As much as I enjoy reading, I always feel as if I haven’t read enough–the glaring spines of many, many unread books on my shelves can attest to that. But according to my Goodreads account, I’ve read 81 books in 2014, which feels like a fair amount (if it weren’t for that nagging feeling that I could’ve read an even 100). Of course, I read a fair amount of graphic novels, which often involves fewer words to read, even if the story turns out to be just as complex and beautiful as any novel I’ve ever read. But still–that’s a lot of reading.
So I thought I would celebrate the year by glossing over some of the best and worst literary endeavors that made their ways to my shelves, Ipad, and Audible account. These aren’t necessarily books that were published this year (hell–the majority of them aren’t what you could call “new”). I’ve always found that I’m constantly playing catch up on “classics” and “I’ve been meaning to read this” items–so much so, in fact, that I’m sure the list of books I’ve read in 2027 will include a dozen or so titles from 2014. Some I’ve covered here, and some I haven’t mentioned. That’s what makes it fun. I think.
So let’s begin…
Anne Hathaway, for her reading/performance of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum’s fantasy masterpiece was surprisingly low on my list of classics to read. With my perchant for all things nerdy, you’d think I would have devoured this one a long time ago, but for whatever reason, that was just never the case. Audible had this one on special (oh yes–Audible’s sales can be just as nefarious as Steam‘s) and I listened to it in one sitting. Hathaway is charming, fun, and hands-down adorable as the many denizens of Oz, and added a certain cuteness that I may have overlooked in the bare text.
The “If I Hold My Breath And Wish Hard Enough Maybe I Could Win An Award” Award
Jen Sincero, You Are A Badass
Full Disclosure: I loath self-help culture. The vast majority of it is modern snake oil–a mish-mash of watered-down spirituality and specious logic that serves only to make money off of frightened, sometimes desperate, people. I wrote a review on Goodreads about this one (I felt it was too depressing for Conquistadork), but in it I detailed my initial hopes that this book would be different. Here’s a shocking note to the world at large: I get sad. Really, deeply sad. And sometimes I look for help. And You Are A Badass seemed, well, helpful. Its author–it’s premise–the whole thing seemed far more dedicated to practical ways to build self-confidence and fight malaise. However, it quickly devolved into the same “if you can dream it, you can do it” horseshit, with a diseased twist of “put yourself out there” spirituality that left me sadder than when I picked the book up in the first place. Fuck dope peddler anecdotes. Fuck You Are A Badass.
The “Nerd Classic That Juiced & Fermented My Mind Grapes” Award
William Gibson, Neuromancer
This one was a long time in coming. You can’t play Shadowrun or even mumble the word “cyberpunk” without conjuring up a hundred or so ideas that came directly from William Gibson’s dystopic masterpiece. It was sacriledge to many of my fellow nerd friends that I’d made it to my thirties without reading Neuromancer, and now that I’ve read it, I see exactly what they were talking about. Beyond its reputation as groundbreaking science fiction, Neuromancer is exciting as hell. It’s grim and filled with fantastic imagery that lights the synapses in your brain like a callboard. Those not already familiar with the notions of the matrix, street samurai, nuyen, and futuristic corporate war might have a slower time reading it–Gibson follows a very Clockwork Orange approach to his introduction of future slang and terminology. But whether the fine toothed comb is necessary or not, Neuromancer has earned its reputation as a geek classic.
The “Desperately Needs A Sabbatical” Award
Chuck Palahniuk, Beautiful You
I covered this one last month, so I don’t need to beat the dead horse all over again. I only bring it up because I think it’s important to point out that I like Chuck Palahniuk. He’s a writer who got me excited about writing many years ago. Chuck is the man who wrote replies to the letters of a young Conquistadork when he was drama queen theatre major with hopes of becoming David Mamet. He’s a fascinating man and famously wonderful to his fans–a crowd that surrounds him with no small amount of idol worship. And since 2007’s Rant, his books have been coming out at a rate of one per year. What’s tragic about this fact is that they’ve all contained truly interesting ideas executed in a slapdash fashion. To put it simply: his latest books could be truly great if he would take his time with them. The narrative just always feels rushed and ADD-riddled. I truly adore the first half of Chuck’s bibliography. And I genuinely believe that through the insanity and vulgarity of much of that early work, you can see what he’s trying to accomplish. It doesn’t feel that way lately. Lately it feels forced. Perhaps the man who brought us Fight Club should take a brief literary break. Although I could be wrong: perhaps too many breaks is what brought us his current oeuvre in the first place.
Christopher Moore, Bloodsucking Fiends
In a generation that is increasingly known for its random and absurd humor, Christopher Moore has found a steadfast following. One that, no matter what I did, I could never quite get on board with. By the time I gave Bloodsucking Fiends a try, I’d already read Lamb and Practical Demonkeeping, and while I could see where Moore was going with his style, it just never worked for me. But Fiends is genuine, honest-to-god laugh-out-loud funny. The clever bastard even managed to sneak in some poignant moments of sentiment. Absolutely worth a read.
…And finally, the coveted “Winner of Everything I Read in 2014” Award.
Batman was absolutely the MVP of my 2014 reading list. Between the thought experiments of Batman And Philosophy to his sleek, new adventures with The New 52 to the charming and whimsical to the overtly macho and unnecessary. I adore Batman and his ability to take on different shapes–from the camp of the 60’s, to the more recent “fists with an honor code” mantle he’s taken on recently. I’m not sure if I consciously sought out all of the Batman that I’d been meaning to get around to, but there’s one thing that I’m certain of: there was rarely a moment this year that I wasn’t reading or getting around to reading something with Bruce Wayne.
For more of the books I read in 2014, have a look at my GoodReads 2014 Reading Challenge here! Looking forward to another year of solid comics, plays, and literature.