heyer (1958) *abridged audiobook read by Richard Armitage*
  46. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)
  47. R Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
  48. DNF Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (1990)
  49. R Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1818)
  50. R Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)
  51. William Shakespeare's Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher (2014)
  52. The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (1890)
Key:

R: Re-read
N: Non-fiction
DNF: Did not finish

Now I'm going to talk about my Favourite Books of the Year. These are all going to be new reads and in their alphabetical order. I tried to sort them into the order in which I liked them best but it was too difficult! I didn't include re-reads of old favourites but if I had then Jane Austen's Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey would certainly all be in this list as would Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows and Shakespeare's Macbeth. There are two plays in this list and I would have also included Arthur Miller's The Crucible in this list as well if I'd actually read that one. I got to see the Old Vic production of the play - which starred Richard Armitage - and I absolutely loved it. 

1. Coriolanus by William Shakespeare (1623)
I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this one! I liked it only slightly less than Macbeth and far more than Romeo and Juliet and King Lear! Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare's more obscure plays and the only reason why I read it was to familiarise with the story before seeing the live screening of the Donmar Warehouse production (which starred Tom Hiddleston, Mark Gatiss and Hadley Fraser). Coriolanus is seriously underrated! The characters aren't all that likeable and the ending is a little bit weak but I still found the story extremely gripping and powerful. It raises some really interesting points about society and politics. Even lesser-known Shakespeare is great!

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012)
John Green's writing is eloquent, emotional and beautiful. Although it features epic sadness the book is also laugh out loud funny and a lot of fun in places. Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters are both incredibly likeable characters. Other reviewers have pointed out they aren't the most realistic teenagers in the world - it's true that they're both much more articulate and witty than your average teenager - but that didn't bother me in the slightest. I loved their Joss Whedon-y dialogue and I loved their characters. I loved how funny, intelligent, sarcastic and passionate they both were. This book is fantastic!

3. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (1996)

Towards the end of 2013 I started to watch the HBO high-fantasy show Game of Thrones and this year I started to read the books that the show is based on  - George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I've read almost all of the completed novels in the series now. I just need to read the fifth book A Dance with Dragons. Almost all of the ASoIaF fans think that the third book A Storm of Swords is the best in the series but my personal favourite is still the first book A Game of Thrones. That book is terrific. It's set in a complex and interesting world, there's some beautiful writing, and the story is full of suspense and drama. The characters are rich and interesting and I found all of their different storylines compelling. Crucially the reason why AGoT is still my favourite in the series is because it contains a wealth of backstory and worldbuilding but still manages to be a tightly-written and fast-paced read. A Storm of Swords, as great as it is, suffers from some slow-pacing at times and I found large sections of the fourth book A Feast for Crows boring. I wouldn't recommend ASoIaF as highly as the other books on this list. The books are often dark and violent and they contain sex scenes. *cue dramatic voice* Reader discretion is advised. I do love AGoT though and I think many mature fantasy readers will feel the same way. 

4. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1820)
I loved this short story but it was completely different to what I was expecting. Right up until the very end this story isn't very suspenseful or spooky at all. Instead it's really a very charming and lovely depiction of Autumn and the Hudson Valley. Irving's writing is enchanting and beautiful and now I can finally understand why the story is a classic of American literature. It's surprisingly funny in places too. If you'd like to read the story for free - and who doesn't like free books?! - Audible.com have a free unabridged audiobook of this story. It's read by Tom Mison who plays Ichabod Crane in the current TV show (which I love). Tom Mison has a great voice and I loved his reading of the story.

5. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (1938)

I managed to read this book and see its 2008 film adaptation in the same day. That isn't as impressive as it probably sounds! The book is very short! To be honest I actually enjoyed the film more than the book. The film has a truly superb cast - Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Lee Pace, Mark Strong and Ciaran Hinds are all in it - and the film actually improved upon the book in several ways. But I still really loved the book! It's a genuinely sweet, heartwarming and funny story. It's highly uplifting and is still very much worth a read. The book was republished by Persephone Classics and it's inspired me to check out more of their titles. I would particularly recommend both the book and its film adaptation to Jane Austen fans. The story doesn't remind me of any one of Jane Austen's novels in particular. It just has this Austen-esque tone about it, you know? 

6. Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier by Charles Spencer (2007)

I only read one non-fiction book this year but it was a cracker! This book is a biography of Prince Rupert of the Rhine who fought in the English Civil War and was the cousin of Charles II. I loved Prince Rupert before I even read the book. He's been a long-time historical crush of mine purely because of the famous Gerrit van Honthorst painting. But now I've read this book I realise just how ridiculously cool he was! Prince Rupert wasn't just famously good-looking and a dashing Cavalier, oh no. He was also a brave and badass soldier and was highly intelligent. The man spoke about five languages and he was a talented artist and scientist. And he was a pirate prince! Ladies, a pirate prince! Charles Spencer is probably most famous for being the brother of Princess Diana but he's an excellent writer and I really enjoyed his account of Rupert's life. It's packed with brilliant stories. Prince Rupert had a life that was full of adventure, his life is crying out for a movie biopic *sigh*

7. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (1912)

I've been a fan of this play's musical adaptation My Fair Lady for a few years and I finally got round to reading the play this year. What a delight! Eliza Doolittle is a fantastic heroine. The story of the play is extremely entertaining and funny but it has a great deal of hidden depth. The play has a lot to say about feminism, the social classes of Edwardian society, and the power of language. But the main reason why I loved this play so much was because of its ending. I can't put into words how much better it is than the ending of My Fair Lady! Overall I'm still a fan of that musical - I do love its songs and Audrey Hepburn's Eliza - but now I hate its ending. The ending of that musical completely undermines the powerful feminist message of George Bernard Shaw's play! Grr!

8. Venetia by Georgette Heyer (1958)
I read my first Georgette Heyer novel (Cotillion) in 2013. Over the years I'd seen Heyer's books being recommended time and time again in various Jane Austen forums and last year I finally got round to reading one of them. I've read a number of Heyer's books now - and I love her! Some of her books have been duds for me but the books that I've enjoyed I've really enjoyed! Frederica and These Old Shades could have quite easily gone on this list too but really my favourite Heyer novel that I've read so far is Venetia. I loved this book so much that I actually read it three times over the course of the year! I started off by listening to the abridged audiobook recording of the book - read by Richard Armitage! :) - back in January. Okay, I know that's not technically "reading" but whatever. Then when I went on a trip to Ireland during the summer I took the unabridged paperback of Venetia with me and read that. Then I listened to the Richard Armitage recording of the book again in November. I would strongly recommend Georgette Heyer's books to Jane Austen fans. The level of detail in them is truly exquisite. The dialogue and the historical detail in them is so spot-on that if I didn't know any better I'd think Heyer was a contemporary of Austen's. Heyer's books might lack the social commentary and profundity of Jane Austen's books but her books really do compare very favourably to Austen's in terms of their comedy and romance. Venetia is my favourite Heyer novel because the story is hugely engaging and it's filled with entertaining characters. The book made me laugh out loud but it's also very romantic and moving. It made me genuinely emotional at times. The fact that Richard Armitage reads the book was also a massive added bonus! I love his voice!

9. William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher (2013)

Oh man, this book is hilaaarious! It's an officially licensed retelling of Star Wars: a New Hope and is written in the style of William Shakespeare. Obviously you're going to have to be a fan of both Star Wars and Shakespeare in order to appreciate it but as I'm a reader who is a fan of both this book was pure comedy gold! Reading this book was a massive giggle-fest for me. I especially loved all of the Shakespeare quotes that were incorporated into the story and all of R2-D2's asides. Yes, R2-D2 has asides! And they're awesome! Ian Doescher has also written retellings of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. I didn't find The Empire Striketh Back as hilariously funny as its predecessor but there were still some wonderful comic moments in it and I'm looking forward to finishing off the series with The Jedi Doth Return

10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (1962)

