Books I read in 2014

I read 24 books for pleasure in 2014.

Bold = favorites
* = rereads

  • Don’t Tell Alfred (Nancy Mitford)
  • The Orphan Master’s Son (Adam Johnson)
  • Goliath (Tom Gauld)
  • Antigonick (Anne Carson)
  • American Born Chinese (Gene Luen Yang)
  • Bring Up The Bodies (Hilary Mantel)
  • Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)
  • The Silence Of Our Friends (Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, Nate Powell)
  • Decline and Fall (Evelyn Waugh)
  • Annabel Scheme (Robin Sloan)
  • Ghost World (Daniel Clowes)
  • Transparent Things (Vladimir Nabokov)
  • Texts From Jane Eyre (Mallory Ortberg)
  • Life After Life (Kate Atkinson)
  • Mr. Palomar (Italo Calvino)
  • The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell)
  • Freedom (Jonathan Franzen)
  • The Periodic Table (Primo Levi)
  • The Monkey’s Wrench (Primo Levi)
  • The Time Traveller (HG Wells)
  • The Little Friend (Donna Tartt)
  • The Secret History (Donna Tartt) *
  • Bad Feminist (Roxanne Gay)
  • Ant Colony (Michael DeForge)

Most transporting: Orphan Master’s Son (epic political/romance/spy/dystopia tale set in North Korea), which I could not put down for three days. It was provoking, horrifying, lovely, all at once. Life After Life made me cry, in a good way, and Hilary Mantel’s novels were entirely arresting (when is #3 coming out??). And as always, Donna Tartt’s creepy little worlds are hard to exit, this time with The Little Friend and rereading The Secret History.

Best opening chapter: Transparent Things. I read the first few pages and was hooked. The second half of the book isn’t quite as strong, but I still recommend it.

Best closing sentence: The Periodic Table, my first experience with Primo Levi. Of course, the rest of the book is fantastic, too. The chemically-delineated chapters of his life are very touching.

Weirdest: Antigonick, an illustrated poetic retelling of Antigone that I picked up at random in Unnameable Books. Also Ant Colony: beyond “graphic novel (?)”, it’s indescribable. The Time Traveller was unexpectedly strange — the grotesqueness reminded me very much of Dr. Moreau — and I shouldn’t have been so surprised that it was a political allegory.

Most disappointing: The Bone Clocks. Ever since reading Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas in sunny springtime Paris, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet in slightly less picturesque Champaign, I’ve pined for another structured heroic tale. While I could have read an entire series narrated by Hugo Lamb (so delightfully evil!), many of the other chapters were a trudge to finish, and the end was just silly.

Best bookstores: many of these books were bought at Unnameable Books and Human Relations, both in Brooklyn. <3

Previously: Books I read in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009