Best books of 2014

December 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’ve seen a fair few of these lists already, but I find the exercise interesting for myself, purely because I love lists, spreadsheets and all kinds of record-keeping geekery. I have no difficulty recalling that Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods was far and away my top pick from 2012, but 2013 is vaguer. Looking back through my notebook of books I read, the books I remember with most fondness are Benjamin Stein’s The Canvas (translated by Brian Zumhagen), Zadie Smith’s NW, Nicholas Royle’s First Novel, Ian Williams’s Not Anyone’s Anything, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, Chimamandah Ngozie Adichie’s Americanah, Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon, Sam Byers’ Idiopathy, Sophie Létourneau’s Chanson Française, France Daigle’s For Sure (translated by Robert Majzels) and Ivan Vladislavić’s Double Negative. Checking against my actual post, I’ve included Royle and Létourneau here but not at the time, and I included S.D. Chrostowska’s Permission. Interesting that the same books still stand out.

canvas

This year things have seemed flatter. I haven’t read as much, for one thing, as real life has been inconveniently overwhelming, and I’ve often been disappointed by books I was looking forward to. I did love:

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  • A Map of Tulsa by Benamin Lytal (another great success for And Other Stories)
  • Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes, translated by Jamie Bulloch
  • Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
  • Tongues of Flame by Tim Parks
  • Les États-Unis du vent by Daniel Canty
  • The Freedom in American Songs by Kathleen Winter
  • Between Gods by Alison Pick (the only non-fiction on the list)
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner
  • A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (not because it was innovative, because it wasn’t particularly, but because I loved its rhythms, reminiscent of Anakana Schofield’s Malarky)
  • The Last Days of My Mother by Sölvi Björn Sigurðsson (I didn’t *love* this at the time but it has stuck with me).

speculation

Eleven books, five women, five men and one I’m going to Google … okay, six men. One short story collection, one memoir, two translations, only one person (as far as I know) who isn’t white. This list is all the books I wrote down as favourites from the year before I counted. It doesn’t feel as strong to me as last year’s list, though, so I think it’s time to return to book choice as dictated by most burning desire to read rather than library due date or other obligation. Here’s to 2015 as a year of amazing books. I’m getting in an early start with Ivan Vladislavicć’s The Restless Supermarket (mind-boggingly different from Double Negative) and Frédéric Beigbeder’s Oona et Salinger.

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