Things I Read in 2014

I read 63 books in 2014, which seems like hardly anything. 2014 was the year I discovered Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, the year I attempted to appreciate Anita Blake, and the year I treated myself to binge reads from Seanan Macguire and Jennifer Estep. It was a year for expanding my knowledge of urban fantasy, and keeping up with new releases. It was the year I decided to stop rating books and just to love them. I’m feeling pretty good about that decision.

The list (check Goodreads to see the covers and link to summaries):

Stolen (Women of the Otherworld #2)
Armstrong, Kelley

The Laughing Corpse (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #2)
Hamilton, Laurell K.

Claimed By Shadow (Cassandra Palmer, #2)
Chance, Karen

Embrace the Night (Cassandra Palmer, #3)
Chance, Karen

Firestorm (Weather Warden, #5)
Caine, Rachel

Thin Air (Weather Warden, #6)
Caine, Rachel

Gale Force (Weather Warden, #7)
Caine, Rachel

The Heist (Fox and O’Hare #1)
Evanovich, Janet

Red-Headed Stepchild (Sabina Kane, #1)
Wells, Jaye

Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)
Wendig, Chuck

Cape Storm (Weather Warden, #8)
Caine, Rachel

Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires, #9)
Neill, Chloe

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)
Briggs, Patricia

Up From the Grave (Night Huntress #7)
Frost, Jeaniene

The Undead Pool (The Hollows, #12)
Harrison, Kim

Black Arts (Jane Yellowrock, #7)
Hunter, Faith

Shattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #7)
Hearne, Kevin

Undone (Outcast Season, #1)
Caine, Rachel

Unknown (Outcast Season, #2)
Caine, Rachel

Total Eclipse (Weather Warden, #9)
Caine, Rachel

Unseen (Outcast Season, #3)
Caine, Rachel

Dirty Magic (The Prospero’s War, #1)
Wells, Jaye

Unbroken (Outcast Season, #4)
Caine, Rachel

On the Edge (The Edge, #1)
Andrews, Ilona

Divergent (Divergent, #1)
Roth, Veronica

Angels’ Blood (Guild Hunter, #1)
Singh, Nalini

Web of Lies (Elemental Assassin, #2)
Estep, Jennifer

Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, #1)
McGuire, Seanan

Midnight Blue-Light Special (InCryptid, #2)
McGuire, Seanan

Vamped (Vamped, #1)
Diver, Lucienne

ReVamped (Vamped, #2)
Diver, Lucienne

Nightlife (Cal Leandros #1)
Thurman, Rob

An Untamed State
Gay, Roxane

Bayou Moon (The Edge, #2)
Andrews, Ilona

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas, #1)
Harris, Charlaine

Nightshifted (Edie Spence, #1)
Alexander, Cassie

Venom (Elemental Assassin, #3)
Estep, Jennifer

Between (The Between, #1)
Schafer, Kerry

Fate’s Edge (The Edge, #3)
Andrews, Ilona

Steel’s Edge (The Edge, #4)
Andrews, Ilona

Charming (Pax Arcana, #1)
James, Elliott

Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires, #10)
Neill, Chloe

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)
Butcher, Jim

Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels, #7)
Andrews, Ilona

Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid, #3)
McGuire, Seanan

Tangled Threads (Elemental Assassin, #4)
Estep, Jennifer

Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum, #19)
Evanovich, Janet

Spider’s Revenge (Elemental Assassin, #5)
Estep, Jennifer

By a Thread (Elemental Assassin, #6)
Estep, Jennifer

Widow’s Web (Elemental Assassin, #7)
Estep, Jennifer

Deadly Sting (Elemental Assassin, #8)
Estep, Jennifer

Cursed Moon (The Prospero’s War, #2)
Wells, Jaye

The Winter Long (October Daye, #8)
McGuire, Seanan

Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20)
Evanovich, Janet

Outlander (Outlander, #1)
Gabaldon, Diana

Heart of Venom (Elemental Assassin, #9)
Estep, Jennifer

The Spider (Elemental Assassin, #10)
Estep, Jennifer

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2)
Gabaldon, Diana

The Witch With No Name (The Hollows, #13)
Harrison, Kim

Voyager (Outlander, #3)
Gabaldon, Diana

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)
Carriger, Gail

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson
Briggs, Patricia

Wakeworld (The Between, #2)
Schafer, Kerry

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Why I Read Everything…Now

20140608-164738-60458027.jpgOnce upon a time, I was a literary snob.

Other people talked about being voracious readers, devouring two or three books a week, and I sniffed through my judgmental nose and thought, “That’s easy to do when you’re not reading anything of substance.” I, on the other hand, was working my way through the modern literary canon. I made a checklist of Pulitzer prizewinners. I didn’t devour my books. I read slowly and savored the offerings of the literary elite.

I admit it, I was horrible.

I wasn’t always that way. When I was a child, I read everything from Laura Ingalls Wilder and Judy Blume to Piers Anthony and C.S. Lewis. I read the entire Trixie Belden series and all the Babysitters Club books. I read Gone With the Wind in fifth grade. In junior high, I hid in the 800s section of the library to read Waiting for Godot and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I read everything Kurt Vonnegut wrote, and every one of Noel Streatfeild’s Shoes books too. I read Choose Your Own Adventure and Encyclopedia Brown and also Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Until I got to college, I simply loved reading, and I didn’t differentiate between what was trash and what was worthwhile, or what was important and what was fluff.

Then, I started working on my English degree. I read (okay, skimmed) James Joyce’s Ulysses and all the works of Toni Morrison. I took an in-depth class on Hemingway, who I’d always loved, and I learned to love him less. I analyzed T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I fell in love a little with Haruki Murakami.

(But the book that made me show up late for my job at the library, eyes puffy and red-rimmed, was The Bridges of Madison County.)

All that education translated into an understanding of language and character and theme that I can’t imagine being without. It also made me forget how to love a book for doing what a book does best.

A recent study on the effect of reading on the brain found that reading a book isn’t just an exercise in analyzing and interpreting language. It literally adds to our life experience.

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

The brain interprets events we’ve read similarly to events we’ve lived. In a very real sense, reading transports us into a different life. It exercises our ability to empathize and allows us to extend our experience far beyond what could otherwise be accomplished in a single lifetime.

Any avid reader probably could have predicted that. That’s why we love reading.

And the reason I love beautiful language is I love reading. The reason I love a tightly-told story is I love reading. The reason I love clever wordplay and brilliantly-expressed themes and prescient social commentary is I love reading.

It’s also the reason I love saucy comebacks. And not knowing whodunnit until the last chapter. And that delicious first kiss. And sword battles. And fistfights. And bar brawls. And a different first kiss. Long trips through unknown territories. Long trips through unknown galaxies. Dystopian futures. Utopian futures. The heightened senses of a werewolf. The clomp of horses’ hooves on cobblestone streets. Or sage-strewn desert. The first glimpse of a magnificent steam-powered contraption. The unsubtle horror of a craving for brains.

I want to experience all of it.

I’m not a literary snob anymore.