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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.)

Literature

The Araucaniad: A Version in English Poetry of Alonso de Ercilla y Zuniga's La Araucana
Zuniga, Alonso de Ercilla Y (Author), Lancaster, Charles Maxwell (Translator), Manchester, Paul Thomas (Translator)
Vanderbilt University Press

Contemporaries and Snobs (Modern & Contemporary Poetics)
Riding, Laura (Author), Heffernan, Laura (Editor), Malcolm, Jane (Editor)
University Alabama Press

The Tree with No Name (Slovenian Literature Series)
Jancar, Drago (Author), Biggins, Michael (Translator)
Dalkey Archive Press

I Am China: A Novel
Guo, Xiaolu (Author)
Anchor

All Our Names
Mengestu, Dinaw (Author)
Vintage

Foreign Gods, Inc.
Ndibe, Okey (Author)
Soho Press

A Voice Full of Cities: The Collected Essays of Robert Kelly
Kelly, Robert (Author), Joris, Pierre (Editor), Cockelbergh, Peter (Editor)
Contra Mundum Press

Prae, Vol. 1
Szentkuthy, Miklos (Author), Wilkinson, Tim (Translator)
Contra Mundum Press

The Time Regulation Institute
Tanpinar, Ahmet Hamdi (Author), Mishra, Pankaj (Introduction), Dawe, Alexander (Translator), Freely, Maureen (Translator)
Penguin Classics

The Alp (Swiss Literature Series)
Camenisch, Arno (Author), McLaughlin, Donal (Translator)
Dalkey Archive Press

The Stories of Jane Gardam
Gardam, Jane (Author)
Europa Editions

Harlequin's Millions: A Novel
Hrabal, Bohumil (Author), Knecht, Stacey (Translator)
Archipelago

Journey by Moonlight (NYRB Classics)
Szerb, Antal (Author), Rix, Len (Translator), Orringer, Julie (Introduction)
NYRB Classics

In the Heart of the Heart of the Country: And Other Stories (NYRB Classics)
Gass, William H. (Author), Scott, Joanna (Introduction)
NYRB Classics

Midnight in the Century (NYRB Classics)
Serge, Victor (Author), Greeman, Richard (Translator), Greeman, Richard (Introduction)
NYRB Classics

 

Nonfiction

Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach
Auerbach, Erich (Author), Porter, James I. (Editor), Newman, Jane O. (Translator), Porter, James I. (Introduction)
Princeton University Press

Plato and the Post-Socratic Dialogue: The Return to the Philosophy of Nature
Kahn, Charles H. (Author)
Cambridge University Press

The Classical Tradition: Art, Literature, Thought
Silk, Michael (Author), Gildenhard, Ingo (Author), Barrow, Rosemary (Author)
Wiley-Blackwell

We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's
Swaab, D. F. (Author), Hedley-Prole, Jane (Translator)
Random House

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

Why Is There Philosophy of Mathematics At All?
Hacking, Ian (Author)
Cambridge University Press

Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon (Translation/Transnation Book 35)
Cassin, Barbara (Editor), Apter, Emily (Editor), Lezra, Jacques (Editor), Wood, Michael (Editor)
Princeton University Press

A World without Why
Geuss, Raymond (Author)
Princeton University Press

Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away
Goldstein, Rebecca (Author)
Pantheon

From Akhenaten to Moses: Ancient Egypt and Religious Change
Assmann, Jan (Author)
The American University in Cairo Press

The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself
Pettegree, Andrew (Author)
Yale University Press

Japan and the Shackles of the Past (What Everyone Needs to Know (Hardcover))
Murphy, R. Taggart (Author)
Oxford University Press

Social Dynamics
Skyrms, Brian (Author)
Oxford University Press

Absolute Music: The History of an Idea
Bonds, Mark Evan (Author)
Oxford University Press

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
Osnos, Evan (Author)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Common Knowledge?: An Ethnography of Wikipedia
Jemielniak, Dariusz (Author)
Stanford University Press

Science and Emotions after 1945: A Transatlantic Perspective
Biess, Frank (Editor), Gross, Daniel M. (Editor)
University of Chicago Press

Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age
Wright, Alex (Author)
Oxford University Press

July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914
Otte, T. G. (Author)
Cambridge University Press

The Logical Must: Wittgenstein on Logic
Maddy, Penelope (Author)
Oxford University Press

After Hegel: German Philosophy, 1840-1900
Beiser, Frederick C. (Author)
Oxford University Press

Pay Any Price
James Risen (Author), Christopher Lane (Reader)
Brilliance Audio

Becoming Mead: The Social Process of Academic Knowledge
Huebner, Daniel R. (Author)
University of Chicago Press

The Congress of Vienna: Power and Politics after Napoleon
Vick, Brian E. (Author)
Harvard University Press

Children into Swans: Fairy Tales and the Pagan Imagination
Beveridge, Jan (Author)
McGill-Queen's University Press

Earth's Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters
Rudwick, Martin J. S. (Author)
University of Chicago Press

Forensic Shakespeare (Clarendon Lectures in English)
Skinner, Quentin (Author)
Oxford University Press

The Computing Universe: A Journey through a Revolution
Hey, Tony (Author), Pápay, Gyuri (Author)
Cambridge University Press

Self and Other: Exploring Subjectivity, Empathy, and Shame
Zahavi, Dan (Author)
Oxford University Press

In Other Shoes: Music, Metaphor, Empathy, Existence
Walton, Kendall L. (Author)
Oxford University Press

 

Comics

Here (Pantheon Graphic Library)
McGuire, Richard (Author)
Pantheon

Beautiful Darkness
Vehlmann, Fabien (Author), Kerascoët (Author), Dascher, Helge (Translator)
Drawn and Quarterly

Beauty
Hubert (Author), Kerascoët (Illustrator)
NBM ComicsLit

Dungeon: Twilight – Vol. 4: The End of Dungeon (4)
Sfar, Joann (Author), Trondheim, Lewis (Author), Alfred (Illustrator), Mazan (Illustrator)
NBM Publishing

Sam Zabel And The Magic Pen
Horrocks, Dylan (Author)
Fantagraphics

Incomplete Works
Horrocks, Dylan (Author)
Victoria University Press

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Novel
Greenberg, Isabel (Author)
Little, Brown and Company

Walt Disney's Donald Duck Vol. 8: "Trail Of The Unicorn" (Vol. 8) (The Complete Carl Barks Disney Library)
Barks, Carl (Author), Gerstein, David (Editor), Barks, Carl (Artist)
Fantagraphics Books

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Novel
Greenberg, Isabel (Author)
Little, Brown and Company

Perfect Nonsense: Chaotic Comics and Goofy Games of George Carlson
Carlson, George (Author), Carlson, George (Artist)
Fantagraphics Books

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy
Lanzac, Abel (Author), Blain, Christophe (Illustrator), Gauvin, Edward (Translator)
SelfMadeHero

1 Comment

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

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