The 2014 Book Bingo Finale! Dorks at Large

For the second year in a row, Lara and Jennifer played “Book Bingo.” You might remember how it works from last year’s game. We read, over the course of one year, books that meet the requirements of 24 categories. Just so you know, we do this with other people. We aren’t the only total book nerds. But we admit that it meets certain latent and non-latent needs. And props to Lara for actually completing her card this year.

BBingo2014Today, as we kiss the year goodbye, we thought we’d review how the game was for us (check out the card we used on the right). So this is how we happily met the book bingo requirements (you call it OCD; we call it intellectual stimulation):

You can follow the links to either individual book reviews or Snotty Literati book reviews where applicable.

An Author’s Debut Novel
Jennifer: Magnificent Vibration by Rick Springfield
Lara: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

A Current New York Times Bestseller
J: One More Thing by BJ Novak
L:  The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

A Book of Nonfiction
J: Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
L: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

A Play
J: The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
L: 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog

A Fellow Book Bingo’s Favorite
J: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
L: Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

A Classic (widely read, at least thirty years old)
J: Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaneal West
L: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

A Book with a Color in the Title
J: Red Moon by Benjamin Percy
L: Sky of Red Poppies by Zohreh Ghahremani

A Book That Has Been Made Into A Movie
J: This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
L: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

A Short Story Collection (originally, An Anthology, the group agreed short stories would count)
J: The Other Language by Francesca Marciano
L: Boys and Girls Like You and Me by Aryn Kyle

A Graphic Novel
J and L: MAUS  I and II by Art Spiegelman

A Book Recommended by a Family Member
J: The Secret Thoughts of and Unlikely Convert by Rosario Champagne Butterfield
L: The Last Night at the Ritz by Elizabeth Savage

A Book of Poetry
J: Little Oblivion by Susan Allspaw
L: erotic poems by e.e. cummings

A Book by an Author You Have Read Before
J: Bark by Lorrie Moore
L: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

A Memoir
J and L: This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

A Book in Translation
J and L: The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

A Book with a Number on the Cover or in the Title
J: Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland
L: One More Thing by BJ Novak

A Book Outside of Your Comfort Zone
J: Fighting for Flight by JB Salsbury
L: A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Peetsa Employee’s Guide to Saving the World

An Award-winning Book
J and L: The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

A Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read
J: The Circle by Dave Eggers
L: Wonder by RJ Palacio

A Book of Comedy/Humor
J: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
L: Someone Will Be With You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Lisa Kogan

A Young Adult Novel
J: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
L: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

A Book You Chose Because of the Cover
J and L: The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert

A Book About the Entertainment Industry (fiction or nonfiction)
J and L: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling

A Self Help Book
J: The Object of My Affection is in My Reflection by Rokelle Lerner
L: It’s Just a F***ing Date by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt

Now, the Much-anticipated Q and A…

Which book surprised you the most?

Lara: I am going to have to say Wonder. It’s a book written for middle-schoolers that I read with my son. I thought it would be good. I had no idea it would be fantastic. As I wrote in my Best of 2014 round-up, it’s the story of what can happen when you value people for who they are, not for what they look like or how they are different. It’s a book that shows how similar we truly are despite the differences that make us unique and, ultimately, special… While considered juvenile fiction, Wonder is a book for all ages.

Jennifer: All the good ones, right? It’s surprising to love them so much? But maybe not. I wasn’t surprised that I loved Lorrie Moore, Francesca Marciano, or James McBride; I would’ve been surprised to not love them. Maybe it’s the bad books that are most surprising. I thought I’d love Douglas Coupland’s new book, because I’ve always thought of him as a compatriot of sorts.  Hip, nerdy types with a love of art, urbanity, irony, and the coolness of the uncool? But this book was awful. It makes me sad to say this about a book written by the author of one of my favorite books of all time (Generation X).

Which book was the most disappointing?

