2014 in Books

I only have a bit of free time each day – usually no more than about two hours when you add it all up. So whichever of my hobbies tends to catch fire is the one that gets the majority of the attention. 2013 was a pretty good year for video games, but in 2014 I did not play very many. By contrast, 2014 was an AWESOME year for reading. I track my reading on Goodreads for a variety of reasons including having conversations around books (most people I know don’t read and those that do read different books than I do). I looked at previous years and decided I’ve give myself a goal of reading 23 books.

A few things happened – I discovered a Humble Books bundle that interested me then I found out about the StoryBundle.com site and that got me reading ebooks again. Then there was an Audiobook bundle with Fight Club (which I’d always been meaning to read) and that got me listening to audiobooks instead of only listening to podcasts. I won a bunch of advanced reader copies of books, giving me physical books to read during my lunch breaks. I realized I could borrow comic book trade paperbacks from my local library.  Finally, I had a lot of travel for work this year – over 50 hours of flights  all put together.

So, I ended up reading 64 books (278% of my goal, Goodreads tells me) According to Goodreads 14774 pages (although audiobooks are not properly represented there).

Surprises from this year’s reading:

  • Carl Hiaasen’s Striptease was surprisingly hilarious and actually had the least lewd scenes of anything I read this year
  • World War Z and I, Zombie taught me that I could enjoy zombie fiction under the right circumstances. (Really, confirmed for me that my enjoyment of The Walking Dead wasn’t a fluke caused because it was a comic)
  • I can still enjoy YA Fiction
  • Short story collections are fun – I’ll be on the lookout for more of them

So here’s the list of books I read this year, a quick blurb, and links to the reviews on here, Comic POW!, and/or GoodReads as applicable. (The review on here is the same as the one on Goodreads, but I am in control of whether my blog continues to exist. I cannot guarantee the continued existence of Goodreads)

