Tuesday, December 30, 2014

TBR Pile Challenge 2014: Finished!

I didn't think I would complete it in time, but I finally finished!  I had to cram in three books in December, but I've officially completed Adam's 2014 TBR Pile Challenge.

Here's my original post, and here's what I read, with links to all of my reviews, in chronological order:

1.  The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard.  Loved this!  First in a sprawling saga of an English family, before WWII and the years following.  I liked it so much I read three more volumes in the series. . . and of course I had to purchase the final volume which was recently published, thus adding another book to the TBR pile!  Completed 1/5/14.

2.  Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant.  A delightful Victorian tale about a young single woman who likes arranging the lives of everyone around her, but not herself.  She was a nicer, less self-absorbed version of Jane Austen's Emma.  A winner!  Completed 2/1/14. 

3.  Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann.  A coming-of-age story set between the wars about a girl in love with various cousins in the same family.  Good, but a bit slow.  Completed 2/16/14.

4.  Kim by Rudyard Kipling.  Not nearly as much action as I was expecting -- I thought it was an adventure classic, but I think it's more of a coming-of-age story.  Not bad, though. Completed 5/9/14.

5.  The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  Not the best book I've ever read, but I understand the historical significance.  Parts of it were interesting, parts were just gross, and the ending befuddled me.  Also, the ugliest cover on a book I've read this year. Completed 6/7/14. 

6.  The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell.  This book really was stranger than fiction -- a family of eccentric aristocratic sisters.  One was a Marxist; one became the Duchess of Devonshire; one married first the heir to the Guinness fortune, then left him for a Fascist who was the most hated man in England during WWII; and one was a Hitler groupie who shot herself when Britain declared war on Germany.  You can't make this stuff up!  It was one of my favorite reads of the year.  Completed 6/15/14.

7.  Peking Picnic by Ann Bridge.  A bit of a disappointment -- a bunch of rich expats in China go on a country excursion even though the locals are on the verge of an uprising.  Slower and less interesting than I expected. Completed 7/3/14.

8.   Singled Out by Victoria Nicholson.  A really interesting book about the millions of women who had no chance of marriage after WWI.  I'm always interested in social history and this one tied in nicely with the anniversary of WWI.  Completed 7/19/14. 

9.   The Edwardians by Vita-Sackville West.  Set just before WWI, this was a slow-moving story about  a young aristocrat during the end of an era.  Completed 8/31/14.

10.   Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.  I loved reading about Japan but didn't much like how the female characters were depicted. Completed 12/5/14.

11.  I, Claudius by Robert Graves.  An interesting read, but a little slow -- very heavy on the historical details.  And those ancient Romans were CRAZY.  I'm looking forward to the classic PBS miniseries.  Completed 12/17/14.

12.  Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert.  Meh.  Not nearly as good as Madame Bovary, or most everything I've read by Zola.  Completed 12/29/14.

I also had two alternate reads lined up, which were reading failures.  I had great hopes for Appetite for Life:  The Biography of Julia Child, but I found the writing pretty dry.  Julia's story should have been fascinating -- she did undercover work during WWII, moved to France with her husband and became an amazing cook, then wrote a ground-breaking French cookbook for Americans -- why didn't I love this book?  I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters.  Maybe I should try again later, or just try a different biography -- I found a copy of Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz on the sale table at Barnes and Noble, so I'm hoping that one will be better.

I never much got into my other alternate read The River's Tale: A Year on the Mekong by Edward Gargan.  I didn't get much farther than one chapter, but I think 2015 will be a year of many nonfiction reads, so I'll give it another shot.

Overall, my favorites were The Light Years, Miss Marjoribanks, and The Sisters.  Now I'm looking forward to starting my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge!   Bloggers, how did you do with your 2014 challenges?  And who's signing up for the TBR Pile Challenge for next year?


  1. I really enjoyed Miss Marjoribanks too--I wonder if Oliphant wrote other novels worth reading or if this was the best of a mediocre lot. I've had The Sisters on my shelf for years, and really need to read it--love how the sisters took such different paths. The Light Years is on my shelf--want to try to get to it this year.

    I finished just under the wire too. On to 2015!

    1. Congratulations on finishing! I warn you, if you like The Light Years, you'll want to read the entire series -- it's five books! And I think I've recommended The Sisters more than any other book this year.

  2. Yay! Some of those titles look great. Ugh...I'm adding them to my "Give it a try" list. Gee thanks. lol

    1. I think reading book blogs has been the cause of my never-ending TBR list, more than anything else -- even working in the library. And how is it that I've read 60 books off my own shelves this year, yet my owned and unread list never goes below 170 for a few days? I know I haven't bought 60 new books this year!

  3. Wow Karen, both you and Jean are amazing! I only read 10 of my 12 books and even less reviews. I hope to do better next year.

    1. I made good progress at the beginning of the year, but I almost gave up -- I hadn't blogged at all for two whole months and then I still had three books to finish during December! I didn't think I'd finish in time but I just got it in under the wire. Ten out of twelve is still good progress!

  4. Ooh going to add some of these to my pile methinks! Congrats on finishing yours

  5. Wow, congratulations! I have a few of these on my own TBR stacks. I didn't do so well with reading books from my own shelves this year, but hope to do better in 2015.

  6. Based on your write-ups I am adding The Light Years and The Sisters: the Saga of the Mitford Family to my reading list immediately! I read The Jungle somewhere around junior high and am glad I never have to read it again. It may have been a contributing factor to me becoming a vegetarian. I've been pondering reading I, Claudius for a while but I have to wait until I get into the right mood for the ancients again.

  7. Congratulations, Karen! Can you send me an email? I thought I had your email but I can't seem to find it. I've got some news for you. roofbeamreader(at)gmail(dot)com