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Monday, January 05, 2015

My 2014 Booklist

 photo TheShiningBookCover_zpsa59e033f.jpg
This year featured one of the longest non-reading gaps of my reading life. Thankfully, near the end, I snapped out of it and read most of the books on this list. Doing that reminded me of how much I love reading, and how integral it is to my identity, which sounds weird, but I think for readers, it isn't so outrageous a statement. With that said, here is the short list of books I read in 2014.
Bloodline -- Gaines (Ernest Gaines really flourishes in the long short story format. These five focus on the trials of African Americans living in rural Louisiana in the mid-20th century. The best has got to be A Long Day in November, following a young boy on the titular day that just won't end, but ends well.)
Yoda: Dark Rendezvous -- Stewart (Ernest Gaines has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, been a MacArthur Foundation fellow, awarded the National Humanities Medal, and inducted into the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) as a Chevalier. Sean Stewart wrote a book about Yoda. Here is a bit of an existential crisis: can a book about a green CGI puppet with magical powers have the same gravitas as a book written by a guy who can literally get Oprah to toss him up on her shoulders with just a word? YES!!! Dark Rendezvous is full of well-drawn characters like Scout, a young Jedi in training, low on the force and forced to rely more on her wits than her counterparts. It is full of humor..I mean, it is a book about Yoda. It has an excellent central conflict, as it fully fleshes out the CGI puppet into a living, breathing, thinking, fighting character who must face a wayward former pupil. Highly recommended.)
Crucible -- Denning (The end of the line for the original Star Wars story. Now, 25 years of work will be rendered mute--it didn't happen. While I am looking forward to the upcoming Abrams film, I do think the language surrounding the transfer of the Star Wars EU from cannon to essentially "what could have happened, but definitely didn't" could have been more sensitively stated. With that said, Denning's sly shots at the Disney buyout, including a side-plot about cutesy, yet disturbing clones of the main characters, are particularly satisfying. Denning, after all, put the last two decades of his life into this now discontinued story...glad he got to end it himself, and as a much stronger writer than when he began.
Snow Crash -- Stephenson (Neal Stephenson is a genius: to envision this bizarrely believable future of a corporation-dominated, nation-less Earth, to come up with such believable inhabitants of that Earth, and to pen such an absurdly complex, yet easily followable storyline that somehow brings ancient Sumerian language to the forefront. He does do a bit of leading with his personal philosophies that I could have done without, but other than that, this is a modern sci-fi masterpiece.
A Clockwork Orange -- Anthony Burgess (Twice I've picked up really short novels from Modern Library's top 100 books of the 20th Century list thinking I'd knock them out in no time. Both Heart of Darkness and A Clockwork Orange knocked me on my back. A Clockwork Orange is so dense for a 200-page book, as Burgess invented his own slang and tells the entire novel in it. That said, Burgess is a brilliant enough linguist to have the reader understanding every word he is saying by page 20, but I think the fact that Burgess is so good at language creation overshadows the fact that there isn't a lot to this book (Burgess seemed to agree)...but there's more to it than the movie, and I say this because...)
The Shining -- King (So good. I can't really say that Stephen King is underrated in the literary world anymore, considering all of the awards he has won, and the fact that he received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Still, there's a certain stigma attached to a "horror writer" and there should not be. The Shining is as well-written as just about anything to come out of the 70's, and full of heart, as well, just also full of grisly and terrifying scares. The observant may notice that these last two books I've mentioned were both adapted to film by Stanley Kubrick. This is because I am currently working on a piece that compares Kubrick's film adaptations to the actual works he adapted, attempting to pinpoint his successes and failures. Why? Because this is The Nicsperiment!)

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