As the year draws to a close and we naturally turn reflective, I thought to share some of my favorite books I read in 2014. Come back tomorrow to see my favorite video games!
My Top 5 Books of 2014
Going in reverse order:
5) World War Z
I like zombies as much as the next guy, but I’m not crazy about them or anything. So I put-off reading this book for a while. The treatment here is presented as a faux documentary of sorts, a looking back on the war against the undead. Although told via loosely related flashbacks, sometimes years after the fact, the narrative carries a sense of urgency and solidity due to the superb execution. Riveting and real; don’t judge this book by its shallow and lame movie.
What is the core rolebook of a tabletop RPG doing here? The Numenera setting – Earth a billion years in the future, amid the detris of eight great civilizations that have risen and fallen – is evocative and outfit with all manner of hooks upon which to set one’s imagination. The numenera itself is a sort of nanotechnology, invisible and ever-present, and treated as something akin to magic by the peoples of earth. The setting and the system itself are nimble enough to handle everything from straight fantasy, supers, or horror.
3) No Country For Old Men
McCarthy’s prose is admittedly not for everyone. His sentence structure alone may drive some mad (he’s especially fond of using long strings of run-on sentences joined by ‘and’). But the sparse prose gives room to the characters and their tragic yet engrossing tale. Spoiler: the death of one main character is made all the more shocking for the way it happens off-camera. I haven’t been this shocked and in denial since reading A Game of Thrones.
I am a long-time King fan. His mastery of character is astounding. That said, his endings are often terrible because he doesn’t do any planning whatsoever, just letting the story go where it will. But here, King sticks the landing, concluding the tale in a satisfying way that is both logical and neatly addresses the pitfalls of time-travel stories. I came for the historical, looking-back what-if question of the JFK assassination, but I stayed for the main character and his impossible quest.
1) The Hobbit
Yes, I had never read the Hobbit before, just as I’ve never read The Lord of the Rings. For shame, I know. What a refreshing surprise this book was, completely blowing the bloated Hobbit films out of the water. Bilbo is a convincing everyman hero. Thorin and his fall is majestic, tragic, and resonant. Absent is Legolas, dwarf-on-elf love affairs, the White Council vs Sauron, albino orcs: all the junk that makes the movies such bloated messes.