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Books I Read in 2014

Happy 2015! 

Because I hoped to finish one more book in 2014 to bring the list to 20, I waited to post last year’s reads. Compared to 2013, I did poorly — I read exactly half as many books as last year. I blame this on the Robert Caro book (which took about three months) and the readings for the classes I audited in the fall. Anyway, here’s the list (** for recommendations; EPR for Eat, Pee, Reads): 

1. The Wet & the Dry - Lawrence Osborne

2. Anne of Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery** (reread this for book club and regretted giving away the beautifully illustrated copy of the book I had as a child). 

3. How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran

4. Cutting for Stone - Abraham Vergese

5. The Female Eunuch - Germaine Greer

6. Orange is the New Black - Piper Kerman

7. Russian Debutante's Handbook - Gary Shteyngart

8. Our Shawnee - Louisville Story Program**

9. The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1) - Robert A. Caro** (This book made me wish I had a Caro book on every president). 

10. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn (EPR. This was recommended to me last year, and after seeing the movie trailer, I decided I needed to know what happened before the film release. I read it in about 48 hours and lay on the floor so long reading that I gave myself a headache. I forgot the “eat” part of EPR that night, which likely contributed to the headache. I haven't seen the movie.)

11. Difficult Conversations - Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Neen

12. Ich bin dann mal weg (I’m Off Then) - Hape Kerkeling

13. The Complete Stories - Flannery O'Connor

14. AIDS and Accusation - Paul Farmer

15. The Man on the Third Floor - Ann Bernays

16. Une mélancolie arabe - Abdellah Taïa

17. It's Complicated - danah boyd** (recommended especially if you’re interested in social media and teenagers). 

18. Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution - Laurie Penny** (Penny is a 2015 Nieman Fellow. I wish through some kind of time warp that she’d written this book 15 years ago so I could have had it in high school. Or maybe in middle school.)

19. Children of the Monsoon - David Jiménez** (Jiménez is also a Nieman this year). The short stories in the book focus on children Jiménez met in his travels as the Asia bureau chief for the Spanish paper El Mundo. I learned so much from this book and almost gave my copy to my parents but then decided to keep this one and buy them their own.

What were your favorite books last year? What’s on your To Read list for 2015? I will definitely tackle the next volume in the LBJ series, but I could use some good fiction recommendations. Do you have any? 

31 Louisville Loves: Champagne and Fancy Cakes

In April 2011, a new book club held its inaugural meeting to discuss The Net Delusion by Evgeny Morozov. Two people attended. I was not one of them, because it was raining and I would have had to drive from Shively to Norton Commons. 

A few months later, in better weather, three more people ventured out to talk about Hal Herzog’s book, Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat (I was in this group). Gradually, the group gained more people, a name, and three years later, it’s still going strong. 

In the first season of Friday Night Lights, Tami Taylor reluctantly goes to a book club meeting, where the members laugh at her when she says she enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees

“Oh, we don’t read the book!” 

Tami Taylor should join our Champagne and Fancy Cakes book club. We have all the stereotypical book club stuff — beer, wine, and bourbon, really good food that’s occasionally inspired by the book, gossip, AND we read the book (but we don’t judge if someone doesn’t). We also organize cool events. After reading How to Be Black, we coordinated a book club/happy hour with Baratunde Thurston while he was in town for Idea Festival. Best book club ever!

Champagne and Fancy Cakes at Rye, waiting for Mr, Thurston

Champagne and Fancy Cakes at Rye, waiting for Mr, Thurston

19 Crimes for  Orange is the New Black

19 Crimes for Orange is the New Black

I’ve kept lists of the books I read for years. When I look at my lists since 2011, I can pick out each Champagne and Fancy Cakes book and can almost remember where we met for most of them. I hosted my first meeting for Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. We were at Erica’s when we met for 1 Dead in Attic, by Chris Rose (and when we found out Steve Jobs died). Six months later, we were back for My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe, where the evening’s snacks inspired our club name. 

Picking the next book typically takes us longer than the book discussion, but we’re getting better at this. I love this part because it helps me add to my To Read list, which has a greater scope thanks to Fancy Cakes.

This book club has given me exactly what I hoped for when I joined it. I’ve revisited books from childhood (Anne of Green GablesA Wrinkle in Time), read books I should have already read (The Things They Carried), and ones I probably would never have discovered on my own (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks). I’ve also tried some new wine and food (Hummingbird Cake, after The Red Garden), met some authors, and made friends with smart, lovely women who let me feed them fufu after we read The Poisonwood Bible. 

Hummingbird cake

Hummingbird cake

I'm not worried about finding people to discuss books with in Cambridge. Maybe they'll have snacks and drinks. But I will definitely miss my Fancy Cakes book club.