As you may already know, Jeff Somers’ We Are Not Good People is one of my favorite books of 2014 and completely broke my heart, so of course I’m very excited that he shared his fave reads of the year today. Enjoy!
I’m an old man now, pickled by booze and ruined by a lifetime of over-stimulation, so I forget everything all the time. Have I forgotten that I’ve read certain books and read them again, slowly, over the course of a few hundred words, realizing that I know exactly what’s about to happen? Sure I have. In some cases, I’ve done this three times. At this point very soon I will pick up We Are Not Good People and read it and wonder who this genius author is.
That may speak more towards my lack of organization and the messy state of my bookshelves more than anything else, but still. I believe I’ve come to the point in life when I’ve forgotten more books than I’ll read in the coming decades. This year I read a lot more than usual because I got paid to review some books, which also meant I read outside my usual comfort zone, which actually isn’t very comfortable at all, as my reading is very all over the place. Here’s five books that stood out for me.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Damn Tartt and her Pulitzer prizes. This book is a hardcover and feel luxurious. My own books come out in cheap paperbacks with paper that feels like sandpaper and shame, while this book’s paper feels like you could sew a prom dress from it and be crowned Queen. The story itself is good, and the writing viewed purely as writing is magical – Tartt has a way. But there’s a laziness to it, too; she often drops in huge details without ever having mentioned them before, and elides big swaths of story in a way that feels like an all-too-literal adherence to Elmore Leonard’s old advice: Skip the boring stuff.
The Rosie Project (Don Tillman) by Graeme Simsion. This was a book foisted on me by my long-suffering wife, and at first I was dubious, but it’s actually a really entertaining story with a lead character you don’t see every day – and the decision to tell the story from a socially and emotionally stunted scientist’s point of view is brave. It could have been hard to read, but Simsion finds the main character’s humanity early on, and the books is frequently hilarious.
The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All by Laird Barron. I saw Laird read in New York City and it was haunting and riveting, so I bought a copy and had him sign it and then bought him a drink at a nearby bar. Laird is starting to come into the attention he deserves and thank goodness, because he’s incredibly talented, and this story collection is a great way to become acquainted with Barron’s style and power without committing to a novel. I suggest everyone do so.
The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah. I reviewed this book for B&N because I’m a long time Agatha Christie fan, and the idea of resurrecting a character Christie was so protective of (she wrote his death and final mystery forty years before it was published so it could come out after her own demise) was simultaneously horrifying and exciting. For the most part, Hannah nailed it. If you’re a fan of Hercule Poirot mysteries, this new offering is worth the price of admission and feels like an old friend stopping by for a visit.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I’ve raved about this book elsewhere. This book got to me. It’s not perfect – Pessl loves to use italics for emphasis like a speed freak throwing darts – but it’s creepy. Let me stress that: It is creepy as hell. It’s a book that seems superficially unspecial, but as you progress through it you start to get sucked in, and the masterfully created atmosphere begins to really work at your sense of comfort and reality. In other words, it’s a lot of fun.
I probably read a lot more books this year, but between my advancing age and my tendency to solve problems with alcohol, who can say?