Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2014
I can’t believe I’m doing these year end wrap up reports again. Where does the damn time go?!
Looking at that log it looks like I read about 78 books/comics this year. That total includes not only books I read for the first time but anything I re-read for the second (or more) time. For the list below, though, I’ll only take into account books I read for the first time this year.
And I actually have four books on this list that were released in 2014. That ties my total from last year. It’s rare when I get to read a currently released book, but I’ve done it four times each in the last two years. Amazing!
On to the lists!
Below you will find, first, my list of favorite books and following that my list of favorite comic books/graphic novels. All that I read for the first time this year. Enjoy.
Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown (2014) – Joe Schreiber – I predicted at the end of my 2013 Best Books I Read article that this book would be on the list for 2014. And, as you can see, I was right. Joe Schreiber really hit it out of the park with this one. A prison thriller that has Maul locked up in a prototype prison that pits its prisoners in gladiatorial matches and broadcasts those matches on pay-per-view. Very brutal and lots of fun we get lots of awesome Maul in this book. However, to be honest, the last third of the book sort of goes WAY bananas in a weird way. It’s still really good, but the book sort of becomes super-gonzo and you’re left scratching your head wondering, “What the f**k is going on? Did THAT just happen?!”. However, overall, still one of the best books I read this year.
Point of Impact (Bob Lee Swagger #1) (1993) – Stephen Hunter – I was not aware of this book until I saw the Mark Wahlberg movie Shooter, which is based on this book. I love that movie and finally picked up the source material this year to give it a go. And it’s AMAZING. Even better than the movie. A bit more story to sink your teeth into and a bit more of an epic bad guy for Swagger to focus his revenge on. Great action packed book. I look forward to reading more of Hunter’s Swagger books in the future (there are several).
The Shining (1977) – Stephen King – This Halloween I decided to fill another hole in my Stephen King reading list. Two years ago I had finally tackled The Stand and just last year I read The Talisman. So, I thought, let’s continue that trend this year and I decided to read ‘salem’s Lot. I enjoyed it more than I expected, plus it left me wanting to read more early Stephen King, so even though I only had about a week left in October, I picked up The Shining on my Nook for like $2 and dove in. And discovered probably the scariest book I think I have ever read in my life. The Shining is big on plot and character detail as early King likes to be, but once the stuff in the hotel starts happening, it gets seriously scary. Like several nights I had trouble sleeping it was so scary. So here it sits on my list. But as much as I loved this book, I really saw no need for a sequel so I have little to no desire to read Doctor Sleep. I even tried reading a sample and I couldn’t even finish it.
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (2007) – James Swanson – Earlier in 2014 I got into an American History phase. I read Walter Isaacson’s epic Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and was all wrapped up in the days of the early Revolution. I then watched Spielberg’s Lincoln and loved it before starting this book. This book is a fascinating account of the days leading up to and the 12 day manhunt that occurred after President Lincoln’s assassination. Lots of inside stuff I never knew about. And it’s written in a very modern way that keeps events interesting and not like reading events out of a history book. Right after reading this book, I watched Robert Redford’s The Conspirator to complete my unofficial “Lincoln trilogy”. So now, I’m on the lookout for Swanson’s other books he’s written, most specifically the one about Kennedy’s assassination. But I highly recommend this book.
Star Wars: Tarkin (2014) – James Luceno – This last slot was tough. I had a few REALLY good books I could have put here. Most notably The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and When March Went Mad by Seth Davis. But I went with my gut and chose this book. The second Star Wars book on my list. I really love what they’ve been doing with the Star Wars novels the last few years. They’ve really been changing it up and getting really good stories out there. Luceno wrote one of my favorites from a few years ago, Darth Plagueis, and he looked to do the same thing here. But this is a more intimate story than the galaxy wide epic that played out in the pages of that earlier book. Luceno really fleshes out the character of Tarkin in this book and investigates a bit more his relationship with Vader and even the Emperor. Lots of Star Wars-y goodness to be had. It gets me excited to see what comes next for the Star Wars expanded universe.
Comic Books/Graphic Novels
Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk (2006) – Greg Pak (writer), Carlo Pagulayan (artist) – Oh, man, this book is epic. It’s bad ass. It’s just awesome. Hulk is deemed “too dangerous to stay on Earth” by a think tank of Marvel’s smartest so they devise a way to shoot him off to another world so he can’t hurt anyone. The only problem, something happens en route and Hulk crash lands on the wrong planet. A planet that enlaves Hulk and forces him to compete in gladiatorial games until he decides he’s had enough and stages a coup to take over the planet. So much awesome contained within. I can’t recommend this enough.
Savage Dragon Vol. 1 (1993) – Erik Larsen (writer/artist) – Back in September I decided I wanted to read the first 10-20 issues of all the original launch titles of Image Comics. Most of them were forgettable. However, Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon was not only readable, it was GREAT and deserves a spot on my list. I was surprised how much I thoroughly enjoyed this comic and I look forward to catching up on all that I missed with this character.
Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon (2012) – Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (artist) – This was suggested to me by several people but I never listened. But the more I heard how good it was the more I became intrigued. So I grabbed the first volume of Matt Fraction’s series for cheap and read it. And loved it. This is minimalist storytelling at its finest. Sort of a “between the panels” look at what Clint Barton does when he’s not being an Avenger. Quirky, but it’s charming and lots of fun. I’ll definitely be checking out more of this series.
Thief of Thieves (2012) – Robert Kirkman (writer), Nick Spenser (writer), Andy Diggle (writer), James Asmus (writer), Shawn Martinbrough (artist) – I’ve actually read the first three volumes of this title which cover the first 19 issues of the series. And it’s pretty great. Master Thief (retired) Redmond is called back into the life in order to save his estranged son. This is a pretty great comic with some pretty great writers. It’s also a nice change from all the super hero books I normally read. Just a regular guy, trying to get on with his current life but his previous life and his reputation won’t let that happen. Great book.
Krampus! (2013) – Brian Joines (writer), Dean Kotz (artist) – I think I’ve talked about this book before. This is such a fun read. It makes great references to all the Santa/Christmas iconography you can imagine and even makes someone like Doc Holliday, that has nothing to do with Christmas, fit right into the story. Great art, fun story. I really hope this gets picked up for some sequels. So much potential awesome to be mined out of these characters. GET IT AND READ IT NOW.
That’s my best of list for 2014. It was really hard to pare some of that list down as I read some really good stuff this year. But I also have some good stuff lined up for myself next year. I plan to continue my Stephen King reading by possibly tackling Needful Things as well as possibly It. There are some good Star Wars books coming out next year featuring Luke Skywalker (Heir to the Jedi) as well as two of our favorite Lords of the Sith.