I was hesitant about reading this novel because it's a children's book. I don't tend to read very many children's books because a lot of the time I find them too simplistic or too sanctimonious. I was crushed when I tried to re-read some of my old Jacqueline Wilson books as an adult! But I needn't have worried about A Wrinkle in Time. This book is a beautifully-written sci-fi/fantasy novel. The characters are engaging, the story is full of adventure and suspense, and it has a huge amount of depth. It's not often that you come across children's books that incorporate physics, philosophy and biblical symbolism! I didn't get round to reading the rest of Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet series this year but I'm hoping to do that in 2015. I'm also excited about the upcoming film adaptation! It's been announced that Jennifer Lee, who co-wrote and directed Disney's Frozen, is going to be doing a live-action adaptation of this book!

And now feel free to comment! How many books did you read? What are your literary aims for 2015?  Do you share my feelings on any of the books that I loved this year? What were your favourites of 2014? Are there any books that you would recommend for me to read in 2015?

* P.S. If you understood that reference at the start I like your taste in web series!

12 comments:

Mònica said...

Righteous! It's so cool that you actually kept track of the books you've read this year. I might be able to list most of them, but probably not all of them. XD
Oooh, I really liked Pygmalion too! For pretty much all the reasons you did. :)
Happy New Year!

Lianne @ caffeinatedlife.net said...

Looks like you had an awesome year in reading Hannah! Yay for reading more Tolstoy next year :) I was the other way around: I read War and Peace first before Anna Karenina (I was actualy daunted to read the latter for some reason, even though War and Peace was longer. But I loved it!). Best of luck reading War and Peace :)

What happened with The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet that it was DNF? (I think the last post I read you were about to read it?)

Hee, Venetia was my first Heyer read xD And yay for Coriolanus! I really want to watch the Ralph Fiennes version at some point.

Happy New year! Wishing you the very best in the new year :)

Sarah said...

Wow, 52 books! I'm very impressed -- my count is 12!

Little Dorrit (my first Dickens, and I loved it)
The Divergent trilogy (which started fine and gradually got worse and worse)
The Fault in Our Stars (amazing)
The Giver (interesting)
The three Drew Farthering mysteries by Julianna Deering (something to do while sunning at the pool)
The Maze Runner Trilogy (really good)
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (I got mad at this one, but in a good way)
And I haven't quite finished Nicholas Nickleby yet, but I'm counting it too. :D And I think it may be my favorite of the year as well.

So out of your favorites, the only one I've read is TFIOS, which, I agree, was fantastic. I have been wanting to read Pygmalion, and A Wrinkle in Time caught my eye too, but then I hesitated too because it's a children's story -- but now you've got me interested again! And you've got me interested in Miss Pettigrew too now, but more the movie than the book! :P

Really fun post, Hannah! Congrats on passing your goal, and good luck for next year's! :D

Hannah said...

Monica - Happy New Year!

I have a terrible memory. In March I figured that I'd have to make some kind of a record of the books that I'd read otherwise I wouldn't remember them all by the end of the year!

Yay, I'm glad you liked Pygmalion!

Lianne - It was a pretty great year but not, I suspect, as awesome as yours was :D

Ooh, I'll have to check out your reviews for War and Peace and Anna Karenina!

Ah, well, I'm a huge fan of 'The Lizzie Bennet Diaries' as you know but 'The Secret Diary' really disappointed me. I didn't feel there was enough additional content in the book to justify its publication. I felt like I was just reading a novelisation of the LBD instead of the companion piece that the book was supposed to be. "Why am I reading this when I could just be watching the web series?!" And one of the few ways in which the book differed from the LBD was the revelation that Bing and Jane were sleeping together at Netherfield and that really bothered me. I know that times are different now and that most people don't see anything wrong with having sex before marriage but to me it seemed extremely disrespectful to Jane Austen. Also, it makes Bing look a total asshole for dumping Jane and leaving town! Had I been reading a paperback or an e-book I'd have probably just skim-read the book but I was listening to the audiobook and I couldn't be bothered to listen to it all really, even though Ashley Clement did a pretty great job with the narration. So that's a fairly long answer for why I didn't finish the book! I'm just sticking with the LBD in future :)

I loved Venetia so much! It's the most moving and romantic of the Heyer books that I've read but it's still really funny.

