Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 – A Reckoning … of Books Read

This year I decided to track my reading, to look for patterns and to work toward broadening my horizons – specifically, to that final point, I wanted to read more non-fiction and to read more books written by women, and I think I achieved that.

Overall, I read 38 books this year – 12 novels, 13 works of non-fiction, and (if you’re doing the math at home) 13 books that fell under the “Other” category, which includes plays, books of poetry, short story collections, novellas, and anything else that did not fall neatly under the Novel and Non-fiction ones.  To be honest, I am surprised at how well it spread out.  I did not go into this trying to be so even, in the spread across these categories.  Must be my weird, subconscious “math-wired” brain at work. 

Anyway.  The novels were split evenly between male and female authors, with two of the best I read this year from women – Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, which defines lustrous prose for me, and Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet, which was a riveting, genuine, powerful coming of age story, something I am not attracted to, as a sub-genre.  Really powerful stuff.  Other notables would be my first Elmore Leonard novel, Road Dogs, Toni Morrison’s latest, Home, Country Hardball, by Steve Weddle, which is an amazing crime novel-as-collection-of-short-stories, and This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, who is one of my favorite contemporary authors whose turns of phrase are beautiful and poetic and moving, all at once.  Great stuff.

Some of the notable non-fiction I read this year included Difficult Men, which looks at the shift in television brought about by HBO, FX, and similar cable stations, led by a vanguard of distinct and strong-willed showrunners like David Chase, David Milch, David Simon, and David (actually, Vince) Gilligan.  I also read Julius Caesar: the Life & Times of the People’s Dictator, which was interesting and allowed for a better understanding of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, when I read that directly after, and The New Middle East by Paul Danahar, which sheds light on what has actually been going on in the middle east from the BBC’s primary correspondent there the past few years, and Rez Life by David Treuer, which gives voice to the pain and injustices Native Americans have been forced to deal with ever since Europeans arrived here, centuries past.  It is a harrowing, disturbing, heartbreaking book, but one that everyone American should read (though I doubt half of those would take away any life lessons from it; yes, the half who thinks Fox News is actually news). 

I only got four of Shakespeare’s plays read this year – Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra, Hamlet, and Macbeth – but they were a joy to read.  Looking forward to more Shakespeare in 2015, which is always inspirational, to me.  I also read four books from Harlan Ellison, my favorite author, including a collection of short stories, a collection of his teleplays (Brain Movies III), a re-read of Mefisto in Onyx, the novella that was my introduction to Ellison, and his first collection of essays on television from the 70s, The Glass Teat.  I’ve read a healthy number of his books, but I look forward to whittling away at the stack even more, in the coming year.  And I also read two Cormac McCarthy books, neither one of them novels – The Stonemason, a brilliant play that included some of the most insightful and brilliant prose I read this year, and his screenplay for The Counselor, which was interesting if a bit of a let-down.  This one felt more like an exercise in extremes rather than a desire to craft something of significance.  That said, the disappointment in the plot did not take away from the brilliance of the man’s prose and.  McCarthy is a singular talent.  Can’t wait to read more of his work.

And that’s that.  Hoping next year to expand the number of books I read, but that may be tough.  Because I need time for my family and time to write. 


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