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What Books Did You Read In 2014?

Let's recommend some good reads!

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1. The Purple Cloud by M.P. Shiel (1901)

Penguin Classics / Via Amazon

This is one of the first "last man on earth" novels. It's a very strange Victorian adventure about a polar explorer who accidentally causes a global cataclysm that leaves him to wander the unpopulated world for decades. It's kind of like I Am Legend by way of Edgar Allen Poe. I enjoyed it.

2. Keith Haring Journals by Keith Haring (2010)

Penguin

Haring's personal journals from the 1970's until his death in 1990 offer a lot of insight into his art. I enjoyed reading about his early experimentation process when he was finding his style. Also, did you know he was a huge fan of the Grateful Dead? The journals become haunting as he becomes overwhelmed with his celebrity lifestyle and his untimely demise from AIDS.

3. The Jaguar Smile by Salman Rushdie (1987)

Picador

Rushdie's journalistic account of his travels in Nicaragua during the Sandinista regime was reallyinteresting. I read this while I was also traveling around Nicaragua and it gave me context for what the country had been through three decades later. Many have criticized Rushdie's naiive view on the Sandinistas, but I found the book to be somewhat balanced and highly readable.

4. Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut, (1985)

Delacorte Press, / Via en.wikipedia.org

Only as a huge fan of Vonnegut am I comfortable in saying that this is one of the most irritating novels I've ever read. Go with anything else by Vonnegut.

5. Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (1970)

Bantam / Via wordpress.com

Fantastic. Didion can paint a whole scene with barely a few sentences. It's a sleazy Los Angeles tale about drugs, death, and superficial existence taking their toll on everyone's sanity. Like Valley of the Dolls with a whiff of Hemmingway.

6. The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí by Salvador Dali (1942)

Dover / Via amazon.com

If Dalí says it's an autobiography, you ought to expect a fantasy. Full of narcissistic boasts and disturbing pride in his cruel mistreatment of others. The guy can sure paint, though!

7. Tom Cruise by Andrew Morton (2005)

St. Martin's Press

After reading Lawrence Wright's Going Clear last year, I was compelled to know more about Tom Cruise's story. This unauthorized bio gives you the impression that he is a decent guy and a pretty good actor who had a rough childhood and then made some unique friends. And that's all I'm going to say about that!

8. The 80 Greatest Conspiracies Of All Time by Jonathan Vankin & John Whalen (2004)

Citadel

The perfect primer for anyone who has trouble swallowing the official story regarding aliens, 9/11, Freemasons, the CIA, etc. It's written with a touch of humor which makes you feel a lot less weird about being so engrossed in this madness.

9. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (1985)

DC / Via Mycomicshop.com

I read this every few years, just to remind myself of the soaring potential for the comic medium. Dave Gibbons's artwork is perfect and Alan Moore's story is endlessly impressive in it's interconnected detail and scope. I notice something new every time I read it. How on earth did they make this in 18 months?

10. Catch A Fire, by Timothy White (1983)

Holt Paperbacks / Via Amazon

This book is very informative about not only Marley's life, but Jamaican history, politics, Rastafarianism, and reggae in general. And also, did you know Marley recorded a version of "What's New Pussycat?"

11. Flying Saucers And The Three Men by Albert K. Bender (1962)

Paperback Library / Via goodreads.com

I first heard about this book at a UFO convention I attended. It's interesting as a record of the paranoid atmosphere of 1950's America and how paranormal interests were kept underground. This is the first account of the Men In Black, and it's matter-of-fact retelling of the allegedly true events is quite creepy.

12. Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood (1939)

Random House / Via pubimages.randomhouse.com.au

I loved this collection of Isherwood's Berlin stories. The characters and the awkward scenarios are believable and there is an undercurrent of impending doom that even the author couldn't know the full scope of in early-1930's Germany. It's startlingly contemporary as well; some of these stories could take place now.

