Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014...

Last year was not a benchmark year for me, reading-wise.
Nor, blogging-wise.
I'm speaking of quantity, in both respects.
In all, I read 46 books, which is well below my average amount -- but if you count The Luminaries as being longer than four normal novels -- hey, now I'm past 50.
Speaking of which, I turned 51 last year, too -- so maybe that has something to do with it all. Early onset senility?
At any rate -- I thought I would drop by just long enough to mention some books that really impressed me, throughout the year. It's actually hard to narrow it down to a select few -- and forgive me, but neither do I have the time tonight to really expound much upon any of them. 

[Have you ever heard more disclaimers in a single blog-posting?]…
What do I mean when I say a book "impressed" me?
I mean -- I read them quickly, and they entirely arrested my attention, throughout.
And based on that simple criteria, here are my selections of really great books from the past year:

Firstly, An American Tragedy [circa 1925, no less] by Theodore Dreiser. The story of young Clyde Griffiths, who ultimately forfeits his life in desperate pursuit of success. I found it riveting throughout, and it remains my favorite read of the year.
And now, in no order of supremacy -- others that I loved: 

The Tortilla Curtain, by T.C. Boyle. This guy is one of my favorite living writers. An illegal Mexican immigrant sneaks over the border and tries to make his way in the good ol' U.S. of A. With his pregnant lover. It does not work. Boyle tells a rip-roaring, relevant story. 
Tipping The Velvet, by Sarah Waters. Does this writer ever really miss the mark? I think not. It has all the terrific twists and turns and taboo-shearing ribaldry that make her one of my favorite writers.  
The Children Act, by Ian McEwan. In this, his latest work, McEwan rivals his own talents in Atonement and On Chesil Beach -- showing us that literature is alive and well in the world. I could not put the thing down until the last page.
Dirty Love, by Andre Dubus III. This collection of inter-connected short stories -- honestly, with every story I stopped and had to ask myself, "What kind of beer is this guy drinking?"
I need to go out and pick up some of that * * * * ing beer!
Maddadam, by Margaret Atwood. In my opinion, the best volume of her end-times trilogy. Having said that, it's not really a stand-alone, I do think you need to read the other two first, to get the full whammy. The pigoons in this one take center-stage.
When Nietzsche Wept, by Irvin D. Yalom. A deep psychologically challenging fictionalized portrait of the tormented soul of Nietzsche. It was wonderful to read such a richly satisfying novel, and discover such a fine author. 
The Executioner's Song, by Norman Mailer. Over a thousand pages. None of them boring. This is the true-life story of convicted killer Gary Gilmore of the 1970's. A man who challenged the state of Utah to put him to death. To execute him. He wanted no appeals, no mercy. This book has the power to challenge ideologies concerning the idea of capital punishment. 
What is it we are accomplishing, when we kill someone who has killed someone?

I also must mention that I read a non-fiction book that I want to highly recommend.
Albert Speer: His Battle For Truth, by Gitta Sereny. Anyone interested in the Nazi-era would do well to read this book. It weighs about 40 pounds, but seriously, I was riveted to Sereny's depiction of this war-criminal who escaped an almost sure sentence of death, during the Nuremberg Trials.

And now, to 2015. I'm well on my way to a terrific year of resolving to read more, blog more, think more. And to being increasingly aware of the fact that the world of reading and learning is the world in which I find myself the happiest.
I started off by buying a brighter light-bulb for my reading lamp -- oh the wonders of IKEA© -- to help with my decreasing levels of eyesight, as I ascend ever further into the interesting world of this next half-century of life… 



Stefanie said...

First, happy belated birthday. My husband turned 50 over the summer and it's been interesting how it has a affected this man who has never been so very concerned with age before. May your second act be as good or even better than the first!

As for books, I agree with you that MaddAddam is the best book in the trilogy. I loved that book! And you may have read fewer than you usually do, but you read some good ones and that's what matters!

Merisi said...

Happy belated birthday, Cip, and best wishes for a great 2015, in any aspect!

Sam said...

You're still a kid, Cip...wish I were 50 again.

That Dreiser book is one of my absolute favorite books of all times. I've probably read it more times than any other novel, at least four or five, I think, and it never bores me. Dreiser was way ahead of his time with that one, IMO.

K said...

I am glad to hear it.

Cipriano said...

Stefanie -- thank you for the birthday wishes. As for Atwood, I'd like to get my hands on your new book of short stories.

Merisi -- thank you, and may you have a terrific 2015, Vienna style!

Sam -- I know, wasn't it just a superb book? That's amazing, you re-read it, even. That's like me with Anna Karenina.

K -- Hi. Hope you are doing fine.