Coriolanus is so underrated! I've heard some really good things about the Ralph Fiennes version but do try the Donmar production if you ever get the chance :)

Aw, thank you! Wishing you a very happy new year too! :) *hugs*

Hannah said...

Sarah - 'Little Dorrit' is on my to-read list for next year. I try to read at least one Dickens a year and was torn between that book or 'Bleak House' for my Dickens of 2015 - but what you said about LD in your Austen tag made me pick that one :)

Urgh, the Divergent series got so bad. I barely remember anything that happened in Allegiant apart from the fact that it kept me sending to sleep. It was so DULL!

As you're a Whovian I think you'd probably love A Wrinkle in Time. There's a lot of timey-wimey ness in that one!

Wishing you a very happy new year!

Hamlette said...

I'm working on a post about my favorite reads of 2014, and maybe my favorite movies too if I have time. Anyway, congrats on reading so many books! Well done.

I also prefer the original ending of Pygmalion to the My Fair Lady ending. Way better.

Manette said...

Great way to close another year of blogging! I made a re-cap post as well and it was a very eye-opening experience – I've discovered so many great things this year and I'll always be grateful for it! I've also got grand plans for my reading projects of 2015 ;)I might have to put The Fault in our Stars on my reading list, I've heard so many wonderful reviews about it now...

I think A Game of Thrones is my favorite book in the series as well. I love how all the characters (except Daenerys) start off in Winterfell and spread out from there, and as I re-read it after finishing A Dance with Dragons, I loved Tyrion's and Arya's characterizations even more than the first time.

Hmm... What could I recommend? You said that you might re-read Ballet Shoes and I'd be really interested to see what you think of it, especially considering what you say about children's books (which is absolutely true, many of them were not made to cross age classifications!). I would also recommend the full, novelized version of The Children of Húrin with all my heart.

I wish you a wonderful book year of 2015, and I'll "see" you at Hamlette's Sherlock Holmes Blog Party, right? :)

Hannah said...

Hamlette - Thanks! I might do a favourite movies post of the year too.

I'm glad to see the love for Pygmalion! I really don't know what Lerner and Loewe were thinking of when they wrote the ending for My Fair Lady. "Gee, shall we go for Shaw's ending where Eliza marries Freddy and becomes a successful businesswoman or should we scrap that and have Eliza run back to Higgins and fetch his slippers?" *sigh*

Manette - Thanks, I wanted to do something a bit special for my last post of 2014. I'm glad that you had such a great year!

Oh, do read The Fault in Our Stars! The film is wonderful too. Highly faithful to the book and exceptionally well-cast!

I'm pleased to know I'm not the only one who thinks AGoT is still the best in the series!

Well, Ballet Shoes and The Children of Hurin are both on my "long-term" reading list - by that I mean that they're books I want to read but not desperately - but now I'll think I'll have to read at least one of them in 2015 :)

Yes, I'll see you soon ;)

samara said...

First off - I TOTALLY got that reference! I read it in Lizzie's voice and immediately scrolled alllll the way down to read the asterisk. Then read the rest of the post and LOVED it!

Whew - you read a book a week, that's fantastic! And I've read half of your recommendations for the year...yay! So fun to read your list; I'm still working on mine.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Hannah said...

HELLO!

Wait, what, does Lizzie say that line in the LBD?! I can't remember. I intended it as a NMTD reference but if Lizzie says that line as well then that's even better :D

Yeah, it averages out about a book a week but there were some books that took me a long time to read and other books that I got through pretty quickly.

Really looking forward to reading your list!

samara said...

Hannah - yes I'm working on my list! I need to wrap it up.

I remembered after the fact this was a NMTD reference. I swear Lizzie says that, but after searching, I've only found her saying "hello internet".....but I can hear her saying that line. Am I going crazy? I might be going crazy. Haha...

Hannah said...

*nervous laugh* That's okay! I guess we all have our off days *backs away slowly from the crazy girl*