13. I'm Your Man - The Life Of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons (2013)

Ecco / Via Amazon

Even as a casual listener of Cohen, this book was fun to read. Basically, you'll wish you had his life and it will inspire you to do something cool with yours. Non-stop travel, critically-acclaimed work, muse after muse, fearless chemical experimentation. God dammit, we all wish we were Leonard Cohen.

14. Unruly Places by Alastair Bonnett (2014)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / Via Amazon

If you're the kind of person who has spent hours in Google Earth, then you will probably like this book.

15. The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell (2013)

Simon & Schuster / Via Amazon

This book made me literally laugh out loud numerous times. If you've watched the movie The Room, you've no doubt wondered, "How did this happen!?" The actor who plays "Mark" unlocks the mystery without ruining anything. The true story of Tommy Wiseau is hilarious and weirdly bittersweet.

16. Attempting Normal by Marc Maron (2014)

Spiegel & Grau / Via amazon.com

Regular listeners of Maron's WTF podcast will have probably heard most of these stories already. Nevertheless, it's a good read if you want some bitter little chuckles.

17. Radio Free Albemuth by Phillip K. Dick (1976)

Vintage Reprint / Via Amazon

The interesting thing about this paranoia-soaked mid-life crisis is that you can tell Dick was about 80% sure that he was writing truth. In fact, it's as close to a memoir as he ever wrote. That doesn't make it a better book, but it definitely makes it uncomfortable and strange.

18. The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce by Judith Wallerstein

Hyperion / Via Amazon

Here's some light summer reading for all you children of divorced parents. Find out why you are so weird and also learn the only good news: you're not the only one!

19. The Shining by Stephen King (1978)

Anchor / Via Amazon

I read this while staying in the actual hotel that inspired King to write the novel in. Scary. It's impossible not to imagine Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall in their respective roles, so the book plays in your mind like deleted scenes from the movie.

20. The Man Without A Face - The Unlikely Rise Of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen (2013)

Riverhead Trade / Via Amazon

Alarming and strange. It's like some real-life Manchurian Candidate story. No one seems to really know how this shady nobody became one of the most powerful men in the world... and now that he is, his motives are blatantly dangerous.

21. The Beatles Lyrics by Hunter Davies (2014)

Little, Brown and Company / Via amazon.com

Hunter Davies reveals many previously unknown facts about the origins of every Beatles song. He knows so much because he was was friends with the Beatles and he will remind you of this fact in nearly every paragraph.

22. Clapton by Eric Clapton (2007)

Random House / Via Amazon

Unlike the Leonard Cohen bio, this did not make me want to be Eric Clapton at all. Clapton is incredibly forthcoming about all the dark moments in his life, but you still won't feel much empathy for him until the very end. He makes himself out to be quite the creep.

23. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

Anchor / Via one-elevenbooks.com

One of the most unnerving books I read this year. Atwood invents a horrible American future that seems not only possible but somehow familiar. Can we just all agree to not make this dystopia happen? Thanks.

24. The Man From Mars by Fred Nadis (2013)

Tarcher / Via amazon.com

The true story of Ray Palmer, an ambitious pulp magazine editor of numerous science-fiction magazines from the 30's through the 70's. He singlehandedly shifted the genre from serious scientific speculation into schlocky fantasy and in doing so changed pop-culture. An interesting read if UFO's and the paranormal are your thing.

25. A Day In The Life Of Ancient Rome by Alberto Angela (2009)

Europa / Via amazon.com

Reading this was like becoming a nosy, invisible time-traveller; Angela guides you through the Forum, the Colosseum, as well as the shops and homes of everyday Romans. For anyone who's wondered what the ancient world was really like.

26. The Garrick Year by Margaret Drabble (1964)

Penguin / Via thebookshop.ie

Droll much? Subtly biting observations on marriage and neurotic adults from mid-century England. Skewers actors and the theatre crowd with acidic drollness. A droll, droll read.

What books did YOU read in 2014?

Which did you like? Which didn't you like? We want to know!

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