Books of the Year 2014

I had less time for reading this year than I would have liked. When I selected Drago Jancar’s haunting and beautiful The Tree with No Name for Slate’s Overlooked Books, it was still with the knowledge that I’d read a lot less fiction than I’d wanted. And Antal Szerb’s excellent, though modest Journey by Moonlight is a bit of a cheat, since I read it (and wrote about it) when Pushkin Press published it all the way back in 2003, rather than when NYRB Classics reissued it this year. It’s stayed with me, though, so I can pick it with more certainty than some of the other choices.

Seeing Richard McGuire’s long-gestating Here finally be published bookends my reading the original 8 page version in RAW when I was 13, when it changed my life. I wrote about the original Here in 2003 too.

And Alonso de Ercilla’s 1569 Spanish-Chilean epic The Araucaniad has been an alluring title to me since I read about it in David Quint’s fascinating Epic and Empire in connection with Lucan’s Civil War. Quint described The Araucaniad as one of those rare epics that takes the side of the losers, and it’s one of those artifacts, like Lucan’s Civil War, that doesn’t fit neatly with any common sense of literary history. Its relevance stems from its own grim variation on a theme that is at the heart of so many great epics and books: in Quint’s words, “that those who have been victimized losers in history somehow have the right to become victimizing winners, in turn.” It deserves a new translation.

As with last year, I haven’t read the entirety of some of the nonfiction selections: Chris Wickham is an excellent historian but I’m not going to deny that some of his Annales-ish wonkery had my eyes skimming. And while the biology and physics books are pretty interesting, I can’t say with much certainty that they’re accurate.

If anyone’s curious as to why some book or other made the list, feel free to ask in the comments. Thanks again for reading my work here or elsewhere.

(As always, I do not make any money from these links; they’re just the easiest way to get the thumbnails.)

Literature

The Araucaniad

Alonso de Ercilla Y Zuniga (Vanderbilt University Press)

Contemporaries and Snobs (Modern & Contemporary Poetics)

Laura Riding (University Alabama Press)

The Tree with No Name (Slovenian Literature Series)

Drago Jancar (Dalkey Archive Press)

I Am China: A Novel

Xiaolu Guo (Nan A. Talese)

All Our Names

Dinaw Mengestu (Knopf)

Foreign Gods, Inc.

Okey Ndibe (Soho Press)

Prae, Vol. 1

Miklos Szentkuthy (Contra Mundum Press)

The Time Regulation Institute

Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar (Penguin Classic)

The Alp (Swiss Literature Series)

Arno Camenisch (Dalkey Archive Press)

Stories of Jane Gardam

Jane Gardam (Europa Editions)

Harlequin’s Millions: A Novel

Bohumil Hrabal (Archipelago)

Journey by Moonlight (NYRB Classics)

Antal Szerb (NYRB Classics)

Midnight in the Century (NYRB Classics)

Victor Serge (NYRB Classics)

 

Nonfiction

Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach

Erich Auerbach (Princeton University Press)

The Classical Tradition: Art, Literature, Thought

Michael Silk, Ingo Gildenhard, Rosemary Barrow (Wiley-Blackwell)

Why Is There Philosophy of Mathematics At All?

Ian Hacking (Cambridge University Press)

A World without Why

Raymond Geuss (Princeton University Press)

From Akhenaten to Moses: Ancient Egypt and Religious Change

Jan Assmann (The American University in Cairo Press)

Japan and the Shackles of the Past (What Everyone Needs to Know)

R. Taggart Murphy (Oxford University Press)

Social Dynamics

Brian Skyrms (Oxford University Press)

Absolute Music: The History of an Idea

Mark Evan Bonds (Oxford University Press)

Common Knowledge?: An Ethnography of Wikipedia

Dariusz Jemielniak (Stanford University Press)

July Crisis: The World’s Descent into War, Summer 1914

Thomas Otte (Cambridge University Press)

The Logical Must: Wittgenstein on Logic

Penelope Maddy (Oxford University Press)

After Hegel: German Philosophy, 1840-1900

Frederick C. Beiser (Princeton University Press)

Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War

James Risen (Brilliance Audio)

Becoming Mead: The Social Process of Academic Knowledge

Daniel R. Huebner (University Of Chicago Press)

The Congress of Vienna: Power and Politics after Napoleon

Brian E. Vick (Harvard University Press)

Earth’s Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters

Martin J. S. Rudwick (University Of Chicago Press)

Forensic Shakespeare (Clarendon Lectures in English)

Quentin Skinner (Oxford University Press)

The Computing Universe: A Journey through a Revolution

Tony Hey, Gyuri Pápay (Cambridge University Press)

In Other Shoes: Music, Metaphor, Empathy, Existence

Kendall L. Walton (Oxford University Press)

Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities

James Turner (Princeton University Press)

 

Comics

Here

Richard McGuire (Pantheon)

Beautiful Darkness

Fabien Vehlmann, Kerascoët (Drawn and Quarterly)

Beauty

Hubert (NBM Publishing)

Dungeon: Twilight – Vol. 4: The End of Dungeon

Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim (NBM Publishing)

Sam Zabel And The Magic Pen

Dylan Horrocks (Fantagraphics)

Incomplete Works

Dylan Horrocks (Victoria University Press)

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Novel

Isabel Greenberg (Little, Brown and Company)

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Novel

Isabel Greenberg (Little, Brown and Company)

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy

Abel Lanzac (SelfMadeHero)