Something(s) to read, 2014
It's finally getting cold again, and I'm staying inside and reading more. You might also plan to spend extra time indoors in the next few weeks. Or months. We'll see what the Polar Vortex has to say about that. So in case you wondered, here are the best books I read in 2014, complete with my brief notes to myself about them. They're in no particular order -- they're all good and some are even better than that.
I hope you find something new here that you like!
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Some Kind of Fairy Tale
I couldn't wait to return to reading it. Not sure who was telling the story in the book, or whether that person is at all believable, but (and so!) it's an excellent evocation of mystery.
Banks, Iain M.
A Culture novel, full of great ideas. The plot didn't move me (or hold me) from start to finish, probably because I read it over too extended a period. Still, as always with Banks, a worthwhile journey.
Super fun super hard SF. Everybody wants to be Mark Watney...or should. Read this.
Excellent premise, execution, and resolution. Though when we discussed this in our reading group the people who knew developmental psychology weren't as convinced by it, this hooked me from the start, held me throughout.
The Girl in the Road
Interesting and well written, and even though I'm not sure I got every allusion or how things fit together in the end, it's worth re-reading to get those things, and I probably will. I still have images from it in my head.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Quite a lot of fun, and would have been almost perfect if it hadn't failed on the cryptography front. Still, that's forgivable for many great scenes and quotes, such as one describing Google's many research projects, one of which was "developing a form of renewable energy that runs on hubris."
Excellent. You probably already knew this.
Pump Six and Other Stories
A clear and present and frightening near future, esp. the title story.
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
It's hard to recommend these books enough. They read like novels, even the bits that would be desert dry in other people's hands. This is in part because of Morris, and largely because of Roosevelt himself...what a life. It will be hard to read biography again after this. (Not really, but it's hard to imagine a better subject, handled better.)
Truck: A Love Story
Fully entertaining, with some especially good bits of writing and insight about writing. And i's about a truck.
Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington
Very good, though I got impatient (mostly because of ignorance) with the analysis of the jazz in terms I don't understand. But this is a more complex and compelling book than others I've read about my favorite composer/arranger/bandleader.
The Sports Gene
Interesting exploration of what makes top athletes what they are; so many factors, including sports-specific training and mental databases, but mostly? Optimized body types and good genes coupled with good training.
Ten Years in the Tub
Combines previous books, but with a couple hundred pages I hadn't read. They are, like what came before, excellent. Makes me want to read even more.
Ali, Ayaan Hirsi
I learned a lot I didn't want to know about the world from this book, including just how much any success and happiness I've had is earned and not just a matter of almost unbelievable good luck. (Hint: it's mostly luck.)
Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems
Poetry I like! A lot. Amazing! So many excellent choices in it.
Out of Sight
Entertaining, light, fun. Leonard writes so smoothly you forget you're reading a book.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Light and a farce and I read it just after Infidel so the mental relief was particularly good.
Lord of Misrule
Fantastic storytelling and imagination and world-building. Magical realism? I'm not sure, but it works through-and-through.
[I read relatively few of these this year. Probably because I was absorbed with working on one of my own (and adding to another), so that part of my brain was super-saturated with comics most of the time. But I still snuck a few excellent ones past my own defenses.]
Fascinating story, beautifully told and drawn. A graphic novel about the Mechanical Turk was like catnip to me, and it was fresh and good catnip and I'm still drooling and that's enough of that metaphor.
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth
Very well done, and she's already so good that if she gets better still (I get the sense that she's young) she'll be a superstar.
This One Summer
Tamaki, Mariko; Tamaki, Jillian
Everybody already knows this book is terrific, right?
The Shadow Hero
Yang, Gene; Liew, Sonny
Ho hum, another fabulous book with Gene Yang's name on it. Doesn't he get tired of being better than everybody else? (I hope not.) This time, a superhero story, with great art by Sonny Liew.
Well done, and heavily layered. Worth reading again.
Another book about summer, and this too captures it perfectly. It does so differently from the Tamakis' book, proving that there's more than one way to be wonderful.
Walt Before Skeezix: 1918-1920
King, Frank O.
Nostalgia for something I never knew, and wouldn't have participated in is a weird and wonderful feeling.
The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation
Mishkin, Dan; Colon, Ernie; Drozd, Jerzy
Excellent, detailed, and true to its subject matter.
The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy
Patton, Michael F.; Cannon, Kevin
Great introduction to the major fields of philosophy. You can't buy this yet, but when you can, you should.