In no particular order, here are 20 personal favorites…
Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
The perfect blend of subject matter (dealing with aging parents), an artist at the top of her game, and audience (boomers dealing with aging parents, millennials watching their parents deal with aging parents, etc.) For everyone with parents.
Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Saga
A book about parenting disguised as an intergalactic space epic. Especially great for new parents, and a perfect reason to visit your local comic book shop.
P.G. Wodehouse, Right Ho, Jeeves
No book made me laugh more this year. An absolute delight. If you’ve never read Wodehouse, this is where to start.
Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
Trashy, gross, and awesome. For the snot-nosed punk in your life.
Carl Wilson, Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste
John Green, The Fault In Our Stars
A “YA’ book supposedly for teenagers, recommended to me, believe it or not, by a middle-aged man, that made me cry on two separate plane flights.
Ken Grimwood, Replay
What would happen if you got to live your life over? A dark precursor to Groundhog Day.
Denis Johnson, Train Dreams
A short dream-like novella, perfect for reading in one long sitting.
Worth reading just for the playlist it’ll generate, but also for Questlove’s encyclopedic musical knowledge and thoughts on art-making and show business.
John Williams, Stoner
Every person I talk to about this book says the same thing:Why is it so good? It shouldn’t be so good. The prose is so clear and the story so streamlined that it just goes by. Definitely one I’ll be re-reading.
Neil Gaiman, The Sandman (complete series)
Very rich, and definitely a series I’ll be re-reading. The writing is mostly better than the art, which is downright spotty and confusing in spots (except for McKean’s consistently brilliant covers). A classic for a reason.
Paul Zollo, Songwriters on Songwriting
The title says it all: tons of interviews with great songwriters. Perfect for songwriters, duh, but also great for any writer, as many interviews dive into the creative process.
Mankoff writes about his history as a cartoonist, his time as cartoon editor of theNew Yorker, and how humor works. Really smart, perfect for cartoon geeks and New Yorker fans. (My highlights.)
Joshua Wolf Shenk, Powers of Two
Steven Johnson, How We Got To Now
Histories of key technologies that led to modern life as we know it. A great, fully illustrated, deluxe followup to his wonderful Where Good Ideas Come From.
Adam Sternbergh, Shovel Ready
Fun, terse, sci-fi hard-boiled noir. A perfect example of the kind of the book that happens when somebody sits down and writes what they want to read.
Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
A memoir disguised as a book of advice columns. For anyone struggling. (Who isn’t?)
Joe Hill, NOS4A2
Creepy. Oh, so creepy. This book is crazy because around page 300 or so you realize this is usually the point where other novelists would wrap things up, and holy shit, there’s another two acts to go.
Wendy MacNaughton, Meanwhile in San Francisco
Wendy is the artist friend whose work makes me the most jealous. Beautiful book.
Lynda Barry, Syllabus – LB’s workshop syllabi collected into a book that feels like one of her students’ composition books. Perfect for teachers and wannabe writers.
And here are 20 more very good books, in no particular order (if history is precedent, and Stephanie Zacharek is right that the end of lists like this is where the “oddball magic happens,” in a few years, many of the books in my top 20 will seem dull to me later, while many of the following books will shine, and beg to be re-read):
- Shaun Usher, Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience
- Thomas Harris, The Silence Of The Lambs (re-read)
- Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes For Every Day Of The Week
- Peter Mendelsund, What We See When We Read
- Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
- Carl Hiassen, Basket Case
- Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son
- Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti, The Chairs Are Where The People Go
- Richard McGuire, Here
- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (re-read)
- William Styron, Darkness Visible
- Ad Reinhardt, How To Look
- David Markson, Reader’s Block
- Elmore Leonard, Swag
- Mike Monteiro, You’re My Favorite Client
- Kay Larson, Where The Heart Beats
- Eleanor Davis, How To Be Happy
- Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
- Nathaniel Philbrick, In The Heart Of The Sea
- Gary Shteyngart, Little Failure
Feel free to reply to me with your favorite book(s) you read this year, or better yet, make your own post and send me the link: @austinkleon
My previous year-end round-ups: 2006-2014.