Here’s a list of all the books I read in 2014. (r) indicates a repeat reading. (*) indicates a book that had an especial impact on me.

The highlights (appropriately enough in a year when I spent so much time reading the Bible) were two novels that use the first person to map Christian lives: Jane Eyre and Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. The lives the two novels describe are very different: an impoverished governess in 19th century England and a small-town preacher in 20th century Iowa. They employ first person in different ways too: Jane narrates her history in a straightforward fashion, beginning with her childhood and presenting the events of her life in an orderly sequence, whereas Gilead is a letter from the elderly John Ames to his young son, moving backwards and forwards in time. What they have in common is the moral seriousness that I find so attractive in Christian people: both narrators wish earnestly to be good. Their determination to lead good lives is moving and inspiring.

I also finally got around to Sonya Hartnett. She makes the familiar suburban darkness of Golden Boys new by depicting it from the perspectives of the neighbourhood children: their world is adjacent to the adult world but also entirely separate, with its own codes and logic. There’s something reassuring about the resilience of Hartnett’s child characters: they’re not helpless captives of their flawed parents but tough and wise. They look after each other and themselves. The Children of the King likewise takes some familiar tropes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the exile from London during the Blitz, the mysterious old country house – and renews them with the freshness of the children’s perspectives.

 

  1. The Homecoming by Harold Pinter
  2. Under the Sign of Saturn by Susan Sontag
  3. The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross
  4. I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons
  5. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  6. Collected Poems by Philip Larkin (*)
  7. Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution by Brett Martin
  8. The Birds of America by John James Audubon (*)
  9. Blues People: Negro Music in White America by Amiri Baraka (*)
  10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (*)
  11. Selected Poems by H.D.
  12. B is for Bedtime by Margaret Hamilton and Anna Pignataro
  13. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (r)
  14. Hosea to Malachi (The Book of Twelve) (NRSV)
  15. Beowulf (translated R. M. Liuzza)
  16. Isaiah (NRSV)
  17. Slant by Andy Quan (r)
  18. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  19. A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies and Mark Hearld
  20. Essays by George Orwell (r)
  21. Jeremiah (NRSV)
  22. Lamentations (NRSV)
  23. Bossypants by Tina Fey
  24. The Fun Stuff and Other Essays by James Wood
  25. The Cow Who Fell in the Canal by Phyllis Krasilovsky and Peter Spier
  26. Mimesis by Erich Auerbach (translated Willard R. Trask) (*)
  27. Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët
  28. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark
  29. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
  30. The Lucky Country by Donald Horne
  31. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  32. Falling Towards England by Clive James
  33. Ezekiel (NRSV)
  34. Daniel (NRSV)
  35. Matthew (NRSV)
  36. Mark (NRSV)
  37. Chicken Goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs
  38. Hurry Up Alfie by Anna Walker
  39. Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (*)
  40. Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
  41. Luke and Acts (NRSV)
  42. The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett
  43. Revelation (NRSV)
  44. Movie Love by Pauline Kael
  45. Afterglow: A Last Conversation with Pauline Kael by Francis Davis (r)
  46. The Dog by Joseph O’Neill
  47. The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall
  48. Reeling by Pauline Kael (r)
  49. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  50. John (NRSV)
  51. 1, 2 and 3 John (NRSV)
  52. Jude (NRSV)
  53. How Fiction Works by James Wood
  54. The Art of Australia by Robert Hughes
  55. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (*)
  56. Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester (r)