02 January 2015

My 10 favorite reads of 2014

I'm too lazy to type out the whole list of what I read any more (sorry), but my 10 favorites (with links to posts if I wrote them):

Artful, by Ali Smith -- an amazing series of essays/stories/lectures/reflections, describing a narrator interacting with the ghost of a lover, and thinking about literature. Dazzlingly creative, highly interesting, and quite beautiful.

A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York, by Liana Finck -- Wonderful, gorgeously illustrated graphic novel about a young woman who meets up with the editor of a real advice column in a Yiddish-language newspaper from the 1920s. Lyrical reflection on immigration, memory, and identity.

Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi -- A re-telling of the Snow White story about an African-American family passing as white in 1950s America. It's astonishing how well it works, but you'll hardly notice, because Oyeyemi's writing is so instantly absorbing.

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, by C├ęsar Aira -- A throwback to the slender novellas of 19th century German literature, but with the surrealism cranked up a notch. The story of a German landscape painter traveling across Argentina. Incredible.

The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes, by Jamyang Norbu -- A wonderful contribution to Sherlock Holmes lore. It succeeds wonderfully as a Holmes story, but is of particular interest for the way it transports the story to Tibet, and (convincingly) imagines Holmes as fascinated by Buddhism. A totally delightfully marriage of cultural traditions.

Offshore, by Penelope Fitzgerald -- Finally read something of hers this year. It's a toss-up between this and The Blue Flower, both of which were wonderful. Slightly off-kilter stories and gorgeous prose. Read Penelope Fitzgerald. She's brilliant.

A Prayer Journal, by Flannery O'Connor -- A series of letters O'Connor wrote to God. Quirky and amusing but also a pretty fascinating manifestation of a real struggle with faith. Also visually appealing, thanks to a beautiful edition from FS&G.

Redeployment, by Phil Klay -- Absolutely deserving of all the awards it's gotten, this collection of stories about Iraq and Afghanistan is some of the best war writing I've ever read. Powerful, thoughtful, and often hilarious.

Remainder, by Tom McCarthy -- Stunningly original and deeply strange. This book, to me, was an astonishing effort to depict the experience of Being itself (yes, with a capital B), through the story of a man trying to pin it down.

Wave, by Sonyali Deraniyagala -- A woman's memoir about surviving, but losing her entire family to, the 2004 tsunami. Raw, devastating, but also incredibly moving and inspiring. There are all kinds of movies/books that attempt to show you the remarkable tenacity of the human spirit in times of crisis -- this is one of the few that I found convincing, and it blew me away. 


Sandra Rojo said...

Hi Culture Vulture. I happen to come across your blog and I find it interesting. I am an avid reader, or would like to think I am. However, I am missing out on some good contemporary literature. My life has kept me busy with reading material that pertains to my work/career and very little desire to venture out of that genre. You have provided some good suggestions to read. Thanks I will look for your blog again. Sandra

culture_vulture said...

Hi Sandra,
Thanks so much! I'm so glad that you enjoyed it. I do try to keep up with current lit to some extent, but it's hard work -- there's so much out there! If you're on goodreads, I update that much more frequently than I do this blog (unfortunately):