Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014: A Year in Books

My third annual book review. I read a lot of recommendations this year which means that I read a lot of good books. Enjoy and happy reading!

Hyperbole And A Half (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

I love Allie and have read her blog for years– if you did too, this book is a print version of many of her cartoon posts, but contains enough new material to be worth the investment. Highly recommended.

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless

I really like this book although at first I was a little skeptical – expecting the run of the mill chick lit material, but this book far exceeds that. Anyone who was ever a compulsive liar as a little kid will identify with Susan Gilman almost immediately.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Meh. This was a good book and a well written tale, but I found it hard to emotionally connect with the characters or feel strongly one way or another about their situation.

The Sense of an Ending 

I waited too long to write down my impression of this book and by the time I did I honestly cannot remember the story at all – I know it was a very short book and clearly forgettable.


Not my favorite of this year – perhaps if I was a middle aged man, the clear intended audience for this book, I would have. If that’s who you are – give it a try.

Play It as It Lays

This was a great book – although it took me a little to realize this. Written in a very stark almost Hemmingway-esque style it captures a time in history remarkably well and haunts you well after you have finished.

Delusions of Grandma

Oh, Carrie Fisher… This was by far better than wishful drinking and almost nearly as good as postcards from the edge. Carrie can be crazy funny and incredibly insightful in a single breath. I loved this book.

 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly 

There is nothing more depressing than the true story pf a novelist that suffered from a major stroke and is left completely paralyzed and penning his last novel by blinking his left eyelid. Read this, but beware it will leave you empty and heavy.

Orphan Train

This was a recommendation and not something I would have picked up on my own but I enjoyed it, it was a well written novel that captures a piece of history I was completely unaware of.

 Consider Phlebas (Culture Series #1) 

My sci fi book of the year this was a classic deep space tale and I loved it for all its sci fi ridiculousness I’m just sad that in all this otherwise good literature this was the only really good genre book picked up.

Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World

This was a book about a couple that circumnavigated the globe without using any kind of air travel. I had high hopes for this that in the beginning were fulfilled but the more their travel continued the less and less he seemingly took notes about it – I felt he kind of rushed through the last half of their journey and wished the second half could have been as good as the first.

The Giver

A book that came out after I was of the age to read it I decided to pick it up and really enjoyed it, I thought it was a great young adult look at a utopian society, I was underwhelmed by the ending but all in all thought it was well done. I never saw the movie but just looking at the previews can tell it is far from the original story. If you are interested read it, don’t watch it.

The Geographer's Library 

Meh. The next few book were $1.00 clearance items in a going out of business sale – some were better than others, I didn’t hate this one but I didn’t love it either.

The Catastrophist

The next in my bargain bin hunting – I thought this was going to be something it wasn’t. It was enjoyable but nothing to write home about.

Tolstoy Lied: A Love Story 

The last of my clearance finds and this one I really enjoyed, a modern day love story set in New York between a soon-to-be tenured professor and her unexpected protagonist. I honestly thought I would hate this book; not being much for romantic stories but this one surprised me and liked it.

Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer

A memoir of a long distance swimmer – I thought this story had the potential to be really captivating or terrifically boring and was by far much more captivating than anything. It lulled in places but overall made up for it, as someone who loves memoirs this did not disappoint.

The Snow Child

A great book. Period. I can’t describe it but read it. Trust me.


I read everything Erik Larson writes, everything. This was not my favorite book of his, the stories he was trying to connect were too far removed from each other and the history of the wireless telegraph too involved to condense into a coherent story. Not my favorite but will not deter me from picking up his next book.

The Samurai's Garden 

Another recommendation – this was a very good read, written in letter form it was a compelling and heartwarming tale.


Another great book, a multi-generational family drama set in my favorite place, this is a must read.

The Goldfinch 

An excellent Novel – one of the best of the year, deeply complex and gripping – run don’t walk.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates 

The true story of two men with the same name born within blocks of each other in Baltimore, one went to prison one went to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship – it was an interesting read and a cautionary tale for people in circumstances different than my own. I liked it but it did not resonate.

Let the Great World Spin 

Hands down the best book of the year, this was an ah-mazingly well written book of different stories loosely connected by one external event. I loved loved loved this book.

The Book Thief 

Another recommendation. A book about WWII from the Nazi perspective – I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, it was well written and definitely worth it.

That Old Ace in the Hole

A sleeper novel from one of my favorite authors, it took me forever to get through this book but in the end I was glad I invested the time. Not as good as the Shipping News but good nonetheless.


I heard a lot of bad reviews about this book and was hesitant to ready it but I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was witty and funny and enjoyed it very much.

Olive Kitteridge 

Another book set in Maine – I liked this although it was darker and more intense than Sullivan’s book. I watched the HBO miniseries after I finished and enjoyed that too.


Not the book I expected it to be – it began slow and stayed that way until the end. I liked it but not until it was over.

The Circle 

I’m not completely finished with this yet, but am enjoying the face pace and modern technical aspects of this book – I know it’s working toward a crescendo and I’m excited to see where Eggers takes it.

Tis the Season

Greetings  friends, family and random internet readers – welcome to our 2014 open Christmas letter. I’ve struggled for weeks to write this because (as long time readers will remember) my old cat Ruka was always responsible for handling this for me. Sure she was surly and uncooperative but she did it and all I had to do was buy stamps.

In the spirit of the late great Ruka – Feliz Navidad!

This year some really good stuff happened – Lucy let me cut her hair, Jason brewed some really good beer and I finally learned how to spell “definitely”.

Also some not good stuff happened – Ruka died, Lucy once got a splinter stuck so far in her foot that we nearly had to amputate to get it out – this has instilled a deep fear of wood in her.

Highlights include a wonderful grown-up vacation that I got to take with my favorite BFF where we explored and drank our way through New York City and small towns in the Poconos. Lucy, Jason & I got to spend two great weeks together – one in Maine and one in North Carolina with our respective parents.

And we have managed to get our house (that was still very new last Christmas) in order. We bought new furniture and planted a cherry tree. We even bought a new car to make the driveway look fancier.

This has been a great year for Lucy and there is a part of me that wants to keep her forever four years old. Nothing can match her enthusiasm or her despair – whether happy or sad she throws herself 100% in to whatever it is. She is so excited for Christmas she can hardly sit still – she got the same way for every major (and not so major) holiday this year.

Jason is doing well – working on his twelfth year at the major telecommunications corporation that employees him, he continues to manage things I do not fully understand. This year he got really really good at mowing grass and shoveling snow – and will caution anyone who listens never to buy house on a corner lot.

I received good news just recently – I have been offered a finance manager position in a well-respected nonprofit organization which is all I can tell you for now since I don’t start my new job until January 12th (I need to save some good information for next year’s newsletter) but in the meantime I am bidding adieu (for the second time) to the University that has supported my for many many years – it’s both lamentable and exciting. I am ready for change!

Here are some random pictures which if I had my shit together would have made up our Christmas cards and been mailed to all of you (well, not you random internet browser). Enjoy and I hope you all have a safe and happy new year!

lucy for xmas letterlucy and me  lucy and dad
all of us