While I always think each year is a good year for novels, this one is no exception. From outstanding debuts like ‘The Wallcreeper’ to the always amazing Haruki Murakami (2 books this year!) Here they are, my favorite books of 2014.
While I was familiar with Helen Oyeyemi’s previous novel, ‘Mr. Fox’, I was blown away by ‘Boy, Snow, Bird’. Recommended to me by the bookseller of the really cute Napa Bookmine bookshop in downtown Napa (and most of you know I don’t usually listen to many recommendations.) A retelling of Snow White, Boy Novak is at the heart of this disparate and harrowing tale of her life from the young child living in poverty in New York City to the marriage of Arturo Whitman and her new infatuation with her step-daughter, Snow right onto the birth of her child, Bird. While it may seem to span generations, the novel keeps the plot throughout the many faces of Boy. And I swear to you, you will not be able to put it down. An outstanding book and easily the best of the year.
From the mind that gave us ‘The Imperfectionists’ comes his sophomore effort and it couldn’t be better. Rachmann introduces us to Tooly Zellenberg and takes us on a journey through 3 time periods (the “current” 2011, 1999 and back to 1988 where she is a 10-year old in a foreign country). A true tour-de-force and a sign that Rachman is a serious novelist to watch.
I have never ever read a more impressive debut. Nell Zink’s novel is an almost indescribable novel that leaves you aghast that words and thoughts can be written with such vigor. An almost hallucinatory, stream of consciousness beauty. Please read this.
The first is the newest hit from Murakami (sold over a million copies in one week in Japan last year) and the 2nd is a beautifully written (and equally designed/drawn by Chip Kidd) novella called ‘The Strange Library’. I shouldn’t have to say much more. With the news that Philip Roth is deciding not to write any more books, Murakami officially takes over as my favorite novelists alive.
His first book ‘Leaving the Atocha Station’ was mesmerizing. This is just as good. A nameless author is enjoying the success of his critically acclaimed first novel and decides to write a follow up. Meta-novel at it’s finest. As hilarious as it is incisive. Ben Lerner is a really good writer. A “writers writer” would be best to describe him.
One of my 2 favorite publishers is Tin House, the great Portland based literary and book publishers. Every year at least one novel tends to make my list. This year is the beautifully told re-telling of Lev Sergeyvich Termen, the man who invented the theremin. Sean Michaels takes us on a journey from Russia to New York City while Termen tries to make a name for himself and the world’s most interesting instrument, the theremin. I really, really enjoyed this novel.
I’m a sucker for the book-within-a-book theme and this is one of the better ones. For any fan of literature and especially for those of Winesburg, Ohio the great novel by Sherwood Anderson. An incredibly interesting and audacious novel by Porter Shreve.
The stories in this will completely knock you off your ass. In the best way possible. One of kind.
My other favorite publisher is the great New York Review Books. The publishing house that reissues the great “lost” literature that is now out of print. One of the year’s releases is this novella and short stories by William H. Gass. The opening novella entitled, ‘The Pederson Kid’ is one of the more remarkable novellas you’ll ever read. Reminiscent of Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’ (which is a pretty good compliment seeing that is the greatest novel of all time.) I tend to read a handful of the NYRB books each year and I always think the same thing, how is it that these great “lost” novels are just coming back into print after decades while some of the truly crappy books in the world are still everywhere to be found. Those not familiar can check out to see which ones you may like. From classic literature to historical non-fiction, there is no better place to educate yourself on anything books.
Another of my favorite writer’s alive. While this wasn’t the perfection of some of his earlier novels (or even the extremely underrated ‘A Hologram for a King’) this treatise on self-righteousness was a good piece of writing. An extremely quick read written entirely in dialogue (would make a decent play.) If you’re a fan of Eggers then worth your time.
And 5 more…
11) In Paradise- Peter Matthiessen
12) To Rise Again at a Decent Hour- Joshua Ferris
13) This Dark Road to Mercy- Wiley Cash
14) Broken Monsters- Lauren Beukes
15) High as the Horse’s Bridles- Scott Cheshire
16) A Brief History of Seven Killings- Marlon James
The only reason I have this at #16 is the fact that I just bought it on Saturday. After reading lots on this opus in the past couple of days, I was at the great Three Lives & Co bookstore this past Saturday and heard the insanely well read bookseller there recommend it to one of the many customers. I picked it up on the spot, went home and am on p. 126. Thrilling to the core so far. And there’s 500+ pages to go. Can’t wait.