On top of writing and the general peskiness that is day-to-day life, I managed to find time to read thirty-two books throughout the year. Not a whole lot–certainly not the most I’ve ever managed–but it’s just about double the sum total of the last two years combined (5 and 12). Hopefully, the next year will be more kind. Of course, I can also hope that I’ll spend more time writing, which I put as priority over reading, but I have so much to read awaiting me in my modest library upstairs that I have to find a way to get more reading time.
Anyway, I’m not going to drone on rehashing the entire list. I’ll just give you the ten books I thought were the best. Note that these are not books released in 2014 as I don’t particularly follow that. I read books that I want to, spanning all genres and generations.
THE BLACK HAT WRITER’S TEN FAVES OF 2014
10) Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories (Elmore Leonard): Western is a truly hit-or-miss genre. Sometimes the books are just unbearably hokey and cliché. Other times, they can be fun and adventurous. Then, rarely, you find some that are ruggedly poetic in both prose and plot. Usually, those are the ones penned by Mr. Elmore Leonard. These short stories told just enough of the tale to keep you wanting more at their conclusion, but not leave you feeling unsatisfied.
09) Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins): As much as I enjoyed the first novel in The Hunger Games trilogy for never wasting a word, I thought, as great as the sequel was, it fell just a little bit short of its predecessor. However, I still thoroughly enjoyed it for it’s adventure, political implications, and scope. Even if, at times, it was a bit predictable, that didn’t deter this book from being almost as triumphant as the first.
08) Looking for Alaska (John Green): At the start of this novel, I began to think that Green was not only a misogynist, but also a man with a singular voice that only speaks to upper-class, pseudo-intellectual teenagers who hold themselves in much higher regards than they should–but I was wrong. What John Green did here was tell a very touching, yet heartbreaking, emotional merry-go-round of a tale that doesn’t let go once it finally gets a hold of you. You’ll find yourself humored, shocked, sad, and satisfied once you turn the final page of this novel.
07) Tortilla Flat (John Steinbeck): A very intriguing character study of men who were the fabric of their times. The characters were likeable, though not without qualities that were unbecoming, giving it a realistic feel, as Steinbeck so often does; he forces you to accept humanity’s dark side in order to embrace its light side. Written in a dialogue reminiscent of Arthurian legend, this story is one of lies, loyalty, love, and betrayal as the cosmic points of life on Earth.
06) Monster (A. Lee Martinez): Talk about fun and fearsome fantasy rolled into one. This book sets you on your heels from the opening line and never quite makes you feel safely sane, even after you’re done. With an array of colorful and bizarre characters, humor so devilish you’ll need an exorcist to stop laughing, and a story so engrossing that you’ll turn the pages like a witch’s windstorm, Monster lives up to its name, staying with you even when the lights go out!
05) Gil’s All Fright Diner (A. Lee Martinez): Martinez goes back-to-back here. All I can say about this one is when you pair an angry, wandering werewolf with a lonely, broken-down vampire, and a zombie infestation problem that threatens to petrify the diner’s patrons, you got a cauldron full of furious fun. I loved this book and am anxiously awaiting more adventures from our undead drifter and his callous canine companion.
04) Animal Farm (George Orwell): Easy to see why this one is considered a classic. There is both a political and moral message behind this one, condemning greed and corruption and all-out power. Even though this political satire is an allegory for Communism, it certainly mirrors the direction our nation heads today, sliding into a maelstrom of unbridled and chaotic corporatism. Maybe Orwell saw it coming. But, with the intelligent way he so deftly weaves comic absurdity with political philosophy, Orwell definitely delivers a masterpiece in this one.
03) The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins): The darkness of this one struck me so deeply that I felt as if I lived and suffered in the squalor of Panem’s District 9. I was with Katniss the whole way through, cheering her through the pain and the struggle, the courage and the chaos, all the way till victory was hung before her like the proverbial carrot-on-the-stick. Panem, seeming to be an allegory for ancient Rome, with the Games being a futuristic gladiator spectacle in a much darker and more unforgiving coliseum, it almost loomed like a vision of our future should we not decide to alter our course. I thought that this book was pure brilliance, and intricately crafted by Collins, without one word wasted. Great adventure, great story, great read.
02) The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison): Never have I read a novel that made suffering seem so beautiful. The prose is like constant poetry written in both sunshine and moonlight. Toni Morrison hooked me with this unabashed, unafraid foray into everything that hurts about life. But, not as a lesson in pity, but as a portrait on how to survive something wicked that surely comes this way. I dearly loved this novel and ate up every word. The only thing I had to say when I was done was, “Wow.”
01) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne): My heart was in this adventure like it had been in no other ever before. The pain and determination of Nemo and the curiosity of Aronnax sums up the humanity at play through the course of this mystical and amazing adventure through the depths of man’s greatest odyssey: the underwater of the world! Verne did not miss a beat and he left nothing out. From the highly advanced technical marvel that is the Nautilus, to the mythic beauty of the oceanic denizens, all the way to submerged streets of the lost city of Atlantis, Verne takes us on a journey unparalleled in majesty and imagination in any sci-fi book I have yet to read.
I hope you enjoyed my reviews! Until next year!