Sunday, February 15, 2015

50 Books List for 2014

Every year I try to read at least fifty books. What gets included on this list is bit arbitraryfor example, short picture books don't count, short poetry volumes usually do; individual comic book issues don't count, but trade collections of multiple issues do. I missed posting my list for 2013, but here's the list for 2014.

Underline of any color= graphic novel/comic book  

  1. Robin: Year One—written by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty, illustrated by Javier Pulido and Robert Campanella
  2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince—J.K. Rowling
  3.  Portraits of a Marriage—Sándor Márai, trans. by George Szirtes
  4. Tell the Wolves I’m Home—Carol Rifka Brunt
  5. Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 1: Orientation—Thomas Siddell
  6. The Plain Janes—written by Cecil Castellucci, art by Jim Rugg
  7. Sweeney Astray—translated by Seamus Heaney
  8. Saints—Gene Luen Yang
  9. Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 2: Research—Thomas Siddell
  10. Batman & Robin, Vol. 1: Born to Kill—written by Peter J. Tomasi, illustrated by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray
  11. Nightwing: Year One—written by Chuck Dixon, illustrated by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens
  12. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth—Warsan Shire
  13. A Town Like Alice—Nevil Shute
  14. In the Woods—Tana French
  15. Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 3: Reason—Thomas Siddell
  16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—J.K. Rowling
  17. Nightwing: The Lost Year—written by Marv Wolfman and Marc Andreyko; art by Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, Jamal Igle, Jon Bosco, Keith Champagne, Alex Silva, etc.
  18. Zot! Book 1—Scott McCloud
  19. Surprised by the Voice of God—Jack Deere
  20. The Fire in All Things: Poems—Stephen Yenser
  21. The Book Thief—Markus Zusak
  22. Batman and Robin, Vol. 2: Pearl—written by Peter J. Tomasi; art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Tomas Giorello, etc.
  23. Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight—Travis Langley
  24. Catching Fire—Suzanne Collins
  25. Sex at Noon Taxes—Sally Van Doren
  26. Nightwing, Vol. 1: A Knight in Blüdhaven—written by Chuck Dixon; art by Scott McDaniel and Karl Story
  27. Batman: The Heart of Hush—written by Paul Dini, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
  28. Mockingjay—Suzanne Collins
  29. Streets of Gotham, Vol. 1: Hush Money—written by Paul Dini, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
  30. Streets of Gotham, Vol. 2: Leviathan—written by Paul Dini; Mike Benson; and Christopher Yost, art by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
  31. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination—Elizabeth McCracken
  32. Of Gravity and Angels—Jane Hirshfield
  33. Comfort Me with Apples—Ruth Reichl
  34. Batman: Streets of Gotham, Vol. 3: House of Hush—written by Paul Dini, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
  35. Nightwing, Vol. 1: Traps and Trapezes—written by Kyle Higgins; illustrated by Eddie Barrows, Eduardo Pansica, Geraldo Borges, JP Mayer, Paulo Siqueira, Eber Ferreira, Ruy José, etc.
  36. A Tale for the Time Being—Ruth Ozeki
  37.  Everything is Illuminated—Jonathan Safran Foer
  38. Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1: Demon Star—written by Grant Morrison; art by Chris Burnham (p), Frazer Irving (p), Bit artists (p), Nathan Fairbairn (c), Frazar Irving (c), etc.
  39. JLA/W.I.L.D.Cats—written by Grant Morrison, (art by ?)
  40. Batman Incorporated—written by Grant Morrison, art by Yanick Paquette and Chris Burnham
  41. Doc—Mary Doria Russell
  42. Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey—Nick Bertozzi
  43. Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love—written by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack Jr., art by Randy Duburke
  44. The Search—written by Eric Heuvel with Ruud van der Rol and Lies Schippers, art by Eric Heuvel, trans. by Lorraine T. Miller
  45. Brown Girl Dreaming—Jacqueline Woodson
  46. The Light Between Oceans—M.L. Stedman
  47. Bone: Out from Boneville—Jeff Smith
  48. The Search for Delicious—Natalie Babbit
  49. Dogs of War—written by Sheila Keenan, art by Nathan Fox
  50. March: Book One—story by John Robert Lewis and Andrew Aydin, art by Nate Powell
  51. Lewis & Clark—Nick Bertozzi 
Last year I read thirty-six works of fiction, six volumes of poetry, five works of nonfiction, and three memoirs. Of those, twenty-three of the fictional works were graphic novels or comic book collections, as were three of the nonfiction texts and one of the memoirs. This means that over half (twenty-seven books) of my fifty books were comic books.

