I read a lot of good books in 2014, but as the year is draws to a close, I thought it would be appropriate to make a list of the best books I read this year. This article describes my five favorite fiction books that I read in 2014. A previous article described my five favorites in the nonfiction category, read it here.
Without further ado, here are my five favorite fiction reads from 2014:
5. Par Lagerkvist’s Barabbas, published 1951
A curious book, Lagerkvist’s fable takes the perspective of the zealot Barabbas, the man Pontius Pilate pardoned instead of Jesus during the final days of Christ. Kind of like John Gardner’s Grendel, the narrative takes the point of view of a minor or supposedly villainous character to create a deeply existential work. Barbados witnesses the resurrection, but no matter how hard he tries, he cannot believe in Jesus. A fascinating and memorable work, Barabbas is essential to readers who like Albert Camus or Jean-Paul Sartre or students of the Bible.
4. David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, published 2014
David Mitchell, known for the time-trotting and genre-bending Cloud Atlas, delivers a stunner with The Bone Clocks. Following the life of a British woman named Holly Sykes through the perspective of multiple narrators, the novel is interspersed by a war between rival magician groups. Sounds ridiculous? Well, the book is about Holly and magicians, but it’s also about coming-of-age stories, mid-life crises, the Iraq War, and concludes in an apocalyptic world that is part of the Cloud Atlas universe. A wonderful addition to Mitchell’s canon, The Bone Clocks is full of surprises and a delight to read.
3. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, published 1981
In Marquez’s slim novella, Santiago Nasar was murdered decades ago. But that doesn’t stop the omniscient narrator from reconstructing the events leading up to the murder in a small Latin American town in a novella that reads like a classic of the “true crime” genre. It’s all told in the gorgeous prose of Marquez, who we were unfortunate to have lost this year.
2. Claire Vaye Watkins’ Battleborn, published 2012
A short story collection that revolves around Nevada, Watkins’ stories are powerful, personal testaments to the complicated nature of living in the Silver State. It’s one of the best themed collections since Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies.
1. Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, published 1998
Carson resurrects the story of Geryon, the red-winged monster, and Heracles as a love affair in this prose/poetry novella that is astounding in its innovation, power, and conscious effort to contemplate the meaning of building a story out of fragments. Tragic and haunting, Autobiography of Red is the best book I read this year.