This is the time of year when people make lists. All sorts of lists, but for our purposes, here today, I’m talking about book lists. Everyone wants to tell you the best books they read in 2014 and I’m okay with that. I enjoy the recommendations. But what I want to talk about, what has been most remarkable about my reading habits in 2014 has been the books on my ever-growing TBR (to-be-read) pile. So let me tell you about some of the best books I didn’t read in 2014. Not all of them were written in 2014, but they are all books that I had good intentions of reading in 2014. They sit on my night table, or on the floor by my bed, a reminder of my inability to keep up.
City of Silver, by Annamaria Alfieri – My TBR pile may skew toward mysteries (I am, after all, a mystery writer). City of Silver (2009) is Alfieri’s first historical mystery. When the Mayor’s daughter dies of an apparent suicide, it falls to the Mother Abbess to uncover the truth. Set in seventeenth-century Potosi (Potosi, in what was then Peru, was the richest city in the Western Hemisphere in the 1600s), it is an absorbing tale of politics, religion and greed.
Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon – Michael Chabon deserves a special place on my TBR pile. I have a long history of starting some of Chabon’s best books. The fault is undeniably mine and not his. Chabon is an accomplished story teller and Telegraph Avenue (2012) may very well be his most ambitious novel yet.
So Anyway, by John Cleese – Published in 2014 and gifted to me by my son just this week, Cleese’s memoir is too recent an acquisition to belong on my TBR pile. I don’t expect it will remain unread for very long.
Sailing Three Oceans, by Herb and Doris Smith – I had the pleasure of sailing in Boothbay Harbor, Maine with Herb and Doris Smith on a sixty-something foot schooner that they built in their yard. It’s what they do. They build these extraordinary schooners and sail up and down the coast and around the world. We sailed with them for a couple of hours. I can only imagine what it must be like to circumnavigate the globe with them on a schooner of their own making. Fortunately, I don’t have to imagine it, because I have a copy of Sailing Three Oceans (2002) by Herb and Doris Smith on my TBR pile.
The Accursed, by Joyce Carol Oates – In a review in the NY Times, Stephen King referred to The Accursed as “the world’s finest postmodern Gothic novel.” At nearly 700 pages, reading The Accursed (2013) is a commitment. It’s a commitment that will not go unfulfilled another year.
The Outsmarting of Criminals, by Steven Rigolosi – The Outsmarting of Criminals is Rigolosi’s homage to the mystery genre. Published in 2014, it introduces us to Miss Felicity Prim. A lifelong reader of mysteries, Miss Prim is convinced that her extensive reading has prepared her to take on the challenge of outsmarting criminals. I have great respect for Steve Rigolosi’s writing. So you can imagine my surprise when I read a certain scene on pp 63-64. It is the most generous thing another author has ever written about my own writing.
“Miss Prim stopped to gaze in the windows of the local bookshop, Cambria and Calibri. To the left of the door a dozen mystery novels with brightly colored jackets featured prominently under a sign reading CRAPPY MYSTERIES BY PEOPLE WHO HAVEN’T WRITTEN A GOOD BOOK IN YEARS. In the window to the right of the door was a sign reading REALLY GOOD MYSTERIES BY WRITERS YOU SHOULD READ: WHY AREN’T THESE PEOPLE ON THE BEST-SELLER LIST? Nicely displayed under the sign were books by Wallace Stroby, Karin Fossum, Brian Freeman, Jeff Markowitz, Sandra Carey Cody, C. Solimini, D.J. McIntosh, Robin Spano and Dennis Tafoya.
I like this bookstore already, Miss Prim thought.”
So do I.
There is, of course, one other book, released on December 15, 2014, that I hope will make it onto your TBR pile, my new book, Death and White Diamonds.