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How Our Book Lives Changed in 2014

Josh Corman

Staff Writer

Josh Corman is a writer and English teacher in Central Kentucky and a Contributing Editor at Panels. He also writes for Kentucky Sports Radio’s pop culture blog, Funkhouser. If he’s not reading, he’s hanging out with his wife and two young children or cheering on his beloved Kentucky Wildcats.   Twitter: @JoshACorman

We bookish folks spend an awful lot of time at the end of each year writing and talking about the books and authors that lit our literary lamps during the preceding eleven-plus months. And justifiably so. One of the most fun things about being a reader is gushing about all the fantastic words we’ve stuffed into our eyes and ears, right? Right. But I’m always just as interested in (and hear much less about) readers themselves. A lot of our bookish lives have to do not just with the great books we read, but with the trends we notice within our own reading habits, with new experiences, and with our changing interests and concerns.

With that in mind, I asked my fellow Rioters to share something of what made their reading lives special, cool, or interesting this year by finishing the sentence “2014 was the year…” Not surprisingly, they came through big time.

Enjoy the wide variety of responses the Book Riot crew served up, and share your own in the comments.

2014 was the year I focused more than ever before on reading new books. A big part of that is due to my Riot Read podcast hosting duties, which afforded me the privilege of reading a lot of great new releases, many of which I might have never gotten to (because they’re not “my thing” or some other stupid reason) otherwise. I’ve never been particularly “up-to-date” as a reader, and it felt good to release myself from the thrall of award winners and celebrated backlists and tackle some of the books that wowed so many readers as 2014 unfurled. – Josh Corman

2014 was the year I read almost everything written by The Duggars for reasons I can’t completely articulate (DON’T JUDGE ME THEY ARE FASCINATING/HORRIFYING) but on the flip side, it’s the year I really focused on reading more diversely. Possibly related: it’s the year I got called a “reverse racist” by lots and lots of people. – Amanda Nelson

2014 was the year reading finally became fun again for me. I shed all thoughts of obligation, what I “should” like, and what I “should” be reading, and just went with what I felt like reading. It was also the year I got serious about diversity in my reading, and I’ve read some of the most awesome books because of it. – Swapna Krishna

2014 was the year I stopped wondering what to read next while still in the middle of a current book (or three – I’m usually reading more than one thing at a time). On a related note, it was also the year I completely gave up on keeping a TBR list or having any kind of reading plan. I acquired books, and I read them right away or let them sit until I was in the mood to pick them up. It’s a trajectory I’d been on for a while, but this was the year I finally gave myself total freedom about what to read and when, and it made me able to enjoy each reading experience more. – Rebecca Schinsky

2014 was the year I fell back in love with the library. I gave up on libraries after college because I just became the worst at returning books on time and had fines that rivaled my current book budget. Plus I felt pressured to read books by the due date, which made them feel more like work. But I dipped my toes back in this year first by checking out ebooks from the library (which was fabulous) and then making weekly library visits a part of my routine. Now I just remove the pressure of due dates by telling myself that if I don’t read a book in time, I can always check it back out later. It has been so much fun to enjoy the library again, plus my budget really appreciates it. – Rincey Abraham

 2014 was the year I started keeping a reading journal. I had been looking at the Moleskine reading journal for a while, because it’s sturdy, beautiful, the paper is of really good quality, and because I wanted to keep my journal in a book made for that purpose. But some of the categories on the Moleskine’s entry pages seemed irrelevant, and the few pages allotted to each letter of the alphabet kept getting in the way of my enthusiasm. This year I threw that all to the side and bought the Moleskine. I have now created my own system by simply including whatever information I consider to be important, as well as letting my personal review run over several entry pages. – EH Kern

2014 was the year I ramped up my reading of fiction in English translation and started paying particular attention to science fiction in translation. Doing this has broadened my view of the literary landscape and introduced me to writers I absolutely love but never would have known about otherwise. I’ve also found some wonderful resources dedicated to translating works from around the world, which suggests that while there’s still more work to be done, we’re on the right track. Hopefully soon, American book review publications and sites will devote more time to highlighting works in translation, and thus help American readers become more engaged in world literary culture. – Rachel Cordasco