  1. Walrus: Brandon Graham’s All Bum Album – Brandon Graham is one of my newest favorite comic creators. He often includes great sketches on his blog so I wanted to buy this collection. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  2. Escalator – While the stories on their own aren’t anything special, as a collection they give  you tremendous insight into how Brandon Graham’s mind worked back when he wrote it. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  3. The Complete Multiple Warheads – This is the series that got me interested in Brandon Graham. It introduced me to his love of puns and his idiosyncratic art style. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  4. King City – This book has a ridiculous premise, but still explores some pretty serious issues. A great example of how comics are just as valid a medium for exploration of important ideas as books, TV, and movies. (Review on Comic POW! Review on Goodreads)
  5. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – I had to read this for my graduate program. While I had been exposed to some of the ideas before, it was still pretty neat to learn about some of the topics like the inability to completely rid ourselves of racism from our subconscious. (Review on Goodreads)
  6. The Man Who Invented Castro – A neat example of how the act of reporting on the news changes it (kinda like quantum physics). Paired well with another book I read this year Havana Nocturne. (I didn’t review it, but here are my status updates on Goodreads)
  7. A Once Crowded Sky – This book is almost a must-read for anyone who’s a long-time fan of traditional comics. I had the good fortune of meeting the author at Baltimore Comic-Con this year and he’s now famous for writing the new Dick Grayson book. So he was quite excited I wanted to talk to him about this book. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  8. To Be or Not To Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure – I read a lot of choose-your-own-adventure books when I was a kid. They seem to be having a resurgence in culture (see NPH’s biography). (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  9. Zombies vs Unicorns – responsible for my renewed interest in both YA and short story collections. Also a great book to read on ereader if you don’t want to constantly answer questions about what you’re reading instead of reading it. Sidenote: when well-written, Unicorns can be extremely scary. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  10. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth – I was raised religiously (in a good way, not an oppressive way), but I always had so many questions about  Jesus. He’s crucial to Christianity, but takes up such a small amount of the Bible. (Especially if you consider the Gospels are the same story 4 times). This book helped explain a lot of that in terms of the society in which Jesus existed and the society in which the Gospel was written. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads. Definitely check out my status notes as a lot of it didn’t make it into the review)
  11. Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon – the tone of Archer and a look at what Hawkeye does when he’s not being an Avenger. One of the most creative comics coming out of the Big Two in the 2010s. (Review on Comic POW!)
  12. Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits – the awesomeness continues.
  13. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure – The first of the books that were turned into a movie that I read this year. In some ways just as good as the movie; in other ways better. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  14. The Martian – I joined a science fiction and fantasy book club on Goodreads. After hearing the author interview for this book, I knew I had to read along with the club. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  15. Rasl – a bizarre science fiction comic that focuses on the human element as well as contributing to the whole Tesla was awesome meme. The first comic I read because Goodreads recommended it. I find it works well for indie comics that way. (Review on Comic POW! Review on Goodreads)
  16. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Freefall – I wanted to see where things went after Season 8. (I won’t comment on each trade) (Review on Goodreads)
  17. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: On Your Own (Review on Goodreads)
  18. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Welcome to the Team (Review on Goodreads)
  19. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Guarded (Read on Goodreads)
  20. East of West, Vol. 1: The Promise – Dan introduced me to Jon Hickman’s work and I’m so glad because this series is pretty awesome. It starts off involving The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and an alternate history for the USA and just goes from there. (Review on Comic POW! Review on Goodreads)
  21. The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1: Science, Bad- Hickman applied to an alternate Manhattan Projects timeline. (Review on Comic POW!)
  22. The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 2: They Rule (Review on Comic POW!)
  23. Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present – This was the first advanced reader copy I won in 2014. It was a great eye-opener for comics outside the USA. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  24. Fight Club – The second book I read this year which has been turned into a movie. Just like Princess Bride, I’d seen the movie first. I wanted to see how it differed. Interestingly, Chuck Palahniuk prefers the movie version. I think they both have things they do better because of their mediums. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  25. Don’t Know Much About Mythology: Everything You Need to Know About the Greatest Stories in Human History but Never Learned – This year was the year of alignment across books. Reading this book was great pre-work for reading American Gods. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  26. How Music Works – This book’s title was a bit of a trick, but it ended up being one of my favorite non-fiction books of the year. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  27. From Hell – Another book that aligned with a future book – a huge part of the book revolves around both Masonic symbols and ancient worship of goddesses rather than gods. It both tuned me well for American Gods and The Forbidden Knowledge of Enoch. Also, another book that was eventually made into a movie. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  28. Striptease – Another book that became a movie. Also very funny and takes place in my state of origin: Florida. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  29. Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker – A comic and semi-biography (made up of the lives of various hackers) that made me quite sad. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  30. Red Sonja Vol. 1: Queen of Plagues – It took knowing that Gail Simone wouldn’t stand for ridiculous sexism to get me to read a Red Sonja story. And I really liked Simone’s take on it! (Review on Comic POW! Review on Goodreads)
  31. The Mocking Dead Volume 1 – If the title is a put-off, read my review. It really is worth a read if you are a student of the zombie tropes. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  32. My Little Phony – By contrast with #31, a poorly done parody. (By my standards, anyway) (Review on Goodreads)
  33. Vampirella vs Fluffy – Not a good first intro to Vampirella. (Review on Goodreads)
