2014: A Year In Reading
2014, like all years past ever since I started blogging, has been an extraordinary year for reading. I’ve read 62 books total and most of them were amazing reads. Yes, yes, there were a few duds and even some of the worst pieces of literature that I have encountered in my life but the good and the great outweigh the bad by a huge margin. Of course, this being a review of the books I’ve read in 2014, it will be of course a list.
Here are my best books for 2014 (arranged by from earliest read to latest):
- A Month in the Country by JL Carr – A moving portrayal of a man tasked to restore a Medieval mural and, unknowingly, himself. The novel is short, with just 135 pages, but the prose possesses such weight comparable to a 500-page book.
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver – Very few writers can capture the stifling air of suburban existence and Raymond Carver is one such writer. The prose is terse yet it also has the power to unveil a tapestry of human emotion that can strike a reader’s core.
- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – One would think that having a multi-layered narrative would be detrimental to a novel but not if you’re Margaret Atwood who wields interwoven narratives like it’s a normal thing. Despite its postmodern structure and its feminist message, Blind Assassin is also a page-turner that can certainly immerse you in its pages.
- Atonement by Ian McEwan – Nothing to say about this novel except that McEwan wields his writing prowess with such confidence that, even in moments when nothing is happening except a woman in her room contemplating her migraines, something beautiful unfolds.
- CivilWarLand in Bad Decline/In Persuasion Nation/Tenth of December by George Saunders – Yes, I included all three books of Saunders that I’ve read this year into the list because I can’t certainly pick a favorite from the three for all are exceptional collections and because each collection possesses a quality unique in itself yet still share the same message and impact as the other two.
- The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – Some of my favorite short stories are ones written from a place of displacement, about people who are strangers in a foreign land, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut collection is one of the best in the subject.
- Sylvia by Leonard Michaels – If I have to choose my best read for the year, this would be it. Sylvia is one of the most haunting novels that I have ever read and Leonard Michaels is one of the most lyrical and stylistic writers that I have ever known. Forget Revolutionary Road (but not really because it’s still a good book), this is the most beautiful and tragic novel about a marriage that ends in tragedy.
- The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes – This novel focuses on the unreliability of its narrator and the malleability of his memory. In fact, you can say that the whole nuance of the novel is hinged upon his perceptions and interpretations of his own personal history. If that doesn’t sound like one of the best novels that you’ll ever read then I can’t do anything for you
- The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector – Talking about this novel is difficult because, of all the novels I’ve read this year, this is probably the most miserable. One thing about it is, after finishing this novel, you may possess a better understanding of the miseries of the human condition and what it means to be free from it.
- Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion – Nay, scratch that. This is the most miserable novel that I’ve read for 2014 and not The Hour of the Star. What did it for me was the protagonist’s awareness of her misery and the resulting helplessness of her condition that the reader can do nothing but despair with the protagonist.
Other notable books that I’ve read this year are Muriel Spark’s The Ballad of Peckham Rye, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Dean Francis Alfar’s Kite of Stars and Other Stories, Leo Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich, and Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs. I’ve already voiced my disdain for Mina V. Esguerra’s Fairy Tale Fail and Lang Leav’s Love & Misadventure so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’re my worst reads for the year but I feel like I should also include Marla Miniano’s Table for Two, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo’s Tales from the Diabolical, and the comics anthology Abangan.
I’ve also met several writers this year and have some of their books signed which is just an awesome experience. I met Paul Auster, David Mitchell, Siri Hustvedt, Donald Antrim, Joyce Carol Oates, Claire Messud, and Emily St. John Mandel. I’ve also won a signed copy of Alice Munro’s Family Furnishings which is surely the best bookish acquisition of my year. That and telling Paul Auster that I’m his biggest fan.
That’s about it for my recap of my reading year. I hope, like I always do at the beginning of each year, that the next year will bring more bookish adventures.