David Auerbach on literature, tech, film, etc.

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.)


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

All Our Names
Dinaw Mengestu

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

Journey by Moonlight (NYRB Classics)
Antal Szerb
(NYRB Classics)

Midnight in the Century (NYRB Classics)
Victor Serge
(NYRB Classics)



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

Inside Paradise Lost: Reading the Designs of Milton's Epic
David Quint
(Princeton University Press)

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
(Oxford University Press)

Pay Any Price
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)

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)



Here (Pantheon Graphic Library)
Richard McGuire

Beautiful Darkness
Fabien Vehlmann, Kerascoët
(Drawn and Quarterly)

(NBM Publishing)

Dungeon: Twilight - Vol. 4: The End of Dungeon (4)
Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim
(NBM Publishing)

Sam Zabel And The Magic Pen
Dylan Horrocks

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

1 Comment

  1. Always the most interesting and challenging best of the year list for me, thank you.

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