As has been tradition since 2003, I hereby present for the historical record a list of the books that I read in the year just ended (in this case, 2014). The list is in alphabetical order, by author:
- The Ghost Road, by Pat Barker
- Up Above the World, by Paul Bowles
- Unwelcome Words, by Paul Bowles
- Louis Riel, by Chester Brown *
- The Efficiency Expert, by William Rice Burroughs
- Night of the Gun, by David Carr
- Summertime, by JM Coetzee
- Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow
- Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
- The Human Factor, by Graham Green
- The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid
- The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson
- The Lake, by Yasunari Kawabata (translated by Reiko Tsukimura)
- The Dinner, by Herman Koch **
- Paradise News, by David Lodge
- The British Museum is Falling Down, by David Lodge
- Berlin, City of Smoke, by Jason Lutes *
- Embrace the Chaos, by Bob Miglani
- A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden, by Stephen Reid
- Nemesis, by Philip Roth
- The Ghost Writer, by Philip Roth
- Let’s Discuss Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris
Any trends? Few than I can see, other than the continuation of choosing titles that are largely of a pre-social media vintage. I don’t do this consciously, or at least very consciously. I’m simply more fascinated by people in a time before Facebook and Twitter constantly pushed phoney views of people onto each other. That’s not to say people were more “genuine” or more honest in the “old days.” Rather, it was the necessity to actually spend time with people before you could get a sense of who they are – or are pretending to be – that grabs me.
Feel free to shred that last statement. I’m not 100% convinced of it myself. But I do know that constant and ubiquitous social media has changed how we relate to each other, and not always for the better. It presents a significant challenge to storytelling in many ways, and I regret to inform you that I’m not very interested in how writers meet that challenge.
All of this is subject to change, as always. In the meantime, the crude statistics are as follows:
- 22 titles by 18 authors.
- 17 male authors and one female. Ouch. I didn’t do that on purpose.
- Two graphic novels (indicated by *).
- One e-book (indicated by **); the “like/dislike” (not strong enough to be love/hate) relationship with my Kobo is unchanged.
Standout titles are indicated in yellow highlight. Obviously these are standouts to me, not necessarily to the world at large, and their reasons for standing out are fuzzy at best. The short version of the criteria for “stand-out” is simply “how much did I enjoy it?” (Note that I enjoyed them all or I wouldn’t have finished them; the stand-outs are simply that; ones that really stood out.) A particularly pleasant discovery this year is David Lodge, who I hadn’t read before.
And to give you an indication of just how unreliable I am as a critic, you’ll notice that one of my “stand-outs” – possibly the standing-outest – is set in the present day, and incorporates some aspects of social media (The Dinner, by Herman Koch). If you want to discuss any of this further, you’ll have to invite me out for a drink.