My 2014 in Prose

The start of any year is a good time to take stock of one's life. Books are an integral part of mine, and in this post I hope to review my 2014 in reading. I will not be talking about any particular book in depth, instead will focus on the general trends in my reading preferences. I will also put forth my reading goals for 2015. In short, 2014 was a great year for my reading (yay!). I ploughed through 35 books, most of them veritable tomes (500+ pages) and this journey introduced me to new authors, styles of writing and hidden tastes.

2013 was a dreadful year for me, in many different ways. One of them was my utter abandonment of books. I was so soaked in work that I read all of TWO books the whole year. My free time was usually taken up by movies and TV shows, reading just seemed too much work! And one March evening as I was cleaning my apartment, I stumbled upon a shelf full of unread books. These were books I had purchased that year, intending to eventually get around to reading them. Fighting back the waves of shame, I resolved to devote more time to reading. To track my resolve, I enrolled in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, with an ambitious target of 50 books, an average of ~6 books a month. I failed to complete the challenge, but that was never quite the point to begin with. These are the books I read last year -

My 2014 Reading Challenge

Along the way, I managed to pick up a very good habit of reading for an hour before I go to bed. No matter the time or my fatigue, I resolved to never go to bed without reading at least a few pages. This proved to be a double-edged sword; some books are so convoluted that they will put you to sleep before a paragraph is done, while others are so thrilling that there is a very real possibility of losing sleep. But overall, this practice ensured that my reading was never in fits and spurts, and instead was a smooth & continuous part of my daily life. Another interesting side-effect of this habit was that I could finally read multiple books simultaneously. Earlier, I would devote my entire attention to a single book and try to cram as many pages as possible in each sitting, if not the entire book. This method, by definition, favors thrillers and page-turners. These books are relatively easier to consume in large quantities, as against heavier works. Books such as The Tragedy of Great Power Politics are impossibly hard to read in continuum. I find it easier to interlace such books with relatively lighter, entertaining reads. My one-hour a night habit reduced the context switch overhead across multiple books as I would always get to each book at least once a week. This technique helped me finish a few really heavy books last year.

Before I classify my books, I must confess that 2014 was a really hectic year for me. The year started with business trips for work and ended with me in graduate school. Graduate school was tiring -- on many nights I could read just a page or two before exhaustion overwhelmed me. Hence, I am incredibly pleased at having read so much despite my crazy schedule. Out of the 35, these were my favorite books.

Books that must be read by everyone -
1) Flowers for Algernon
2) East of Eden
3) The Algebra of Infinite Justice - especially the eponymous essay
4) Brave New World 
5) Flatland

Books that are incredibly demanding, but incredibly rewarding -
1) The Name of the Rose
2) Crime and Punishment
3) Identity and Violence
4) The Luminaries
5) The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Books that make for good, light-hearted reads -
1) Gone Girl
2) Foundation series
3) The Reluctant Fundamentalist
4) Siddhartha 
5) Nine Lives

Along the way, I wrote few reviews too. In 2015, I hope to review each read in depth.

My biggest disappointments of 2014 were IQ84, The Book Thief and Master and Margarita. The first two were spoiled primarily by the hype surrounding these books. I had incredibly high expectations as I started these books and in the end found little new or exciting. Master and Margarita was an odd book that I stumbled upon in a store. The premise of the book was fascinating but I found the writing too contrived and rambling. I literally struggled to cross the line on this book.

My reading targets for 2015 are relatively modest, just 20 books. I expect graduate school to squeeze the life out of me and I will be over the moon if I can reach this target. Given my relatively low target, I must be more selective with my reads. A few books I hope to hit this year are -
1) The Secret History and The Goldfinch : Am almost through with The Secret History, loving it!
2) Foucault's Pendulum
3) Nausea
4) Kingmaker
5) Surfacing

I hope to read at least one autobiography this year; it recently struck me that I have not read even a single autobiography till now. I also hope to read more non-fiction, particularly Capital seems like a fascinating read.

Ok, gotta get back to my work. Bye for now. 


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