I am not a voracious reader and find contests or challenges to read X number of books within a certain period to be silly. Another blog asked its readers what was their favorite book of 2014. I realized I forgot all that I read, mixing up 2013 and 2014. Thus, this list of what I reviewed in 2014 and my answer to the question.
Best Novel I read: ” A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki. Either it or Jim Crace’s “Harvest” should have won the 2013 Booker. Both were Short- Listed.
Best Non-Fiction: “Lords of Finance” by Liquat Ahamed. Although I barely read non-fiction in 2014, it would still be highly recommended.
Most of what I read, I would recommend. Some are highly recommended. In 2015 I will try to read more works published by small presses, although I do read a fair proportion now. I will try to add some more non-fiction, and may want to explore science fiction that is focused on science than super-heroes. Any recommended authors or books? I may also read other books by Neil Gaiman, as imaginative children/adult literature is wonderful (particularly when well illustrated).
“O Jerusalem”- Dominique LaPierre and Larry Collins- (non-fiction about the siege of Jerusalem during Israel’s war of independence)- Recommend.
“Kamchatka”- Marcelo Figueras- (fiction- coming of age novel about a family caught up in Argentina’s “dirty war” in the 1970s)- Recommend.
“The Elegance of the Hedgehog”- Muriel Barbery (fiction- over-rated young adult literature). Not recommended.
“You Deserve Nothing”- Alexander Maksik (fiction- coming of age young adult literature that explores economic and social class and sexual mores). Recommend.
“Magnificence” –Lydia Millet (fiction- an entertaining read that explores taxidermy coincident with a point of view about men from the vantage point of un-grounded women). Recommended.
“The Death of Artemio Cruz”- Carlos Fuentes (fiction- great literature about the Heraclitan Mexican revolution). Highly recommended.
“The Messenger”- Yannick Haenel (non-fiction and fiction- a biography of Jan Karski, the liaison between the Polish Underground and the Allies during WWII. The book is not as interesting as the person. He was a professor of mine.) Don’t recommend the book, except to learn about Mr. Karski.
“Crusoe’s Daughter”– Jane Gardam (fiction- the life of a sheltered ophan adopted by spinster aunts who lived in the Midlands of England during WWII). An excellent writer and a good book. Recommend.
“Yesterday’s Weather” Anne Enright (fiction- collection of short stories from an Irish woman’s viewpoint). Somewhat mean in tone with an overlay of biological (as opposed to erotic) sex throughout. A capable writer. Neutral.
“Eleven Days” – Lea Carpenter (fiction- a Navy Seal told from the perspective of his mother. The author is passionate about the subject but the characters could be better drawn). Neutral.
“The Ocean at the End of the Lane”– Neil Gaiman (fiction- a middle-aged man returns to his English countryside childhood home and visits the neighbor’s farm where he found comfort and mythical protection from real and imagined forces when he was a boy). An extraordinary writer, this book can be read by children and adults. Highly Recommended.
“Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self” – Danielle Evans (fiction- collection of short stories. Teenage African- American girls’ experiences). Recommend.
“The Good Terrorist” – Doris Lessing (fiction- about the disaffected, mostly middle class, turned IRA and communist supporters. An accomplished writer who tells a good tale). Recommended.
“A Dangerous Friend”– Ward Just (fiction- a political Vietnam war novel that is distinctly American, for better and for worse). Recommend.
“Fire Year”– Jason K. Friedman (fiction- collection of short stories that were the recipient of the 2012 Mary McCarthy Prize. Distinctively Jewish and Southern). Recommend.
“The Painter”- Peter Heller (fiction- Like his better “The Dog Stars” novel this benefits from the author’s knowledge of the outdoors and associated sports- fishing, hunting, etc. It is not post apocalyptic, but is a thriller.) Neutral.
“In the Orchards The Swallows” – Peter Hobbs (fiction- the weight of economic and social class on young love in modern-day Pakistan). Recommended.
“A Long Way From Verona”- Jane Gardam (fiction- coming of age novel for young female aspiring writers. As with “Crusoe’s Daughter” the Midlands and WWII set the scene.). Recommend.
“A Matter of Time” – Alex Capus (fiction- eccentric naval officers waging war on Lake Tanganika during WWI). Recommend.
“On The Floor” – Aifric Campbell- (fiction- a “Bonfires of the Vanities” told from a woman’s perspective from the securities trading floor during the 1990s. Business lite, summer read. The plot goes off the rails). Neutral.
“Lords of Finance”- Liquat Ahamed (non-fiction- part biography of the Central Bankers between the two World Wars, there are some parallels between the Great Depression and the Great Recession. It calls into question Fed actions during the latter, which are still being unraveled by Hank Greenberg’s lawsuit). Highly recommended.
“The UnAmericans”- Molly Antopol- (fiction- collection of short stories- well written stories partially Jewish in theme. It was nominated for the National Book Award). Recommend.
“Dictation”- Cynthia Ozick (fiction- collection of short stories- an award-winning author, these are good stories, but may not be up to the standards of her other writings). Neutral.
“A Tale for The Time Being”- Ruth Ozeki (fiction- this was short-listed for the 2013 Booker. Although the prose in Jim Crace’s “Harvest” was better, I would have given this book the award in 2013. The plot is unremarkable, but the tour of Japanese language and culture, Zen Buddhism, botany, philosophy, quantum mechanics, etymology and history are well worth the trip. If you had to read one book on my 2014 list, this should be it. Highly Recommended.
“Shadow Without A Name” – Ignacio Padilla (fiction- an inventive thriller of assumed identities during WWII). Recommended.
“The Beggar Maid” – Alice Munro (fiction- collection of short stories or novella- interconnected stories of relationship failures and class from the perspective of a small town Canadian woman. An excellent writer). Recommend.
“The Luminaries”– Eleanor Catton (fiction- this 2013 Booker winning novel of almost 1000 pages is a mystery, that may have remained fascinating at half the number of pages, but which lost my interest after the summary about 400 pages into the novel. Considering the other great novels produced in 2013, I can’t imagine why this was awarded the Prize). Neutral.
“The Goldfinch”- Donna Tartt (fiction- after all the hype I was disappointed. You may learn a little about the antique’s trade, but otherwise it is a summer read. At almost 800 pages, you may need suntan lotion.). Neutral.
“The Wall” – Jurek Becker (fiction- collection of short stories. Principally about the Holocaust and life in Berlin before the Wall came down). Neutral
“Archangel” –Angela Barrett (fiction- collection of short stories. Stories have a mechanical or science bent to them. It is historical fiction, but generally without the politics). Recommend.
“Quartet for the End of Time” – Johanna Skibscrud (fiction- historical fiction that explores less known historical events: The Bonus Army after WWI; Allies campaign against the Bolsheviks.) Recommend.
“1914” Jean Echenoz- (fiction- more interesting as an exploration of writing style than as a novel. For aspiring writers it may be interesting). Neutral
“The Sojurn”– Andrew Krivak (fiction- WWI novel written from the vantage point of a sniper on the Southern Front). Recommend.