2014 was the year that I finally managed to cut myself off from literary fiction and explore other genres and other ways of writing. I still love my literary fiction, but I felt like we needed a break from each other. I wanted to see what other options were out there. I entered into the world of fanfiction. I discovered some killer lady authors in the realms of science fiction and fantasy. And I fell in love with short fiction all over again. I feel like I’m cheating on all those books I fell in love with in college, but I don’t care. It feels good to be bad. – Cassandra Neace

2014 was the year I discovered that I love a good mystery. And in particular, a themed mystery, like British almost-royals in the Her Royal Spyness series. But my mystery fandom begins and ends with the Walt Longmire Series. Not the TV show, which I will probably tap into only when I’ve read all of Craig Johnson’s books, novellas and ebooks. To be fair, I can’t quite keep up with most of the twists and turns of the mysteries, but they provide me with some darn good, get-out-of-my-own-head reading, and when I do happen to figure out whodunnit early on, it’s cause for extreme celebration. – Alison Peters

2014 is the year I finally learned how comics work. I’ve always enjoyed reading comics series like Fables, but never really knew how comics were published or the differences between single issues or collected editions or whatever. I didn’t get stories or reboots or franchises, so it was really hard for me to find places to start with new comics… so I didn’t bother. Thanks to the enthusiasm of fellow Rioters and the folks at Panels, I have a ton of great comics to explore going forward. And I finally got over my aversion to calling illustrated books comics (no more clumsy “graphic memoirs” or “graphic nonfiction” — all comics!). – Kim Ukura

2014 was the year I learned to put books down, or at the very least aside, if they weren’t grabbing my attention. Turns out it is okay to not be in love with every book and not feel guilty about it. It’s also okay to own your personal dislike and not feel peer-shamed into loving a certain author or beloved tome. I might come back to a few of the nonfiction and fiction that didn’t immediately grab me, but I also may never touch them again. Books are about pleasure and learning and those things don’t happen when you’re trudging through a book. – Brandi B.

2014 was the year I learned to consciously think about the gender and race of the authors of the books I read. Oddly enough, this epiphany came to me in a science-fiction bookstore in Gothenburg, Sweden. I was there to buy Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters and also look for Karin Tidbeck’s Jagganath. At one point I had four books in my hand, two by men. I looked at them and thought “You know what, I’m going to only buy books by women today.” So I returned the books by the dudes and picked up another book by a woman instead. And I’ve mostly stuck with it. Nothing changes in publishing if nothing changes in how we buy books, so I decided to start by changing my own buying habits. – Johann Thorsson

2014 was the year I read (without meaning to) a cluster of great new books about religious texts. It’s never been a topic I’ve gotten very excited about – I’ve never sought out a book about it or particularly, enthusiastically loved one I stumbled across. And yet, in 2014, I found myself repeatedly stopped short, fascinated by books, fictional and non, about the way religious texts shape human (and, in one case, alien) lives. Three books in particular—Stephanie Feldman’s The Angel of Losses, Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things, Avi Steinberg’s The Lost Book of Mormon – shaped my year’s reading, landing high on my unofficial Top Ten of the year list and making 2014 the year I was surprised into caring about a topic I hadn’t considered before. – Derek Attig

2014 was the year of Image Comics. Over the course of the year, I started to realize just about every trade paperback I picked up on Wednesdays at my favorite local comic book shop (hi there, Brave New Worlds!), happened to be a paperback collection from Image. East of West. Lazarus. Saga. Alex & Ada. Deadly Class. The Wicked + Divine. The Fuse. Nailbiter. Black Science. COWL. Five Ghosts. The Manhattan Projects

Okay, as I type this list, I realize I’ve basically been giving Image Comics all my money. And you know what? That’s okay. Because I have a gorgeous shelf full of trade paperbacks now, and this was the year that I truly discovered how great Images’ creators are at telling fantastic stories. I love the feeling of discovering a new collected volume, and the anticipation of waiting on something new. – Eric Smith

2014 was the year I worried less about what was coming and spent an equal amount of time on books that I already owned. 2014 is the year I moved to my very own shoebox of an apartment in Brooklyn, after years of seemingly endless space for bookshelves. I’m surrounded by my books on all sides and that really forces you to look at the things you once spent money on and found to be worthwhile. While new books still came into my apartment, either because I bought them or publishers gave them to me, I didn’t reach first for my credit card to buy a new book when looking for my next read. In related news, this was also the year I got more comfortable with the idea of getting rid of books. – Rachel Manwill

