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
Anchor

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 Classics

The Alp (Swiss Literature Series)
Arno Camenisch
Dalkey Archive Press

The 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

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

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
T. G. 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

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

Children into Swans: Fairy Tales and the Pagan Imagination
Jan Beveridge
McGill-Queen’s 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

 

Comics

Here (Pantheon Graphic Novels)
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