Tote Bag Awards 2014

Welcome to the second annual Tote Bag Awards! All the books I’ve read this year have been reviewed and put on blast! These aren’t just books published in 2014. These are the books I got my hands on in 2014 and recommend.

I’ve read 42 books this year, one less that last year according to Goodreads. Thinking back, I can’t believe how many I never got a chance to read. I wish I had a big team helping me read and review books year-round. How does one person fit all that in? Honestly.

I’ve categorized by nonfiction, fiction, and honorable mention. The beauty of having your own blog is you can say whatever you want. I strongly feel that your time is important. That’s why I’ve included a category called Don’t Bother. I also still have books on my bedside I intend to finish before year-end. I had to cut the contest off somewhere. That day was yesterday.


Nonfiction: animal vegetable miracleOne of my favorite fiction authors (Barbara Kingsolver) put out a nonfiction book a few years back (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, 2007. HarperCollins). Normally, I don’t read multiple titles by authors I consider a favorite. I’m always disappointed. This year, things were different. I was knee-deep in my hobby of gardening when a fellow gardener let me borrow her copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Kingsolver documented her year of sustainable living in Virginia. She and her family took off for The Piedmont farmland and swore not to eat anything unless it was grown at their farm or within 100-mile radius of their town. The investigative and immersive approach was what sucked me in. What kept me reading was the fantasy about moving to a farm and living the life she extensively described. She eloquently shared the reality of the transition and exposed herself and her family in a real and honest way. It was like getting to know an author at a deeper level while learning the details about making cheese, cow milking, and preserving an entire harvest.

Fiction: history of loveI broke my own rule again with this one. I promised not to read another Nicole Krauss book after Great House. When a friend gifted me The History of Love (2006. W. W. Norton & Company), I couldn’t help but take her recommendation seriously. She knew how much I enjoyed her writing and forced me to give her earlier work a try. Krauss has mastered the art of writing a story that transcends time, manifesting timeless works in their own right. The story is about a book, naturally, called The History of Love. You follow the lives of several characters (including the translator of the book) through their interaction with the book. Krauss has the power to romantically drown you in a character’s life and bring you safely back up for air at the end of each flashback. The excerpt of the year goes to this book. It’s an excerpt of an excerpt from the so bare with me.

Having begun to feel, people’s desire to feel grew. They wanted to feel more, feel deeper, despite how much it sometimes hurt. People became addicted to feeling. They struggled to uncover new emotions. It’s possible that this is how art was born. New kinds of joy were forged, along with new kinds of sadness: The eternal disappointment of life as it is; the relief of unexpected reprieve; the fear of dying.

Honorable Mention: sailor twainInstead of just words, I give my honorable mentions to the combination of graphics and words: the graphic novel. I picked up two amazing graphic novels this year: Sailor Twain (Mark Siegel, 2012. First Second) and Moby Dick In Pictures (Matt Kish, 2011. Tin House Books). I’ve never really given graphic novels a try until now. I won’t say I’m hooked just yet but it is enjoyable to break up my day with less words and more pictures. Sailor Twain takes place on the Hudson River. A mermaid gets involved after an accident at sea. Then things get graphic.

moby dick in picsMoby Dick in Pictures was during my Moby Dick phase this summer. I wanted to know everything about the book before diving deep into the realms of one of America’s classic novels. Author Matt Kish decided to do something incredibly interesting– he illustrated every page of Moby Dick. Mind blown.

Don’t Bother: casual vacancyMy nephews are obsessed with Harry Potter (It’s never too late, right?). I couldn’t quite catch up to my 9-year old nephew’s speed reading ability so I picked up J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy (2012. Little, Brown and Company). I figured I’d get to know Rowling on a different level: adult fiction. Turns out, it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t keep up with the British colloquialisms and descriptive pages about Parliament. I felt like there were 100 characters within the first few chapters and she lost me. Back to Harry Potter I go!

Have you read any good books this year? Hope you enjoyed my selections and I look forward to a new year with new reads.

See last year’s awards here.


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