A Year in Books: An Informal biography of a Reader

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With 2014 coming to a close, I look at my life and reflect on the journey that was. There was death, grief, failure, unexpected illness,and personal demons. My life has always been filled with reading, but 2014 was the year I read less and savored words more.

I have found that every year the books I read stand as an informal biography of my life. The gems in the list often tell the emotional journey I took in the course of the year. It is this same principle that made me believe that books come to me at its perfect time. Today, I look at the list of books I read and allow them to re-tell my story.

January: The Art of Loving God by St. Francis de Sales

I entered the year with my faith intact and a need to act on my faith. The Art of Loving God was almost a how-to book that guided my life. I started the year taking to heart de Sales’s words: “Desire Nothing, Refuse Nothing.” It’s weight I would only discover as the year progressed.

February: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire-Saenz

I read in a whim and as a book to review for my other site. I found myself profoundly identifying to Ari’s struggle with emotions. I saw in him the discomfort in anything emotional and the anger that came as his way to cope. I saw in him my own hardness.

March and April:

I barely read anything. And it was in April that my family lost my aunt, who in our family was almost like a mother.

May: Last Night I Sang to the Monsters by Benjamin Alire-Saenz

A friend recommended this. She felt I would appreciate it for its psychological content. To say this book moved me is an understatement. This book crushed me and opened up wounds I never thought were there. I saw in Zach my own woundedness, anger, and abandonment.

June: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Another recommendation. The family dynamics in this book were too similar to mine, I almost felt I was reading my life. Here, I saw my own struggle with my father, his lies, and this dysfunctional love I try to make sense of.

July: Are you My Mother by Alison Bechdel

The follow up focuses on the author’s relationship with her mother, while Bechdel’s life wasn’t completely the same as mine, the pain was too familiar that when these words: “ Because you’r rather die than feel anger at your mother for not giving you what you needed?” were uttered by her therapist I felt the weight of truth.

June and July were the months I was confronted with my own past and with issues I thought I had long resolved.

August: Down to 1: Depression Stories by Margarita Holmes

In July I had a breakdown that would confirm what I was on a watch for since I took psychology in university: I was clinically depressed. I read this book as I came face to face with my own problems and the reality that I am not invincible.

September: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

I never thought Science Fiction could ever leave me with my mouth open. What struck me throughout this book is the idea that uncertainty what makes us keep going on in life. Where I seek certainty and control, I realize that life is by all means uncertain. It is the paradox of life that I came to find in this book.

Light is the left hand of darkness And darkness the right hand of light Two are one, life and death, lying Together like lovers in kemmer, Like hands joined together Like the end and the way

October & November: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I am still reading this book. I started it in September and made slow progress throughout the next two months October and November. In the few pages I read, I found my soul slowly melding into the story.

“ For the time being your place is not here. I give you my blessing for great obedience in the world. You will have much journeying before you…You will have to endure everything before you come back again. And there will be much work to do. But i have no doubt of you, that is why I am sending you…You will behold great sorrows and in this sorrow you will be happy…Seek happiness in sorrow.” (Elders Zosima to Alyosha)

For my year, was filled with sorrow and yet I knew I could not refuse the sorrow and desire that I be alleviated from it, so I struggled through 2014 seeking happiness in the sorrow. And while this may seem to be a perfect cap to my year, there is still one month.

December: Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer

Mindfulness is to be mindful of things, of experiences without applying analysis, evaluation or judgment. A concept that allows one to experience things (good or bad) without blame. To be Mindful is to be. And the first step to mindfulness is acceptance.

2014 was the year of inward journey. It was the year that everything bad could possibly happen, where breathing was hard. It was the year I crumbled. Yet, it was the year I took strides towards who I wanted to become. I let life happen, refusing nothing and resisting nothing. And I end the year, with a sense of growth, wholeness and being.

If you were to look at the books you read this year, what would it say of your life this 2014? Would it be, like mine, a mirror to your own cognitive, emotional, or psychological state?

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3 Comments

  1. You know what, I never really looked at the books I’ve read for every year, in this way. But last 2014, was my most diverse year in terms of genre because I decided to read every book my book club had voted on. I discovered authors and writing styles and stories that I normally would not pick up myself. And The Left Hand of Darkness is one from among three, that we might read for sci-fi month. That is, if it wins enough votes. (I would probably be voting for it myself) And I am going to list two books from this post on mine own.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. When I started as a reader, I never really saw my books in this way either, but as the years progressed, I found myself reacting to books in a very emotional way and soon saw how the books that I end up reading each year reflected my state of being. This was made clear to me as I discovered some books I didn’t feel like reading a particular year suddenly became very important to me at a different time in my life.
      I do hope you get to read the Left Hand of Darkness, its mind blowing and just wonderful. 🙂

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