I shouldn't be surprised, especially given my recent project

I could tell I wasn't reading many (text-based) novels (something I'd like change this year), but I was bewildered to see so few nonfiction books on the list. I'd felt like I'd read more nonfiction last year. Then I realized. . .I read a lot of nonfiction last year, but mainly things that I can't count on this list: articles and blog posts, books I haven't finished yet, books I read huge sections of (for research), but not in their entirety (or in order). For example, Shelley Taylor's The Tending Instinct was one of the most interesting books I read last year, but I only completed about 80% of it.


My favorite novel of 2014 was, no contest, Mary Doria Russell's Docsharp and tender, full of pithy descriptions and heartbreaking characters.

My favorite nonfiction book was Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere, in part because it was exactly the book I needed to read at the time. I had read parts (if not all) of it before, but what struck me this time through was the graceful humility with which it was written.

My favorite poetry read was a tie between Of Gravity and Angels (I always end up loving Jane Hirshfield's work) and The Fire in All Things, which made me promise myself I'd read it again in a few years and see if I understood different elements.

My favorite memoir was March: Book One, which surprised me because I hadn't expected so much artistry from a book so closely connected to a politician. But the story is well-told and captures John Lewis' personal journey and hallmarks of the Civil Rights movement in a way feels simultaneously broad and intimate. It left me eager for the next installment.

My favorite "capes" comic collection was Batman & Robin, Vol. 1: Born to Kill. This was the first Batman and Robin of the New52 reboot; a change I wasn't looking forward to. (I had been upset when the New52 broke up the duo of Dick Grayson's Batman and Damian Wayne's Robin for the "return" of Bruce Wayne.) But now I want all my superhero comics to be as thoughtful as this volume. The tension between father and son is so believable that it keeps the story grounded in psychological realism, even as the crime-fighting enters the typically bizarre world of Batman villains. Tomasi was wise enough to focus on the characters first and the heroics second. And Gleason's artwork is full of atmospheric shadows and heart-rending visual parallels.

My favorite non-capes comic collection was Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 2: Research because that was the volume where I realized I was absolutely addicted to the strange scientifically-magical/magically-robotic boarding school Thomas Siddell had created. Siddell had also grown into his art style by this volume. I have not caught up to the online comic yet, so I can't recommend it in its entirety (and if the inclusion of same-sex relationships ruins stories for you, this will not be your favorite read). I think of Gunnerkrigg Court as "Harry Potter with female protagonists and adorable robots." If that sounds awesome to you, check it out.

In an upcoming post, I'll write a bit about my reading goals for this year. But I want to know: What were your favorite books for 2014? And do you have any reading goals for 2015? 


  1. Hi Bethany,
    I found your blog! :) I also liked Doc (obviously!), and my other favorite 2014 reads were: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic, Lila by Marilynne Robinson, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman, The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, and The Pearl That Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi. All fiction, all by women maybe I need to branch out in 2015. Not sure I will though...haven't really yet! In any case, I heartily endorse all of the above...and...if you ever need book recommendations for young children, you know who to come to! :)

  2. Oh, and Frog Music by Emma Donoghue was another one I enjoyed last year! -Heather