Year in review 2014: Books

It might say something but I don’t entirely recall spending this year reading but when I look back upon this list – which I start in, oh, July – I managed to sneak it in. I suppose next year, I’ll be starting this list in January. I’ve been reading a lot during my December holiday in some effort to bolster these numbers but will only end up finishing them early next year.

Total “read”: 20
– Percentage that were audiobooks: 20%
– Percentage that were “Asian-American”: 50%
– Percentage non-fiction: 30%
– Percentage adapted to screenplay: 30%


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  • Jennifer Weiner’s Little Earthquakes – First Mum on the Run and now Little Earthquakes?! Is this a sign of the times and getting old, reading a novel centered on parenting. This was so highly recommended by the bff.
  • Pascal Girard’s Reunion – I visited a bookshop on West Broadway just west of Granville and learned it is an all-arts bookstore. The volumes of most interest to me were the graphic novels and Pascal Girard’s Reunion has a juicy cover with an interesting story – Pascal, the main character, prepares to go to his 10-year school reunion. It wasn’t exactly my kind of humour and I thought it was so neurotic it wasn’t funny.
  • Richard C. Morais’ The Hundred-Foot Journey – I can’t remember where I saw this but with the loud praise from Anthony Bourdain as “easily the best novel ever set in the world of cooking”, I was intrigued and it pitted Indian cuisine against French in French territory. Later, I would find out that an Oprah Winfrey-Steven Spielberg movie starring Helen Mirren and Manish Dayal was being released in the summer and although I was not watching the movie on opening weekend, it set a deadline for me to finish the book!
  • Terry Fallis’ No Relation – I found out in August that Fallis’ fourth novel was published in May and listened to all 17 chapters (available from his website) during 17 walks to/from work and I really looked forward to those 17 walks!
  • Gayle Forman’s If I Stay – I heard about this novel when there was a chance to win tickets to the screening; that it’s a young adult (nevermind a romance) novel puts it in the category of “would listen to the audiobook but not read it” – it was really charming and when I searched for the Amazon link, I see that there is a sequel and I read the synopsis and still want to listen to it…?
  • Lois Lowry’s The Giver – only when I started seeing the movie trailers and thought it was yet another teen dystopia novel did I learn about this classic children’s sci-fi novel – the text, which I listened to as an audiobook, is juvenile for my liking but now I’m curious about the cinema adaptation that should have an appeal across ages.
  • Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project – I had heard of this novel in passing but when it appeared on Lil Sis’ wishlist for Christmas, I took a closer look at it and the other choices – I decided to purchase a novel that was newer and more substantial than what was essentially chick lit – it’s “chick lit” written by a man and the narrator is male with (undiagnosed) Asperger’s Syndrome (tendencies), the source of much of the humour and misunderstanding – it was a quick and fun read for the holidays
  • George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones – I’m all caught up with the television series and then started this fall listening to the audiobook and the details are just amazing – generally enjoyed all of it, except the Bran chapters, haha. I’m not inclined to (immediately) continue listening to the books. Interesting but requires a lot of attention or else it doesn’t feel worth it. Ask me again next summer when there’s no new podcasts to listen to!

Non-Asian American non-fiction

total-recall ishmael

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story – this is one massive memoir at 656 pages, fitting for how much there is to tell and the size of the author. It was a fascinating read throughout, even the politics.
  • Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael – lesson learned while reading his work both from the narrative and things going on around me: don’t be so gullible.

Asian-American (or like) fiction & non-fiction

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  • Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being – there was an awesome point when Ruth was reading the diary and sleuthing, fact checking and it felt so eerie and urgent. I got annoyed for a few pages when it got a bit supernatural but how surreal the result was nice and memorable.
  • John Jung’s Sweet and Sour: Life in Chinese Family Restaurantsmy review
  • Short story collection My Tiger Mom & Me – After we all read Amy Chua’s Tiger Mother memoir in 2011/2012, we were all inspired. I saw a short story contest inviting submissions of your own experience and I knew I had a story. But I didn’t know how to conclude it (nicely) and panicked to think of my name being in print and my mother finding out I wrote about her so I refrained. I showed Angela Tung who made a submission and won! Two years later, I finally read this thin volume and – other than Angela’s – I think I could have written one more compelling story than some that I read. :P
  • Ian Hamilton’s The Dragon Head of Hong Kong – No sooner did I find out Hamilton had recently published a prequel to the Ava Lee series and I was getting it. It’s so satisfying to see her first case with Uncle and the missteps she had because she was already so cool by the first novel. It is a novella in length and I got through it so quickly.
  • Bich Minh Nguyen’s Pioneer Girl – a restaurant kid-come-disillusioned grad student with a life-long obsession with a different era: did someone read my diary? This novel successfully transported me elsewhere. [my review]
  • Elaine Lui’s Listen to the Squawking Chicken – the things I’ll read due to my AA obsession even by people I don’t particularly admire… all to find how much we might have in common, and change my mind about them [my review]
  • Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – I heard about this memoir referenced in some running article and especially since I had read 1Q84, I was down for reading one more Murakami and my cousin also wants to read it but doesn’t have the time – refreshing perspective where he’s competitive with himself but not snobbish about running – he’s so matter-of-fact, there is light humour; I am convinced not to cycle long distances and LOL’ed when he compared the awkward transition from swimming to cycling in a triathlon as going from being a salamander to ostrich.
  • Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – I’m really turn off my brain at this point in the summer. I love the title and the story is adorable and touching. Each of the sisters was characterize so well, I loved it. A really quick read of the coming of age of a character I could empathize with without the embarrassing and awkward comedy that chick lit often has.
  • Lisa See’s China Dolls – I hear about it (it was published in June) and I read it; it’s a cycle that I shake my head over every time. Why do I keep reading this chick lit? I did find myself being drawn a bit into the three characters’ lives so there’s that.
  • Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You – slow to start but then it sucked me in as a compelling reason why Lydia would have decided to commit suicide became revealed – the family is so frustratingly broken.

On this day..