Sunday, January 4, 2015

Randy's Top Books: 2014

I like Brittany's stats, so I'm doing the same here:

Twenty-seven books; five re-reads; six non-fiction, fourteen fiction, four lit-reviews, two art, one philosophy.

Also, oddly a big year for me and Pulitzers (four).

And, in my amorphous "law" category (i.e., the books I read, regardless of genre, that I read because it has some conceivable relationship to the law): seven books.

I'm going with the top 20% again, so here are my top five for the year:

Honorable mention: Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America: I felt I couldn't do my end-year review without mentioning this book because it was one of the best non-fiction I read...other than The New Jim Crow.  Still, this book is one I'd say anyone should read because of how it shows the relationship between the death penalty and race.

(5)  The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander:  the best contemporary book about criminal justice I've ever read.  Alexander describes the racial overtones of our criminal justice system.  As the year unfolded, Alexander's book proved to be more and more relevant.  Of course, the media and pop-culture reactions to Brown and Garner only superficially reflected the complexity of the issues involved.  I think Alexander's book will continue to be relevant over the coming years as we, hopefully, decide to confront what needs to be fixed.

(4)  On Revolution by Hannah Arendt:  As always, Arendt blows my mind with her insight.  It's only a matter of time before I decide lawyering isn't for me and that I need to hole away in a basement to become an unrecognized Arendt scholar.  Watch out, world.

(3)  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt:  A Pulitzer prize much deserved.  I am still wavering on whether this was a "great" novel v. a merely really, really good book.  I realize the distinction shouldn't matter, but I've got this ongoing debate permeating one of my friendships, so it's on the mind.  Nonetheless, a great novel, editors of The Paris Review notwithstanding.

(2)  Building Stories by Chris Ware:  If I was only ranking new books, this would easily be the best book I read this year.  In fact, it might be the best (new-to-me) novel I've read over the last couple of years.  I can't recommend this novel enough to anyone.  This will certainly be a novel I re-visit in the future.  I'll add, too, that this novel helps to justify my subscription to The Paris Review--if every year The Paris Review introduces me to a novel I love this much, I'll be extremely happy.

(1)  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: it's not an accident that this novel is a classic.  It deserves all the accolades it receives.  Nothing else to say about it, I guess.

Some things to look forward to in 2015.  Allegedly, we'll be getting a new J.D. Salinger novel.  We're also going to get new novels from Ishiguro and Danielewski.  The Danielewski, in particular, I've been looking forward to for a while (I want to say years, but I can't remember when he first announced this project).  It's supposed to be the first volume of a 27 volume series.  Given that, according to Amazon, it's clocking in at 880 pages, I hope that all 27 volumes are in there.  I suppose we'll have to wait and see.  Here's looking at you, 2015.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

Exciting news about the Salinger.