Best Reads of 2014

Jon Peterson: Playing at the World. Highly recommended to gamers! Jon Peterson: Playing at the World. Highly recommended to gamers!

Here are my best reads in English during 2014. My total was 49 books and 14 of them were e-books. Find me at Goodreads!

  • In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language. Arika Okrent 2009.
  • Redshirts. John Scalzi 2012. Space opera from the viewpoint of the nameless extras.
  • The Bone People. Keri Hulme 1984. This novel has great strengths in the language and characterisation. And a major weakness in the almost nonexistent plotting. Very little happens in these 450 pages, and what happens is not well motivated either from the characters' point of view or from a technical narrative perspective.
  • Little Brother. Cory Doctorow 2008. A rousing, somewhat preachy story of young people fighting for civil liberties. Similar enough to the author's Pirate Cinema that you needn't read both. If you're more into privacy issues, read LB. If intellectual property issues, read PC. Both make very good gifts for bright teenagers.
  • The Crow Road. Iain Banks 1992. This novel is full of cunningly constructed motif parallelism involving glass and eyes. Reader, stay alert!
  • The Gentleman in the Parlour: A Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong. William Somerset Maugham 1930.
  • Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People, and Fantastic Adventure from Chess to Role-Playing Games. Jon Peterson 2012. As a late-80s teen, my main interests were role-playing games, choose-your-own-adventure books, boardgames, fantasy miniatures, text adventure software and fantasy fiction. I still have a love of all these things, and of history, and so it would be difficult to envision a subject matter for a book that would be better-tailored to my taste. And the execution -- the scholarship in this book and the writing and the illustrations -- are absolutely top-notch. Amazing stuff!
  • Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation. Olivia Judson 2002. An evolutionary view of how sex and procreation works in various species of animal.
  • Johannes Cabal: the Necromancer. Jonathan L. Howard 2009. Humorous and otherworldly about a humourless wizard out to reclaim his sold soul from the Devil.
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Jared Diamond 2005. World-spanning investigation into why and how some societies collapse and others don't.

Dear Reader, what were your best reads of the year?

Here’s my list for 2013.


More like this

Non-SF: The three or four latest books by Karin Slaughter about policemen in the South (I think it was Charlotte).
In the seventies, when black policmen were first recruited it created incredible tensions with the "old guard" from the Klan days. And the first women cops had it hardest of all, despised by black and white male colleagues alike
--- --- ---
.The top 101 astronomical events to watch for in 2015
-Svalbard and the Faroe Islands will get a total solar eclipse on March 20th. Martin, time for you to go study the ruins in those islands (hint, hint).

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 27 Dec 2014 #permalink

Jonathan Lindström: "The Bronze Age Murder"
Joakim Goldhahn "Bredarör på Kivik"

I have alearn quite a lot about Bronze Age Scandinavia and archological science history from these two books.

By Thomas Ivarsson (not verified) on 27 Dec 2014 #permalink

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov. Many digressions, as one would expect from 19th century Russian novels. Sort of an early mystery story, in that Dmitri's friends are looking for a plausible alternative suspect for his father's murder. But although I don't think the murder charge was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, Dmitri's story of where he got the money does not pass the laugh test.

I made it through two SF novels this year: Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 and Terry Pratchett's Snuff. I mentioned 2312 on an earlier thread. As for Snuff, I didn't think it was as good as some of the earlier Discworld novels, although I enjoyed the bits about Quirmian cuisine using too much avec.

I managed to get through Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities even though almost all of the significant characters are complete jerks. (Of the two exceptions, one is in a coma and the other is six years old.) It's like watching a train wreck: only bearable because you know that the Master of the Universe character is going to get his comeuppance in the end.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 27 Dec 2014 #permalink

I reread "The Crow Road" this year too. Still excellent. One of these days I must replace the copy that I lent to someone in about 2003!

My favourite books this year (not including series, like the latest Ben Aaronovitch) were Ian McDonald's "Brasyl" and Daryl Gregory's "Afterparty". The former in particular is one of those books that makes you wonder how on earth someone sat down and wrote it. Utterly mad, but wonderful.

You're right about "Snuff", Eric - but then after the peak that was "Thud", pretty well anything would seem disappointing. I also read "2312", but found it rather dull.

My favourite new (to me) author this year was David Nicholls. "Starter for ten" in particular rang many many bells, because it's set in a British university in 1985, and I arrived at uni the following year. If you like humour with a hefty dose of cringe, then it's definitely recommended.

I love Daryl Gregory's short stories, but his novels never did much for me. Maybe he's learned that craft too now?

@Martin - well, this is the first thing of his that I've read, so I dunno. I enjoyed it though. Maybe I'll try the short stories next!

OT, but since you have mentioned how worn out Star Trek is...)
Mock The Movie: "Star Trek Into Darkness" transcript…
Random excerpts:
“Why is a shuttlecraft which can survive atmospheric re-entry “not built for heat”?
"If the entire planet was going to die, why were they trying to lure the natives out of the “kill zone”?
And so the volcano is temporarily plugged up before exploding againthe next day. HOORAY!
”Stately Wayne Manor!”
“Now put on a red shirt.” [ominous music]
How did the genetic engineers from 300 years ago SOLVE DEATH?
"The Enterprise can be repaired by kicking it?"
"They’re not so much “credits”, more “the reason we can’t have nice things”.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 29 Dec 2014 #permalink