I read a lot in 2014, and a large percentage of it was good, some of it was great, and a few titles were outstanding. No list can be comprehensive and fair because 12 months encompasses a lot of reading, and we tend to forget books that deserve to be remembered. Furthermore, I’m working on a crime-only list and a horror-only list, so what you’ll find here doesn’t include the outstanding crime and horror I read this year.
In any case, the purpose of this list is to share with you 11 books (my list, my rules) that stuck with me. Here they are in no particular order.
11. Black Cloud by Juliet Escoria (Civil Coping Mechanisms)
Escoria hits your senses like a speedball. The stories in this short collection are raw and vivid, and they stick to your ribs because they feel very, very real. Packing equal amounts of emotional and physical grittiness, Black Cloud was one of those books I read early in the year and was still discussing when anyone asked what to buy others for Christmas.
10. Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours by Luke B. Goebel (Fiction Collective Two)
Is this a collection of short stories? Yes. Is this a novel? Sure, it’s also a novel. What about a memoir? It’s definitely a memoir. Goebel’s work surprised me, and that’s rare. His prose is heartfelt and fast and vivid. There’s pain and redemption and peyote in his writing, and it all shines through at once. “Unique” gets thrown around a lot, but this book deserves to be called unique.
9. Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt (Two Lines Press)
Brave and violent and warm and too damn deep for comfort, Aidt’s collection, translated by Denise Newman, received the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 2008 and deserves a few more prizes now that it’s available in English.
8. The Martian by Andy Weir (Crown Publishing)
What? Big Publishing actually put out something great? Yep, this novel is that rare gem. Weir is a very intelligent guy, and this narrative is a space nerd’s dream. “Smart” and “funny” are the two words that best describe this story, and that’s hard to pull off when most of the story is about a guy stuck alone on Mars.
7. Primordial by D. Harlan Wilson (Anti-Oedipus Press)
Making fun of academia is great, and this is the novel I’d been waiting for because it does exactly that, but with enough intelligence that any reply is impossible. D. Harlan Wilson is one of the wittiest writers working today, and this one is as personal and smart as it is wild and funny.
6. Between Wrecks by George Singleton (Dzanc Books)
In this collection, Singleton takes readers on a bizarre trip across our nation’s underbelly, and he does it with brutal honesty and a superb sense of humor. These short stories balance beauty and grit, and prove that Singleton is one of the best short story writers working today.
5. Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House Press)
Lyrical and weird and nuanced and unexpectedly mesmerizing, Luiselli’s first novel is clear proof that she will be a gigantic literary voice in years to come. Kudos to Coffee House Press for bringing the work of superb Latin American voices to US readers.
4. Witch Piss by Sam Pink (Lazy Fascist Press)
No one writes like Sam Pink. This was a sad and hilarious trip to life in the dirtiest alleys in Chicago. From word choice to accents, Pink’s prose possesses its own cadence, and this might just be his best book to date.
3. Made to Break by D. Foy (Two Dollar Radio)
Sometimes you grab a novel and end up asking to no one in particular “Who the hell is this guy?” In 2014, that author for me was D. Foy. You can call this a strange and wonderful narrative about friendship, a gutter oper, or simply yet another fantastic Two Dollar Radio release — the point is that this is a great read that’s even more impressive when you realize it’s a debut. If this cat’s not on your radar, you should get a new radar.
2. The Face of Any Other by Michael J. Seidlinger (Lazy Fascist Press)
Seidlinger is that guy exploring the possibilities offered by experimental fiction and actually producing books worth reading out of that adventure. With font size, a voice that invades others, and using blank space in a way that communicates something, this novel was the most interesting look at identity anyone could have read this year.
1. Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon by Cameron Pierce (Broken River Books)
The only reason you haven’t seen this marvelous collection on more top 10 lists is because it was just released. Cameron Pierce is probably the strongest voice blurring the line between genre and literary fiction, and this collection is something that everyone on both sides of that line should read.
Gabino Iglesias is writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.