Best of 2014: Books

This year, I totally slacked in the reading department. I read 26 books this year 20% of those being things my wife wrote. I think the reason I haven’t read as much is because I’m getting my story from television right now.  The me from 10 years ago would just shudder at me saying that as I watched virtually no television back then. But there’s no denying that TV is in a golden age so that I’m finding good story from that medium is not terribly surprising.

Still, there were a handful of books that I feel are worth recognizing at the end of 2014.  None of these books are ones written by my wife (not that they were not good, I just don’t want to appear biased) and none of them were written in 2014.  It reminds me a little bit of how last year USA Today declared The Great Gatsby 2013’s “Book of the Year” which I found to be ridiculous when there was plenty published in 2013 that is better than that book. Anyway, I’m not USA Today so I feel no such pressure.

Double Down by Mark Halperin & John Heilemann.  From the folks that brought us Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime comes the tale of the 2012 election. While not quite as riveting of a read as its predecessor, it was still pretty compulsively readable, especially when you got through the initial part of the book and Mitt Romney enters the picture.  The story of the contentious Republican primary and the presidential election that followed was one of the first things I read this year (thanks Matt) and one that I may someday actually go back and reread.  Great for political junkies and people that love their recent history.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I’ll admit that I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in this book till the movie trailers started showing up on Hulu Plus (WHERE’S YOUR WIFE, NICK?) and when I revisited the premise of the book, I knew that I had to read it before I saw the movie.  Everyone knows the plot – Nick Dunne’s wife Amy disappears on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary – the anniversary of a marriage that has become more and more dysfunctional. Foul play is suspected and Nick falls under the suspicion of the cops. To say much more would ruin what is really a very compelling read.  Amy and Nick Dunne may be two of the least sympathetic characters I’ve ever had the privilege of reading, but their story was one I could not stop reading.

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette. This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, and it was a Kindle Daily Deal a while back so I picked it up.  It’s also the last book I read this year.  For those who do not know, Monette was a gay man who came of age in the 70s and was part of the generation of men whose lives were devastated by the AIDS epidemic.  He lost two lovers to AIDS, the first of whom being Roger Horwitz whose death is tragically detailed in another of Monette’s books Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir which I have also read and it is something that I consider essential reading.  Becoming A Man tells the story of Monette’s life up until the day he meets Roger. Tormented by his sexuality and one of the loneliest souls I think I have ever read about, his story is half-intriguing and also half-“would you just come out of the closet already? you’ll be a lot happier!”  Reading the book made me feel sad quite a bit, but I just couldn’t stop. The hardest part was knowing at the end, when he has finally found happiness, that events beyond his control would work hard to destroy that happiness.

Honorable mention this year goes to Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad Trilogy, of which I read the first two books – Truckers and Diggers. While primarily books aimed at the 12-14 year old set, they are great fun, all the while poking a little fun at blind faith in any kind of organized religion.

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