Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year in Reading (2014)

2014 marked another wonderful year in reading. I managed to read nineteen novels or short story collections, eleven books of nonfiction, and one book of poetry. Eight of the books were rereads. Everything I read was on paper and I am yet to read a single book on an e-reader. The best pleasures were William Faulkner's Light in August, Graham Greene's Heart of the Matter, and Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. The only books I struggled to like were Celine's Journey to the End of the Night, JG Ballard's Crash, Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh, and Saul Bellow's Ravelstein (I normally love Bellow but of Celine and Ballard I am convinced of incompatibility-- an unpopular view, and many whose tastes I respect adore Ballard and Celine. But then again I rather dislike Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway, and Haruki Murakami, so I am rather used to defending my preferences in beer-soaked quarrels.)

I did not manage to read nearly as many books as I did in 2012 or 2013, but then what matters is the quality of the read. And, importantly, I was able to hold true to my resolution of writing about every book read this year. This was not easy, as sometimes it's nice to just finish something and move on. However, the knowledge I would need to make sense of whatever I was reading made me a more critical reader and I would like to continue this process in the coming years.

Rereads are marked with an *. My review to each book is linked in the title if you are curious.

1) Journey to the End of the Night by Louis Celine (1932)
2) Captain James Cook by Richard Hough (1999)
3) Hirohito: The Making of Modern Japan by Herbert Bix (2000)
4) Winesberg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (1919) *
5) Light in August by William Faulkner (1932)
6) A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor (1955)
7) Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954) *
8) Boxcar Bertha by Bertha Thompson
9) Crash by J.G. Ballard (1973)
10) Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger (1961)

11) Letters of Vincent Van Gogh (1914)
12) Perfume by Patrick Suskind (1985)
13) The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (1993)
14) The Plague by Albert Camus (1947) *
15) Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini (1566)
16) Waiting for the Barbarians by JM Coetzee (1980)
17) The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992)
18) Ways of Seeing by John Berger (1972) *
19) Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami (1980)
20) Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy MacLean (1949)

21) A Blue Hand by Deborah Baker (2008) *
22) The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene (1948) *
23) Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (2012)
24) Drop City by TC Boyle (2003) *
25) The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler (1903)
26) Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr (1964)
27) Ravelstein by Saul Bellow (2000)
28) Stranger in the Forest by Eric Hanson (1988)
29) Lost Japan by Alex Kerr (1994)
30) Divine Magnetic Lands by Tim O'Grady (2008)
31) Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins (2011)

For the new year, I've started Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge, regarding the core years of the 1970s when Richard Nixon fell in disgrace and Ronald Reagan rose to prominence as the right's Chosen One. A great read...


  1. A decent selection! I wouldn't say I liked Crash, but it is a very good piece of writing. Cronenberg was the perfect director for the adaptation, I think. Cold, detached, and a bit sleazy.

    Surprised you hadn't read the Flannery O' Connor, but I bet you are glad you did. Shirley Jackson next, or already done?

    I don't think I'll manage to match you, but I'm trying hard this year. I have a lot of 'scholarly' reading to catch up on, which limits my reading for pleasure. Is it cheating to pad out the list with comic books?

  2. Darren, as I'm a father to a newborn now, it seems my reading capacity is not very good. Any reading nowadays is pleasure reading whether it be Tolstoy or Twitter. This year's list will be comparatively short!

  3. Congratulations! Looking forward to hearing about the new arrival next time I see you. My reading has certainly been slowed down a little.... I quite often wake up with a book on my face having managed two pages before my eyelids conspired against me. But, you will have the joy of reading with and to the baby. Start immediately, it really works! And when they are very little, they don't care what you are reading, they just like to hear the sound of your voice, so you can keep up with the literature for a little longer ;-)