Lara: Hands down, it would have to be erotic poems by e.e. cummings. I love him. Well, let me say, I love his poem i carry your heart. I adore it. Even though it has now been in a ton of movies and is tattooed on hundreds of girls’ ribcages. I love it. I probably shouldn’t judge a poet on one poem but I did, and I had really high hopes for this collection, which was lackluster at best.

Jennifer:  See the above. Coupland. (I think you should give e.e. cummings another chance.)

Which book did you have the hardest time with?

Lara:I am not into science fiction at all, so I really struggled with Rachel Cantor’s A Highly Unlikely Scenario. I wasn’t able to connect with the characters. The title is a mouthful. Whenever I read sci-fi (which I only seem to do for Book Bingo), I am hopeful the book will be the one that helps me turn the corner and become a fan. Alas, I am still waiting.

Jennifer:  Well, in a good way, I found Shakespeare pretty tough. I have to admit to being Shakespeare-phobic, which is lousy since I’m an English teacher and all. I’ve managed to avoid Shakespeare a lot in life; however, I was required to teach it to a bunch of high schoolers, so I bit the bullet. I read it slowly, with notes, twice. (Can you believe that?) I watched the film version with Al Pacino. And I finally got it!

What made your out-of-comfort zone book out of your comfort zone?

Jennifer: Well, we know I’m the snottier of the two of us. It’s well documented. Besides my proclivities for strictly defined literary fiction, I also tend to get a little whacky when it comes to chick-lit. Having written a book called Love Slave, I’ve become super adept at saying, very loudly, “It’s literary fiction, damn it!” So there are many, many genres that are out-of-my-comfort-zone.

I chose Salsbury because we know one another, she’s really pretty successful, and she’s a bit of a self-publishing goddess—writing what I think she’d call “contemporary romance.” I hadn’t read her stuff, so I tried it out. (I think she tried out my book too; I don’t think it worked out for either of us.) I kinda felt—I don’t want her to hate me—that it was more Fifty Shades-ish than I like.  When I think of contemporary romance, I think of Ann Patchett and her husband, and their most excellent road trip they took in an RV. Wasn’t that the sweetest, most romantic thing, ever? I think of Lila and Ames in Marilynne Robinson’s latest novel, Lila—which was very sexy, in my opinion. Sizzling. Last year, for this category, I read The Hunger Games—which I ate up. Like I’m wearing Cinna t-shirts now. Next year, I’m thinking Stephen King.

Lara: I think I am too much of a realist to appreciate sci-fi.

Your self-help book: should we be worried?

Lara: You should be worried. The state of dating today is utterly depressing. Let’s just say I thought 20-year old frat boys were a problem. They are worse when they are in their forties.

Jennifer: I told my husband he could pick the book I’d read for this category, knowing perfectly well he believes I’m saddled with a host of personal psychoses. For a while, he joked about making me read some kind of How To Please Your Man book. Minimally, I expected a treatise on taming my Type A Beast. But we both kinda let it drop. Then, I wanted to read this book on Narcissism, because it fit in with my novel-in-progress, and my hairdresser—who is also a drug counselor working on an MA in psychiatry or something like that—recommended it. So, I read Lerner, though it’s not really very self-helpish.

What have you learned from book bingo?

Lara: I’ve learned that I like having a little direction with regard to my reading, without being told exactly what to read. The structure, combined with the freedom of choice, is a perfect blend. I also love checking things off—and Book Bingo gives me that sense of accomplishment.

Jennifer: I’ve learned that it’s good—actually, it’s great—to read widely, diversely. I know that it’s benefited me tremendously to read books I just normally wouldn’t, ranging from YA to poetry, from Shakespeare to nonfiction. I’ve valued the opportunity to look outside of my own limited tastes.

Name some books you wish you read in 2014, but didn’t get to.

Jennifer Lara
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Euphoria by Lily King Landline by Rainbow Rowell
The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
Revolution by Russell Brand Some Luck by Jane Smiley
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Thirty Girls by Susan Minot Choose Your Own Autobiography by
The Unamericans by Molly Antopol Neil Patrick Harris