Top Books 2014

This year I revisited 40 top books of my life – see links to my Birthday Books reviews, met scores of writers at theparisreview.org/interviews, frolicked through charity book fairs, and acquired some new friends.  To meet my favourite new author of 2014, see my post Ray Bradbury’s Zestful Zen: Burning Books at Fahrenheit 451 and Bottling Boyhood Dandelion Wine, or browse the gems below.

There are worse crimes than burning books.  One of them is not reading them…  There’s no use going to school unless your final destination is the library.
Ray Bradbury


Novels and Writing

Berry, Wendell, Jayber Crow, 2000
Bradbury, Ray, Fahrenheit 451, 1953
–– Dandelion Wine, 1957
–– Zen in the Art of Writing, 1987
Calvino, Italo, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, 1979
Lamott, Anne, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, 1994
Pamuk, Orhan, My Name is Red, 1998
Potok, Chaim, In the Beginning, 1975
Robinson, Marilynne, Gilead, 2004
Rushdie, Salman, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, 1990
–– Luka and the Fire of Life, 2010
Tan, Twan Eng, The Gift of Rain, 2007
West, Morris, The Devil’s Advocate, 1959
–– The Last Confession, 2000

When a reader falls in love with a book, it leaves its essence inside him, like radioactive fallout in an arable field, and after that there are certain crops that will no longer grow in him, while other, stranger, more fantastic growths may occasionally be produced.
Salman Rushdie


Travel and Maps

Chatwin, Bruce, In Patagonia, 1977
–– The Songlines, 1987
Horowitz, Alexandra, On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, 2013
Iyer, Pico, The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home, 2000
Jacobs, Frank, Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities, 2009
Lester, Toby, The Fourth Part of the World: The Epic Story of History’s Greatest Map, 2009
Newby, Eric, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, 1957
–– Slowly Down the Ganges, 1966
Ovenden, Mark, Transit Maps of the World, 2003
–– Railway Maps of the World, 2011
Thesiger, Wilfred, Arabian Sands, 1959
Twain, Mark, The Innocents Abroad, 1869

What more could one ask of a companion?  To be forever new and yet forever steady.  To be strange and familiar all at once, with enough change to quicken my mind, enough steadiness to give sanctuary to my heart.  The books on my shelf never asked to come together, and they would not trust or want to listen to one another; but each is a piece of a stained-glass whole without which I couldn’t make sense to myself, or to the world outside.
Pico Iyer


Faith and Soul-food

Boyd, Gregory, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty, 2013
Brueggemann, Walter, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers, 2002
–– Prayers for a Privileged People, 2008
Buechner, Frederick, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons, 2006
McGrath, Alister, Incarnation, 2005
–– Resurrection, 2007
(both from his Truth and the Christian Imagination series that combines painting, poetry, scripture and theology)
Rohr, Richard, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, 2011
Telushkin, Joseph, Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, 1996
Yancey, Philip, Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church, 2001
–– Rumors of Another World, 2003

You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread.  You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that.
C S Lewis


David’s 40 Birthday Books

1. The Little Red Hen by Diane Muldrow, 1954
2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963
3. The Old Gang by A. Stephen Tring, 1947
4. Good News Bible, 1976
5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, 1950
6. BASIC Computer Games by David H. Ahl, 1978
7. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1954
8. Germany Green Guide by Michelin Travel, 1986
9. String Builder Violin Book One by Samuel Applebaum, 1960
10. SH-1 Synthesizer Manual by Roland, 1978
11. Novels and Novelists: A Guide to the World of Fiction by Martin Seymour-Smith, 1980
12. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, 1837
13. MSc Chemistry Thesis by David Titheridge, 1999
14. Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis, 1938
15. An Anthology: 365 Readings by George MacDonald, ed C. S. Lewis, 1946
16. The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams, 1931
17. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, 1320
18. The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck, 1978
19. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster, 1992
20. The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon, 1989
21. Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills of the New Zealand Bush by The NZ Mountain Safety Council, 1984
22. Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau, 1854
23. Mountain Solitudes: Solo Journeys in the Southern Alps of New Zealand by Aat Vervoorn, 2000
24. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, 1862
25. The Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse, 1932
26. The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons In Kyoto by Pico Iyer, 1991
27. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, 1980
28. The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi, 1927
29. Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore, 1910
30. On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 1969
31. Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations by Frederick Buechner, 1992
32. Spirituality of the Psalms by Walter Brueggemann, 2001
33. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright, 2008
34. Jewish Wisdom: Ethical, Spiritual, and Historical Lessons from the Great Works and Thinkers by Joseph Telushkin, 1994
35. The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich, 1995
36. My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, 1972
37. The Vatican Trilogy by Morris West, 1996
38. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, 2011
39. Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler 2005
40. Writers at Work Interviews by The Paris Review, 1953-present

40-books-sofa

Sorting birthday books on the sofa.