2014 Reading Challenge Roundup

Well, there's one more book-filled year slipping past. And, man, so many good books! My TBR pile has grown exponentially, and digitally, to boot. I bought a Kindle last year as a Christmas gift to myself and haven't read an actual physical book since. In fact, I have fully embraced the digital revolution!

jokerI also joined NetGalley, which is an invaluable resource for book bloggers and reviewers. There are just so many titles to pick from at any given moment, and I made a huge amateur mistake by drowning myself with more content than I could possibly read. Going forward, I need to be more selective in my requests and work harder on following through with reviews.

So, a bulk of this year's reads came from NetGalley, in addition to my own purchases, and a few ARCs I received from some fellow authors, like Lucas Bale, S. Elliot Brandis, J.S. Collyer, Nicholas Sansbury Smith, and Therin Knite. In January, I gave myself the entirely arbitrary goal (and mostly because that was my goal for last year, as well) of plowing through 45 books in the annual Goodreads Reading Challenge. I actually blew past this goal pretty quick, and ended the year with a grand total of 86 reads! For comparison's sake, you can find my write-up on 2013's challenge here.

I'm pretty happy with both the quantity and quality of the titles I read, and I began reviewing a fair number of them right here on this site. You can find the complete list of titles I read for the 2014 challenge on Goodreads.

The Stats

24,086 pages read, across 86 books. (For comparison's sake, in 2013 I read 21,800 pages across 52 books.)

  • 37 Horror
  • 26 Science Fiction
  • 13 Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
  • 10 Non-Fiction

2014ReadsLongest read: 752 pages (Tom Clancy Full Force & Effect by Mark Greaney)

Shortest read: 44 pages (What It Means To Survive by Lucas Bale)

Ratings:

1 star was awarded to only two titles

2 stars - seven titles

3 stars - seven titles

4 stars - 34 titles

5 stars - 36 titles

The Trends

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 11.33.34 AM Having more than 80 books under my belt doesn't feel quite as large as it should, and you can gather from the fairly close page counts between 2013 and 2014 that I was reading many more smaller works this year than last. Although I read 36 more titles this year than last, this only netted me an additional page count of 2,286. I was reading a lot more short stories and novellas over the course of 2014, whereas 2013 was nothing but novel-length works.

In fact, 2014 could be dubbed The Year of the Novella for me, as I became more than a bit infatuated with DarkFuse titles, a small independent publisher of dark fiction. In fact, if I had to name a Publisher of the Year, it would go to DarkFuse, hands down. I don't think I've ever read so many consistently good books from a single publishing house ever. They've got a terrific stable of authors like Tim Curran, Greg F. Gifune, Jon Bassoff, Michael McBride, William Meikle, and plenty more. Seriously, they're just terrific.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 11.33.10 AMIn November, I took part in the blogging community's Sci-Fi November, run by Oh, The Books and Rinn Reads, so I got to spend a fair amount of time focusing on science fiction novels. I also read a number of sci-fi titles throughout the rest of the year, too, many of them indie works, and many of those from fresh new voices in the indie community.

Looking back over the titles I've read, I noticed a large number of books came from either new authors, or authors that were new to me. Lucas Bale, S. Elliot Brandis, Therin Knite, Ethan Reid, GIllian Anderson, David Cronenberg, J.S. Collyer, and S.L. Huang all made their big debuts this year. I also finally got around to reading well-known staples like Chuck Palahniuk, Nick Cutter, Tim Waggoner, Michael McBride, Hugh Howey, Jason Gurley, and Ania Ahlborn, all for the very first time.

I also really enjoyed a great number of the books I read this year, with the overwhelming majority of them getting four or five stars. This repeats a trend from last year, which could be either indicative of me finding, for the most part, the right titles to suit my tastes, or a seriously soft touch in a sometimes arbitrary and uncalculated method of ranking. But, when I like something, I tend to really like it, and a book has to go the extra mile of doing an awful hell of a lot wrong in order to get a one-star.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 11.31.30 AM2015 Forecast

There were some wonderfully reviewed titles that I just did not have time for in 2014, and I'm hoping to correct this in 2015. I need/want to get around to Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, as well as Andy Weir's The Martian, Jennifer Foehner Wells's Fluency, and Kameron Hurley's Mirror Empire. Each these author's works were so highly acclaimed that I actually feel like I've missed out on something great. Ditto that on the non-fiction book, War of the Whales, by Joshua Horwitz. And the science fiction series, The Expanse, by James SA Corey has been piling up on my shelves, both physically and digitally, yet I never to get to them no matter how many times I resolve to. We'll see if 2015 is any different, then.

And, of course, there's all those NetGalley copies I need to get through, too...

While I have absolutely no doubt that new titles will be making their way onto my Kindle, I must make 2015 my year of catching up. As a reviewer, I need to make a lot of headway on my ARCs and get my NetGalley rating up there, which is at a dismal, embarrassing, and frustratingly low, 21% currently. I haven't earned a score that low since high school pre-calc. Really, though, I only have myself to blame for that one as I bit off way more than I could possibly deal with. On the bright side, however, my Amazon reviewer profile is quite a bit more satisfactory ratings-wise (and, hey! If you liked my reviews, or the reviews of others, go let Amazon know by clicking the "yes" button beneath each review, right next to the "Was this review helpful?" inquiry.).

Last year, I lamented about the lack of attention I paid to non-fiction titles. I did better this year, but not nearly as well as I should have. Between a handful of ARC copies, along with titles that have been in my TBR queue for quite a while already, I hope to correct this deficit throughout the New Year.

So, that's the game plan for 2015, my year of (trying to) catch up. I also need to be a far less enthusiastic requester of titles on NetGalley, lest I get buried even deeper, and much more judicious in my selections.

I'm setting a reading goal of 50 books for the upcoming year. I think this is an entirely reasonable number, particularly based on my past figures. I'll likely read more than 50 titles, but I'm not too keen on being beholden to any particularly concrete reading resolutions. My main goal is to simply have fun, and to look forward to another great year of books.


What's on your horizons for 2015? Any particular successes in 2014, or worthwhile reads that have stuck with you? Sound off below!

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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