2014 was the year I reread Harry Potter. I first read the series seven years ago after The Deathly Hallows was released (yes, I waited that long because I’m anal about not having to wait between books in a series). I’ve never been a big rereader, especially with fiction. I mean, how great can it be when you already know the ending? It turns out, at least when it comes to one of the most imaginative children’s series of all time, pretty great. Maybe the reason I burned through the series so quickly seven years ago was because I was so desperate to find out how it all ended, but this time I was able to take it slow and savor the creative details that make the wizarding world and its inhabitants so special. – Kate Scott

2014 was the year I became a Genre Fiction Warrior. I’ve always loved Horror and Mystery and have spent years shrugging it off, all What-Can-Ya-Do, when Real Book People allude to the invisible and ridiculous Chinese wall that they’ve built between Genre Fiction and Real Literature. You know what? Fuck that. Roll this up and smoke it: All fiction is genre fiction. People get tortured by monsters in my fiction just like they get tortured by emotions in yours. I’m not giving up my book snob merit badge just because I love World War Z. {{microphone drop}} – Cristin Stickles

2014 was the year two big things happened in my reading life. For one, I looked up and discovered that my discomfort over reading ebooks had evaporated without me noticing, which makes me happy as I dislike disliking things. 2014 was also the year I started really digging into YA fiction outside of, basically, just Harry Potter. The amazing range and quality of YA hasn’t surprised me any — I knew beforehand brilliant stuff was happening here — but how powerfully I’ve responded to it has surprised me, and I cherish that. There is a pure emotional shout at the core of so many of the YA books I read this year, and it resonates with me powerfully. I’m enjoying YA so much, I really wish I had dug into it even sooner. – Peter Damien

2014 was the year I stopped worrying about reading. Seeing my pile of books get higher and higher on my nightstand became a constant source of stress. What am I going to read next? What will I read after that? Okay, if I finish this book in the next two days, that means I can (hopefully) get through another by the start of the next week. I learned to not think of reading as a race. There’s no ongoing contest to see who’s read the most books in a year. I don’t have to put undue pressure on myself. I’ll read at my own pace and savor my books as much as I can. – Amanda Diehl

2014 was the year that I really fell in love with audiobooks. Now I almost always have a print book going alongside an audio one and it’s helped me read much more this year than I would have otherwise. Audiobooks make long drives, cleaning house, and folding clothes just so much more interesting. Since I tend to read so fast, they also make me slow down and take in the book. I remember audiobooks, and what happens in them, for a lot longer than I do traditional books. – Nikki Steele

2014 was the year I threw my TBR pile away, read what I wanted to at the moment, and stopped pretending I had read all the books when people asked. I am no longer ashamed about the lack of classics under my belt. I judged books by their covers for a while and that was fun. I learned this year had a lot of books with blue covers, like the exploding flowers of 2013. I started a spreadsheet to track my reading habits, which made me reach outside the buzz machine and my habits for more diverse book choices. I thought this would be the year I would be OK with lending my books to friends, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. – Emily Gatlin

2014 was the year I started to pay attention to, and track, my reading. As a person who loves making lists, & organising things, I’m not sure why it hadn’t previously occurred to me to track my reading, but it hadn’t. So this year I set myself a target number of books to read, and have been writing down each one, in a [successful] attempt to encourage myself to start reading more again. I have also ordered, and reordered, my TBR list many times over the year, slowly working through it. Making these lists has allowed my to pay more attention to what I’m reading: looking at gender, race, genre, and so on. Doing this has helped me to really get back into reading by providing new areas to explore. And I get to make a lot of lists along the way! – Rah Carter

2014 was the year that I finally, finally got over feeling “book shame.” This is due in part to the fact that as I get older, I care less and less about what people think (which is just great in general, honestly, but especially in a bookish context because for a long time I thought it was important to “impress” people with my TBR pile). This newfound lack of book shame is also influenced by my experiences hosting the Dear Book Nerd podcast (not to self-plug too much, but it’s true). Listeners write in question after question about how they feel like they’re reading the “wrong” books or feel like what they enjoy is not “good” enough, and I totally can relate to every comment. Enough is enough, people! We don’t have to live this way! Read what you like when you like it, and don’t feel like you have to please some higher book authority that doesn’t even exist in real life. And remember, if anyone makes you feel bad about what you’re reading, that reflects more on THEM than it does on you. Ignore them and read on, my friends. Read on. – Rita Meade

