Saturday, January 4, 2014

Books I Read in 2013


My reading goal for 2013 was to read 12 books, or averaging one book per month.  With two weeks to go in December, I almost didn’t make it.  But I did and it feels wonderful to have read more this year.  Granted, a couple of the books I read were more pictures than words, but they were inspiring in their own ways.  Here’s my list of books and my ratings and reviews.  If you want to be friends with me on Goodreads and follow my reading journal this year, send me a request

Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
5 out of 5 stars
This was the only book that I gave 5 stars to in 2013.  I read this book in one sitting on the day that I got it. I absolutely loved it. Many of his points I already live by... such as that I'm constantly curious and Google everything, and that I like to find out everything I can about a topic. This book gave me permission to relax and do other things besides try to be creative. I now understand it's part of the process of being creative and ideas will flow when I do other things. I also LOVED the idea of a digital desk and a analog desk where you just draw and play. So many good ideas in this book. 

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
3 out of 5 stars
I really enjoyed some parts of the book, where I thought to myself, "I totally think this in my head, but never spoke out loud about it to anyone else". One such thing was that she wonders while in a plane at what altitude would we survive a crash. I always think the same way when my plane is landing. Other parts of the book I'm more "meh" about and couldn't relate.  She definitely has a unique mind.

Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
3 out of 5 stars
I enjoyed the book, except for the ending. And endings are important to me. Good endings make me feel like a book is worth the 15 hours I put into reading it. Bad endings make me feel like I wasted some time reading the book. And by "good" and "bad", I don't mean good and bad outcomes, I mean how satisfied I was with the ending. I felt like this ending was lazy. Like Gillian Flynn didn't know how to resolve it, so just sort of left it like that. It was not shocking. And there really was no twist. The main twist was the one in the middle of the book.  The rest of my review has spoilers, so read it at your own risk here.  Different people definitely react differently to this book.  My review of this book has 10 comments on Goodreads!

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
4 out of 5 stars
I really liked this book. I like Gretchen Rubin and her writing style. I was shocked at the negative Amazon reviews of this book. Basically people found out that she's married to the son of Robert Rubin, a well-off family. So they assume that because her husband's family is rich that she has no credibility about happiness. Which means they didn't really read the book. Because one chapter is about money and happiness. They don't go hand-in-hand.  The book is well-written. I relate to her personality a lot, so I totally understand where she comes from during many parts of the book. I saw myself in her. I love yearlong projects myself. In 2011 I did at least one new thing per week and documented all 52 on my blog. In 2009 I took at least one photo per day and blogged it everyday. So the concept of having a yearlong Happiness Project is totally appealing to me. Some of the material in the book is common sense. But some are things to think about. I've been interested in the subject of Happiness for a few years now. This book is a practical book written for the layman, containing actions you can do right now to become a happier person. It's not all theory, it's practice.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
4 out of 5 stars
How could a book about teenagers dying of cancer be good? Therein lies the heart and brilliance of John Green. The dying teenagers showed us how to live our best lives.  This book ponders the age-old question of whether it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Augustus & Hazel would say yes. And that it's okay to leave a scar.  I cried during several parts in the book. I lost my mom to cancer six years ago, and some passages of the book describes the loss so well.  One of them was on p. 262: "In the last weeks, we'd been reduced to spending our time together in recollection, but that was not nothing; The pleasures of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. it felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we'd done were less real and important than they had been hours before." I loved this passage. Maybe this is why I document our stories on my blog and in my scrapbooks. For both when my co-rememberer is here so we can enjoy the pleasures of remembering together. And for one day when only one of us is left to remember.  Another true-to-life and emotional passage for me was on p. 277: "Waking up was horrible, because for a disoriented moment I felt like everything was fine, and then it crushed me anew." This is EXACTLY what it felt like when my mom died. There were days when I woke up disoriented, having forgotten that she had died. Then all at once I remembered and it was crushing. I can so relate.  This book made me hate cancer more than ever. But it's not a depressing book at all. It kind of teaches you to live your best life every day, to never take anything for granted.

Ernie: A Photographer's Memoir by Tony Mendoza
4 out of 5 stars
Todd gave this book to me as a gift. Ernie looks a bit like our cat Noodle. I really like Tony Mendoza's photos capturing the essence of Ernie, and in some ways cats everywhere. I like that the book has both narration by Ernie and by Tony. Old film photographs from the 1980's rock!

Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel
4 out of 5 stars
Todd gave me this book as a gift, and what a gift it is! What could be cuter and more full of joy than great photographs of dogs jumping into water or already in water? The underwater shots are amazing and the dogs are full of life and joy.  Awesome & unique coffee table photo book.

Divergent (book #1) by Veronica Roth
4 out of 5 stars
I read this book to see what the hype was about. I really enjoyed it! Especially the 2nd half of the book, where the action and revelations picked up the pace. I really liked that Veronica Roth created teenage characters with depth. They were very complex characters instead of one-dimensional. I loved how the relationships between the characters developed, especially the one between Four and Tris. The only thing keeping me from giving this book a five-star review is that some of the plotline doesn't make sense, considering the facts.  The rest of my review has spoilers, so read at your own risk here.  Movie is coming out in March 2014!

Insurgent (Divergent, Book 2) (Divergent Series) by Veronica Roth
3.5 out of 5 stars
I had finished Divergent while on a trip. I got back and got sick, so I downloaded Insurgent to my Kindle and read it in less than a day, on and off. I love that the plotlines moved fast, but sometimes I got confused about which faction is which, and who is on whose side. The ending was not a huge surprise since it was hinted at throughout the book. I guess Allegiant will be what's "outside".
I think I still like the first book better, even though I did like Insurgent quite a bit. I feel like the characters were more fleshed out in the first book, and I enjoyed the development of relationships in the first book more. I'm surprised that I like both of these books, because it looks at humanity from a gray point of view, instead of black & white. I usually like my good guys to be the good guys, and bad guys to be bad, but these books by Veronica Roth blur the lines. She does it in an elegant way though, which didn't bother me.

Allegiant (Divergent, Book 3) by Veronica Roth
1 out of 5 stars
Really? What a waste of 10 hours. Veronica Roth should have stopped with Insurgent. Or maybe even Divergent. This sucked.  Such an unsatisfying, disappointing book.  The things that the characters did were pointless and out of character for them.  After two books, this is what we get???  Read the fan-revolt reviews on Amazon here, but spoiler-beware!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
3 out of 5 stars
I thought this book would be funnier. I found the random topics skipping around quite ADD. There were some funny parts for sure. But overall I was disappointed. The part I agreed with most, although not necessarily funny, was how much Mindy hates roasts ( of the comedy kind). I hate them too.  If you’re a fan of “The Mindy Project” on Fox TV, you may want to give this a read.  Mindy Kaling was one of the writers of the US-version of the show “The Office” too.

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by M. L. Stedman
4.5 out of 5 stars
I really didn't think I would like this book, because it is set in the 1920's, in Western Australia, at a Lighthouse, and the subject matter was wanting children badly. I could relate to none of these things. But the author was able to draw me in after the first 50 pages. The character-building and storytelling is superb. The ending is satisfying. I have not cried so hard at a book ending in years.

A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book: 95 Inspiring Ideas for Photographing Your Friends, Your World, and Yourself by Elsie Larson & Emma Chapman
3 out of 5 stars
There's nothing earth-shattering about this book. The ideas are pretty simple and not astounding. I knew it was a photo-idea book and not a how-to technique book, so that didn't bother me. I did get a couple of good ideas for photo shoots. But overall, I think this is stuff you can learn from their blog or any lifestyle blog.

So there they are, my year in books.  I hope to make 2014 a year of time spent reading and enjoying books again.  It’s all about balance.  I have many hobbies, and in the past I’ve spent too much time doing one or the other.  In 2012 I didn’t read enough books, so I gave myself a goal to read more in 2013.  May 2014 be filled with even more reading!

PS – the links to books are affiliate links.  If you choose to purchase them from my links, I receive a small commission for my recommendation.  It does not cost you anything.  I would have read these books anyways, even if they were not posted on my blog.  :-)


  1. Couldn't agree more with Gone Girl! And Allegiant I think we both bought at the same time and I am only 40% of the way through and ready to just give up! It is so bad but I need to finish just to know how completely horrible it is!

  2. Great list! I just purchased a couple of these in the iBooks sale! Can't wait to get into them!

  3. So I finished all three Divergent books and while I didn't love the 3rd I didnt hate it as much as most people on amazon. I read the reviews when I bought the book. They're pretty funny! You should check out the Uglies series. Similar to Divergent and the Hunger Games. I really enjoyed them.

  4. I was really inspired by this post and have taken on the same challenge for this year. A friend and I just started a blog and I'm sharing there to add to my personal accountability, =) I shared your link in my project post since it was my inspiration. Thanks!


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