Christmas Morning–Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2014

Merry Christmas to all!!

Today is a deal for meals.  We’re having some neighbors over for brunch in a few hours.  I’ve already made red flannel hash and a couple of chocolate babkas, there’s a batch of muffin cup eggs still to go and some cleaning.  Our basement was flooded in The Great California Rain of 2014 a few weeks ago–we’re still cleaning it up. (Don’t worry, no books were lost or damaged in the flood.)  And we’re in the middle of building a fake bookcase with a secret door in the upstairs hallway, so the house is a mess.

But the food will be terrific.  All of the recipes come from Molly Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe which is the best breakfast cookbook ever.  Molly has never done us wrong, not once.  It’s funny, when we buy vegetarian cookbooks, all of Molly’s books are vegetarian, the clerk will often ask us if we are vegetarian.  We reply no, we just like vegetables.  I’ve got a couple of Italian(ish) cookbooks and no clerk has ever asked me if I’m Italian.

By the time we have the brunch dishes cleaned up, we’ll have to be off to C.J.’s brother’s house for Christmas dinner.  We’re not cooking anything for the dinner.

So, I’m thinking about getting one of those Fit-bit things in the new year.  It’s going to be a lot of food.

And I thought I’d make this my top ten favorite reads of 2014 post, too, while I’m at it.  My top ten choices are based on how likely I am to re-read the book, not just on how good it was or how much I liked it.  I had hoped to finish Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose in time to make this year’s list, but it didn’t happen.  Maybe next year.

Here’s my list in alphabetical order.

  1. Alphabetical Africa by Walter Abish – Many books on my list feature use of language as a strength.  This one is built around the alphabet.  The first chapter uses only works beginning with ‘a’, the second with the letters ‘a’ and ‘b’ and so on.  It’s so well done, and works so well, that the last chapter, when has returned to only the letter ‘a’ again, packs both a narrative and a poetic punch.  I was very, very impressed.
  2. Ask the Dust by John Fante –  I loved this book.  It’s a cry from the darkness of America’s underclass featuring an author in love with words.  It works the same way Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” works.
  3. California by Kevin Starr – I may never reread all of this book, but it’s going to be my go-to source for information about California.
  4. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami –  This deceptively simple story reaches profound territory without the reader really noticing it.  This one really stayed with me for a long time after the last page.
  5. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind by Chuck Barris – I was surprised by how good this book was was, how intelligent Mr. Barris turns out to be and by how much I loved, loved, loved it.
  6. The Judges of the Secret Court by David Stacton – Mr. Stacton’s account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln works well as a novel without becoming too fanciful as so much historical fiction does.  I feel he has the history right in this entertaining and insightful novel.
  7. More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon – I think this is the third time I have read this one.  I read it in high school, again in my twenties and now in my 50’s.  I’m keeping my copy for retirement.
  8. The Nose by Nicoli Gogol – I’ll probably have this novella memorized one day if I keep rereading it as often as I do.
  9. Other Voices Other Rooms by Truman Capote – I read this in tandem with To Kill a Mockingbird.  I don’t think I’ll read Mockingbird again but I want to come back to  this one some day.
  10. The Shining by Stephen King – Another re-read.   I won’t be re-reading this one any time soon, but I’m sure that I’ll give it another go one day.  I think it’s his best book.

So that’s my list for 2014.  What books have been your favorite reads this year?