“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde
After several threats to do so, I finally take a bit of time to update the 2014 reading list. Several elements have played into the list expanding well beyond its original limits: new friendships with publishers who asked me to review books, interesting finds at used book stores, decisions to read books so I’d know a little better what I was talking about when I castigated their authors.
So here we go. This, I hope, will catch up the 2014 reading list. Anything else that swims into view will go on the 2015 reading list. (I offer links for books that I have already written essays about.)
50) The Threshold of Insult – Mark Sumioka, Mark is a regular fiction contributor to the Scholars and Rogues Literary Journal (of which I’m editor). His excellent debut novel is a story that explores the dark sides of American suburbia, California style.
51) The Patron Saint of Unattractive People – Teresa Milbrodt. Teresa calls herself a “fictioneer,” and her tale of a cyclopean barista’s odyssey in search of others like her is a wonderful tale about family dysfunction and true love. It’s epic.
52) Mapping Utah – Denny Wilkins. For those who love the West, love the environment, and love a good yarn with action, suspense, and romance, have I got a book for you….
53) Larissa Takes Flight – Teresa Milbrodt. (No, she doesn’t turn books out so quickly, I was way behind on reviewing her above mentioned tale.) Larissa is a mythic heroine in a not-so-mythic world. Or maybe saving the world is like selling shoes….
54) Nights of Rain and Stars – Maeve Binchy. I realize as I write this that I finished this book several weeks ago and never wrote about it. Well, something to do….
55) The Strange Woman – Ben Ames Williams. A prodigious writer of commercial fiction in the first half of the 20th century, Williams’ tale of a twisted woman’s effect on her family’s history owes something to Margaret Mitchell….
56) Chita Quest – Brinn Colenda. This is an action/adventure work with a core of accuracy that betrays the author’s history as a top gun. A ripping yarn with a heart….
57) The Clansman – Thomas Dixon. Dixon’s celebration of racism and terrorism is spookily reminiscent of some of the nonsense you’ll hear from certain “news” outlets these days. Still, it’s an important work historically even if it’s heinous to sensible readers…that old Santayana saw applies, methinks…
58) The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald. If there is a contender for the perfect piece of fiction writing, this is it. That is all.
59) Wool – Hugh Howey. A dystopian future where everyone lives in silos and going outside means certain death. Sort of like how Facebook works, when one considers it carefully….
60) Throwing the House from the Window – Joshua William Booth. Poetry that looks in dark corners and finds light. Impressive given that we’re related.
61) Jupiter and Gilgamesh – Scott Archer Jones. Advertising exec in a personal crisis begins having a conversation with Sumerian epic hero Gilgamesh through his computer. Finds out everybody has the same problems. Yep – this is how you write literary fiction, boys and girls, if you want to do it right….
62) Morte D’Urban – J. F. Powers. A brilliant examination of what it meant to be a Catholic priest in a service order in mid 20th century America. It didn’t win a National Book Award for nothing….
63) Love in a Dry Season – Shelby Foote. Upper class Southerners behaving badly. Lit fic doesn’t get much more enjoyable.
64) A Walk to Remember – Nicholas Sparks. Badly written, formulaic, sentimental and jejune – all the things that make American readers salivate, it seems.
65 ) Dracula – Bram Stoker. The Halloween selection for 2014 is the mirror to last year’s look at the mad scientist and his monster. Up next in the queue.
66) Mercedes Wore Black – Andrea Brunais. Investigative reporter, dirty politics, sex, violence – you know, the stuff that makes reading worthwhile.
67) St. Nic, Inc. – S. R. Staley. An interestingly different take on the Santa story. And you know with the DEA involved things get weird very fast….
68) The Day the Mirror Cried – Saundra Kelley. In a series of stories, a storyteller tells us what it’s like to be a storyteller. Echoes of great storytellers abound in this collection.
69) Maria Chapdelaine – Louis Hemon. The seminal work of French-Canadian literature. Looking forward to this re-read.
70) Justine – Lawrence Durrell. I meant this as a companion to Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky. So we shall see whether Durrell surpasses Bowles and reaches greatness….
71) Just-So Stories – Rudyard Kipling. I had to lecture some boob for calling “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” the greatest short story of all time. But the good thing was that doing so made me want to re-read Kipling.
72) The Mysteries of Pittsburgh – Michael Chabon. One of lit fic’s darlings will get a stern going over, though I suspect I’ll find Chabon is up to the perusal….
That’s it. I mean it. No more until 2015…oh, you have this book I simply must read? Well…