2014 was the year I learned how to win the holds list at my library. Through a magical sparkly combination of Goodreads, Facebook, and Book Riot, I’ve got a better handle on what’s coming out in a few months and how to spot a hold-worthy title at a glance. Now when I see something I like, I immediately pull up my library’s catalog app on my phone and place a hold with just one click. And if the library hasn’t ordered it yet, I place a request and land at the top of the holds list that way. This is how I wound up first in line for some of the hottest reads of the year — Bad Feminist, Yes Please, Not That Kind of Girl, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Station Eleven, We Were Liars, The Fever, One More Thing, Seconds, etc.  And I LURRRVE that feature to suspend holds if I’ve got too many coming up at the same time. If I finish the books before their due dates, I pass them on to my friends and earn a little extra friendship karma. Library holds are the best, you guys. – Rachel Smalter Hall

2014 was the year I became book polygamous. *turns on Barry White song* I have always read one book from start to finish, but this year, as my TBR piles went bananas, I started reading several books at once. (Not literally at once but, goats and gangrene, wouldn’t that be helpful.) And it turned out, I still read a book in almost the same amount of time. It was like taking little bites of everything on your plate, instead of eating all of one thing and then moving on to the next. I also started keeping a reading stats spreadsheet, and it is so much fun. I keep track of things like page count, date read, number of times the book contains the word ‘the’. Okay, one of those things is a lie. (But I wouldn’t put it past me.) In closing, you were the best reading year there was, 2014. Now get out of the way so I can start another sexy, sexy spreadsheet. – Liberty Hardy

2014 was the year I realized just how slow of a reader I am. When I adore a book, I can cruise through it pretty quickly, but it doesn’t mean that I will. I’m a bit of a savorer. And if I like a book but don’t love it, there is no cruising through. If I dislike a book, I stop reading because it’s not worth the long, slow tread through the pages. I read pretty much every word, there is no speed reading happening (except for very boring parts that need to be skimmed over). It’s frustrating to be a slow reader because there are A LOT of books in this world that want to be read, and it can also be hard to read books along with other (faster) readers because, what’s the point? They’re finished by the time I’m at chapter two. So, 2014 was realizing that I am, in fact, a slow reader… it’s how it is. 2015 will be about being okay with that and noticing the pleasures of slow reading. – Wallace Yovetich

2014 was the year I began to read with more intention. This was a departure from my old way of reading. The old way – reading what I wanted, when it suited me, with no regard to genre, author, style, etc. – was perfectly fine. It worked at a time in my life when I was lucky to be reading at all. I was working several jobs, I had a new relationship, and I was lucky if I got to read one book a month. But I’m not there anymore; I read a lot, and because I do that, I challenged myself in 2014 to read with more intention:  to think not only about enjoyment (which matters greatly, don’t get me wrong) but also to think about what I can learn from a book, what voices I’m hearing, and to what level of diversity, to expand my horizons. 2014 was also the year that I joined the Book Riot Family, a move that helped me achieve this new level of intention: this group reads passionately, and widely, with equal attention to head and heart, and 2014 has been the year when I have finally started to do the same: to read with head and heart, to have courage in making selections that are outside of my comfort zone, to be mindful of my reading life. – Dana Staves

2014 was a bit of a struggle for me on the reading front. I only read 88 books (so far), less than half the number I normally read. Time is a cruel mistress, and between working three jobs I had very little of it. On the plus side, it’s also the year where I read and loved a bunch of books I NEVER would have picked up if left to my own devices, mainly thanks to friends hunting me down and insisting I had to read such-and-such a novel. Bookish friends are the best, y’all. It’s also the year I discovered that if I don’t read anything for several days in a row, I get insomnia. Coincidence? I think my subconscious is trying to do me a solid and carve out some reading time for me. Finally, 2014 is literally the year I read ALL THE LAURA FLORAND NOVELS. Write faster, please. – Tasha Brandstatter


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