Good Reading 2014
2014 was an extremely good year of reading for me, one of the best I've ever had. One telling sign of this excellence is how many very good-to-great books were relegated to Honorable Mention, simply due to not being quite as good as the Top Ten. It was also a very productive year of reading, as I finished 43 books. As always, these are books I read in 2014, not necessarily ones that were published this year. Without further ado:
1. Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (Review)
2. Joseph Mitchell, Old Mr. Flood (Review)
3. Ben Tanzer, Lost in Space: A Father's Journey There and Back Again (Review)
4. Daniel Woodrell, Winter's Bone (Review)
5. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (Review)
6. Kent Haruf, Benediction (Review)
7. Kate Chopin, The Awakening (Review)
8. James Fearnley, Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues (Review)
9. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief (Review)
10. Budd Schulberg, The Harder They Fall (Review)
Honorable Mention: Joseph G. Peterson, Beautiful Piece (Review); Dmitry Samarov, Where To? A Hack Memoir (Review); Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems (Review); Kazuo Ishiguro, A Pale View of Hills (Review); Leonard Michaels, The Men's Club (Review); William Trevor, The Boarding-House (Review)
Re-Readings: Jan Fridegård, I, Lars Hård; Peter Guralnick, Lost Highway: Journeys and Arrivals of American Musicians; Stuart Dybek, The Coast of Chicago: Stories; Knut Hamsun, In Wonderland
+ It’s been fascinating to watch my great friend, Ben Tanzer, slowly inching his way up my year-end lists. His first two books came in at #10 in 2007 and Honorable Mention in 2008, and from there he progressed to #8 in 2010, #6 in 2011, #8 in 2012 (the slightest of hiccups), #5 in 2013 and now #3 this year with Lost in Space, his best book yet. This clearly shows how wonderfully he’s developing and maturing as a writer.
+ I absolutely adored Old Mr. Flood, and am eager to read more of Mitchell’s work. But for now I’m holding off on simply buying his compendium Up in the Old Hotel, and instead seeking out the individual volumes, all of which I believe are out of print. I like the hunting aspect of the book-buying process.
+ The passing of Kent Haruf was the most tragic one of the year for me, although it’s fitting that it was quiet and understated. I didn’t even know he had been battling cancer until after he died, which now makes me wonder how much he based the dying protagonist of Benediction, Dad Lewis, on himself. Haruf had been my favorite living writer, and a big influence on my own writing; I’m still collecting my thoughts on his life and work for what will likely be a long tribute essay.
+ James Fearnley’s Pogues memoir might be the best book I’ve ever read by a musician, although that honor may be challenged by John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van, which I just got for Christmas and am very eager to read.
+ Although my daughter Maddie is now 14, I continue to read to her every night before bed. I think The Book Thief is probably the first of our bedtime books to reach any of my year-end lists, and certainly the first that is considered “young adult.” Great book, and a great film too.
+ A quick nod to my newfound good friend Joe Peterson, and his debut novel from several years back, Beautiful Piece. I suspect he will make the same steady progress on these lists as Ben Tanzer has; actually, he might make a giant leap, as I will be reading his latest, Gideon’s Confession, early in 2015. I'll undoubtedly be doubling back to read his intervening books later.