It’s time for this blog’s favorite posts of the year: the ABC Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2014! We hope these books, magazines, games, and more will help you start your new literary year with a bang.
- Renate: Amsterdam’s Fiction, Poetry, Essays, Writing and Memoirs buyer.
- Lynn: ABC’s owner.
- Maarten: Amsterdam’s Business, History, Political Science, Social Science, True Crime, Controversial Knowledge and Magic & Occult buyer.
We want to know about YOUR favorite reads, too. They don’t have to be books published in 2014, just read in 2014. Please mail your Top 5 reads, and your reasons for enjoying them so much, to firstname.lastname@example.org by Christmas Day. Your favorites will kick off the new year for this blog, as they have done for the past 7 years, and you will receive a € 7,50 ABC Gift Certificate as a thank you!
Redeployment – Phil Klay
Winner of this year’s National Book Award for Fiction. A stunning debut collection of short stories. Honest, breathtaking, brutal stories about war and coming home and yes, shooting dogs.
Godforsaken Idaho – Shawn Vestal
Another debut of short stories, and winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize, Vestal takes you to the afterlife and back, offering a hellish version of heaven and bringing you back down to earth, to the rugged northwest of America where Mormons live and breathe. His stories are spiritual, funny, and hurt in places in your body that you never knew you even had.
Pedro Paramo – Juan Rulfo
This book is pure magic and reads like a dream within a dream within a dream. I can’t believe I’d never read this before.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – Raymond Carver
I read this classic short story collection by Carver when I was on holiday in Florence, drinking various bottles of chianti in the process. Obviously a very good match. Carver’s stories are sad and blue and tragically funny, but not once did they ruin my summer holiday spirits; instead, they kind of lifted them.
The Ghost Writer – Philip Roth
If you’ve never read anything by Roth at all, The Ghost Writer is a very good novel to start with. I’m still amazed by how smooth and hilarious his prose is. That scene with Nathan Zuckerman standing on the table of his literary idol, trying to listen to whatever the guy’s doing with a girl that looks like Anne Frank upstairs. Even if I re-tell it here it’s never as funny as reading it. And leave it to someone like Roth to deal with the idea that Anne Frank might still be alive. Once you’ve finished The Ghost Writer: read Zuckerman Unbound and The Anatomy Lesson.
Prelude to Bruise – Saeed Jones
An amazing debut collection of poetry. Read this. It’s beautiful.
Every Day is for the Thief – Teju Cole
Published in Nigeria in 2007, before Teju Cole’s wonderful Open City, Everyday is for the Thief was only just published in England this year. I just love what Cole is doing with fiction, autobiography and creating new forms of literature. What he writes is never your everyday novel. It’s always something different and interesting. His style is like a great photograph: so many things to see and feel in only one image. Throughout the book there are also some of Cole’s photographs. And guess what: he makes a pretty good photographer as well.
More of Renate’s favorite reads can be found on Staff Choice: Renate.
The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune – Conor O’Clery
Inspiring business and personal biography of one of the founders of Tax Free stores worldwide.
Vanity Fair magazine
I read every issue cover to cover monthly and keep them all. The articles are excellent!
The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World
As I think of traveling more in the new year, and try to follow news events in places unfamiliar to me, I’ve consulted the newest atlas numerous times. It replaces our Bos Atlas of 1972!
Kokoro – Soseki Natsume
At the insistence of colleague Reinoud I finally read Kokoro (“heart” in Japanese), a literary classic written 100 years ago by Soseki Natsume. It is truly a timeless story which speaks across cultural boundaries as well.
Because I so enjoyed the book I passed it on to my husband and so no longer had it on my shelf of “just read” books – and I nearly forgot to include it here.
My number one recommendation!
More of Lynn’s favorite reads can be found on Staff Choice: Lynn.
This year I will try and refrain from complaining about the impossibility of making a list of my favourite books of the year, and just make one… ( I guess this was a bad attempt… 😉 ) I will also try not to mention the stuff and authors I read each year (like the Fortean Times, Neil Gaiman, Remco Campert, Toon Tellegen, non-fiction of the ‘general-weird-shit’-variety,) because I seem to do that every year, and it’s becoming a bit tedious, really. So here it goes, my ‘list’ of 5 ‘favourite’ books I read in 2014, in no particular order:
The Hot Zone – Richard Preston
An oldie, but very topical. This book tells of the first few outbreaks of a – then still hardly understood – new and scary virus that unfortunately is still wreaking havoc today: Ebola. When you read about scientists that work with anthrax and smallpox on a daily basis saying that they are scared of Ebola, then, well, I am too….
Meriswin – Hafid Bouazza
This book is on this list NOT because I and my dear colleague Renate were invited to the official launch at the publisher. It is here because it is a very intriguing book, with beautiful surreal-poetic language, and a story where the borders between the present day, childhood memories, and episodes of clinical delirium fade and become imperceptible, leaving the reader much confused, in a dream-like pleasant way.
Untouched by Human Hands – Robert Shackley (too old to have an ISBN, but I read this edition)(we can order copies of various editions through our supplier of second-hand books)
A collection of SciFi stories by someone I had never read, but that I had heard of, and now I know why. Very original and out there-ish, if you know what I mean. And lots of fun too.
Stikvallei – Frank Westerman (no English translation available yet, although some of his other books have been translated)
A rare example of quality literary non-fiction that is also very interesting. A strange lake in Cameroon, an eruption, many casualties, and geological disputes. Westerman tells the story beautifully, using three angles trying to get closer to the truth, and questioning the whole concept of truth at the same time.
Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs – Paul Koudounaris
I was attracted to this by the cover and the weird subject that appealed to my somewhat morbid curiosity. That curiosity was satisfied, but the story itself, the strange and disturbing history of these relics, was not only well written but also much more interesting that I had thought. This to my surprise, since these kinds of topics are normally handled in either too academic or too sensationalist ways. And it has beautiful pictures of skeletons wearing lace and jewellery!
More of Maarten’s favorite reads can be found on Staff Choice: Maarten.
Ebook available for The Hot Zone.