  34. The Sword & Sorcery Anthology – My second anthology of short stories; a lot of fun. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  35. The Silver Ninja: Indoctrination – Another book I got for review. I felt a bit sad giving a low review, but figured I owed it to him to give him honest feedback. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  36. A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk – I got this book as part of a Steampunk bundle. It’s one of those genres where I love the idea of a world that reached some of our advances through steam power. Like all genres that surge, there tends to be a moneygrab as everyone takes their story that would have worked just fine without it and stuffing steampunk into it. This is NOT that, although it seems like it would be that way. It actually works really well as a Shakespeare cover (in the musical sense of the word) (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  37. Jam – I wasn’t sure if Mr Croshaw of Zero Punctuation could be just as funny with a book. He surpassed my expectations and I hope these last two did well enough for him to consider a third. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  38. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War – Dan recommended this years ago and I was finally able to get around to it. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. Also spawned a movie although I’m told there is almost no relation to the book. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  39. Mother Fucking Flowers – Another advanced reader copy I won. This one was just as interesting as its title would suggest. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  40. Red Rising – I didn’t know at the time that I’d end up reading Hunger Games, so it was interesting I ended up reading Hunger Games in Space first. Although, to be honest that reductionist description does it a huge disservice. It’s really as I described it in my review: “This book is a little Enders Game, a little Battle Royale, and a little 1984 with a dash of Harry Potter”. Although, knowing what I know now, I’d replace Battle Royale with Hunger Games as it is a bit closer to that mold. I think I read somewhere this will be a movie as well. I think it’d make a better show on HBO because of how layered it is compared to Hunger Games. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  41. Limbus, Inc – I’ve had mixed results with anthologies taking place in the same universe. This one, however, was extremely enjoyable (as was the meta-plot). (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  42. Havana Nocturne – My dad lent me this fascinating audiobook about Cuba in the 40s and 50s when it was effectively ruled by American gangsters. The decadence in the capital while the rest of the island hungered does seem to invite comparisons to The Hunger Games. Cuba didn’t turn out so well after that revolution. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  43. Borg Like Me & Other Tales of Art, Eros, and Embedded Systems – I participated in the Kickstarter for this book and it was definitely worth it. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  44. Chrono Trigger – I was looking forward to this because of how important this game was in my gaming life. The book was great. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  45. Mogworld – I read Croshaw’s first book after the second because I thought I’d have to be an MMORG person to enjoy it. Nope. It was fun no matter what. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  46. I, Zombie – As I mentioned before, this really changed the way I look at zombie fiction. It was really good. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  47. Pwned – Got this as part of a bundle that had other stuff I wanted. Zombies v Unicorns made me consider checking out this YA book. I was impressed with the way the author made me relate to the character and flipped the script on some of the tropes. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  48. American gods – It’s clear why Gaiman is considered a master of his craft. This book was a great introduction to his non-comics work. (Before I’d read his collaboration with Pratchett, Good Omens) (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  49. Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents – Another book I read for grad school. Helped me realize some of the non-intuitive reasons for accidents at work. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  50. The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations – Another book for grad school. (Review on Goodreads)
  51. Coral Hare: Atomic Agent (A WW2 Spy Novel) Inspired by actual historical events – Another book I got free for review purposes. I interviewed the author at Baltimore Comic-Con. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  52. Vagina Mundi – Most disappointing book I read in 2014. It was another book I got for free for review. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  53. No Land’s Man – Yet another free book for review. (I was really lucky this year!) I have really enjoyed Aasiv Mandvi’s appearances on The Daily Show and various movie cameos. Unlike other comedian-penned books I’ve read, this one was quiet and contemplative. Don’t think this one was ghost-written, it’s too personal and autobiographical. It has funny moments, but it’s more about getting to know Mandvi. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  54. The Forbidden Knowledge of Enoch – A crazy romp through an alternate history based on Masonic knowledge and other esoteric things. Although the author did not succeed in convincing me, it was mostly well-written (outside of the logical fallacies) and I think it would make a pretty neat movie. Also, it was interesting to read after reading From Hell. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  55. The Intern’s Handbook: A Thriller – Going in only having read the description, I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  56. Homeland – I enjoy Cory Doctorow’s books because they have a tech focus, are usually grounded in tech not too far-flung from what we have today, and have an important message. But the Little Brother series reminds us of our impotence in the face of government corruption and that depresses me. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  57. Joe the Barbarian – Another indie comic that Goodreads recommended to me. Like Rasl, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would at first. (Review on Comic POW! Review on Goodreads)
  58. The Eyre Affair – A recommendation from Dan. Rare for those, it fell a bit flat for me. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  59. Jumper – This one surprised me on three fronts: It wasn’t as sci-fi as I thought it would be, it has a lot of violence against the main character, we knew a lot about Islamic terrorism before 11 Sept – at least some people did; the book mentions the difference between Shi’a and Sunni. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  60. Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet Vol 1 – I continue exploring pulp at Dynamite. No reviews yet. Working on one for Comic POW!
  61. Love Hina Vol 11 – I finally make moves to finish up the series I started back in undergrad. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  62. The Hunger Games – I got this as part of a Humble Bundle so I wouldn’t feel badly if I didn’t like it. Susan Collins surprised me and I learned why people love this series. It’s not a white-washed Battle Royale. It’s its own thing and it is great. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  63. Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet Vol 2. (Same as #60)
  64. Catching Fire – This book really hits home with its propaganda war (which REALLY picks up steam in the third book – which I’m not quite done with yet) (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)

Quick tidbit for the stats junkie in me:

According to the shelves I added the books to, these are the top 5 categories of books:

  1. Graphic Novels and Comics (almost 1/3)
  2. Basis for Movie
  3. Audiobooks
  4. First Reads (free for review)
  5. Video Games

Looking back, it’s hard to pick any ONE best book of 2014. They were all so different in so many ways. Of all 64 books, 14 were given five star ratings. Looking at those, I can make the following assessments:

  • Best Audiobook: Fight Club
  • Best Comic: East of West
  • Best Comedy: Jam
  • Best Historical Fiction: Coral Hare
  • Best Drama: I, Zombie

I’ve really enjoyed being transported to so many different worlds and situations. I hope that I can at least meet my 2015 goal of 30 books (just under 3 per month).

2 responses to “2014 in Books”

  1. If you’ve been digging short story collections, you’ll end up liking Machine of Death and This is How You Die