Joe’s Top Ten Books of 2014

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~post by Joe T., BookPeople Assistant Buyer

I’m finally putting together my top 10 list for 2014. It was a difficult task as I limit myself only to books I actually finished, thus leaving out a considerable number of works that are fully deserving of mention but are sadly left out due to getting sidetracked and never quite completing them (William Gibson’s The Peripheral and Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, I’m looking at you).

So, with that caveat and with no further fanfare, here are Joe Johnston Turner’s TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2014

1) Area X (The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer 

Without a doubt, Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy was the book of the year. Published as three novels and released over nine months, it is truly meant to be read as one large novel. With shifting points of view and perspectives, Vandermeer’s style and technique keeps you as undermined and unsettled as the characters and landscape in the book. Inspired by the flora and fauna of his home in Florida, Area X is the story of a piece of land that has just gone wrong and the effect it has on the people who live there, the people who work there, and the people stuck there. An amazing mixture of literary fiction, horror, and science fiction, The Southern Reach Trilogy is what you would expect to get if Stanley Kubrick and John LeCarre decided that 2001 would be based on the existential dread of Lovecraft instead of the cosmic optimism of Arthur C. Clarke.

2) The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey

By far the best zombie novel since 2006’s World War Z by Max Brooks, the Girl With All The Gifts by novelist/comic book writer M. R. Carey (Mike Carey) is the story of Melanie, a young intelligent girl who is far more than she seems. At times heart-wrenching, humorous, and horrific, this book belongs on your shelf alongside Richard Matheson’s classic masterpiece I Am Legend. It was our selection of the month back in June and you can read my thoughts here.

3) Revival by Stephen King

I’d thought my days of reading Stephen King were over, much less putting him on any kind of top ten list, but here I am telling you how great Revival is. Seriously, I LOVED this book. The characters are so well drawn and he spends just the right amount of time with them that I didn’t need any supernatural elements to keep me reading. And that ending…wow! An admitted tribute to Arthur Machen’s story “The Great God Pan,” this book is a true treat and comes in at a svelte 460 pages.

4) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. Crisscrossing through time, the novel intermingles the narratives of a small group of people before and after a civilization destroying flu outbreak. Showing how ephemeral our present day culture and relationships are, Station Eleven is the perfect novel for fans of the films of Sophia Coppola.

5) Becoming Richard Pryor by Scott Saul

More of a traditional biography of the greatest stand-up comedian than 2013’s freeform Furious Cool by Joe and David Henry, Saul’s book focuses on the rise of Richard Pryor, more specifically his time in Berkeley which turned him into the powerhouse performer who was less Bill Cosby and more the poet of the African-American underclass. An amazing book that should be read in conjunction with the aforementioned Furious Cool and Paul Mooney’s Black Is The New White (which provides all of Mooney’s quotations from both Pryor books.)

6) A Spy Among Friends by Ben MacIntyre

Kim Philby and the Cambridge Five spy ring were the direct inspiration for John Le Carre’s masterpiece novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Ben MacIntyre (author of Double Cross) revisits this oft visited tale, focusing on Philby’s betrayal of he supposedly closest friends, Nicholas Elliot (the partial inspiration for Le Carre’s George Smiley) and the CIA Counter-Intelligence chief James Jesus Angleton. This is an utterly fascinating book about the nature of identity and is required reading for any and all fans of espionage fiction and history

7) Miracleman by Alan Moore and Others

Before there was Watchmen, there was Miracleman (Marvelman in the UK). Alan Moore’s first major work, it was the true deconstruction of the superhero that Watchmen was just the mere coda. Controversial, it was the work that put Moore on the map and led directly to his being hired to write his groundbreaking run on Swamp Thing. Out of print for 20 years, I never thought I would ever hold this book in my hands.

8) Zenith by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell

Clearly inspired by Alan Moore’s contemporaneous work on Miracleman and just as equally unavailable afterwards, Zenith is the first major work of the psychedelic shaman of superheroics, Grant Morrison. The tale of a spoiled super hero who’d rather be a celebrity than fight, it’s a deconstructive romp through all the themes that would reverberate through his future works from Doom Patrol and Animal Man to The Invisibles and Batman. Seriously, I never thought I’d ever touch these books again and thank you Marvel and Warrior for finally getting these books back in print.

9) Rat Queens Vol. 1 Sass & Sorcery

I cannot begin to describe how much fun the comic book Rat Queens is. I couldn’t stop laughing at the antics the group of adventurers got into and kept reading out loud lines of dialogue to my friends sitting nearby. This is heroic fantasy as you’ve never read it before, the four women who make up The Rat Queens have far more in common with Bad Boys than they do the Fellowship of the Ring.

10) The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft with annotations by Leslie S. Klinger

The major works of the master of tenticular and existential cosmic horror are collected in one hefty tome with an introduction by Alan Moore and annotations by award-winning scholar, Leslie Klinger. Fresh off his work notating Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and with his work on Sherlock Holmes behind him, Klinger does what he does best exploring the definitions of Lovecraft’s obscure vocabulary (gibbous, etc.), the real life geography that inspired his Miskatonic Valley, and the roots and sources of his cosmic entities. No stone is left unturned, even Lovecraft’s notorious racism is explored and brought into focus. As an amateur Lovecraftian scholar myself, this book is a godsend.

So there you have it, my top 10 books of 2014. Stay tuned as we turn the calendar and I give you my list of books from 2015 that have already blown my mind and the ones that I ‘m anticipating will do the same.


5 thoughts on “Joe’s Top Ten Books of 2014

  1. Love the list of books! Thanks for sharing! Right now, I just finished “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and “The Chocolate Money” and am working on “ROOM” and “My Life with the Saints”. Looking forward to checking out “Area X”, “The Girl with the Gifts”, “Station Eleven” and “Revival”.

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