For me, the end of the year is always a fraught dash to try to get to all of the things that I meant to love (in a timely manner) over the past 12 months. As such, making a list of favorites, or rounding up my year in the aggressive consumption of culture, is always a bittersweet task–so many good intentions paving the road to a list of things that aren’t really reflective of all of the things I might have loved if I had been more disciplined. That said, 2014 was a year that felt full to the brim–professionally, personally, politically–and so the things I loved most were the books that eased the way. And a healthy dose of music that I relied heavily on to get the finish line this year.
Three days ago, I might have had a list of things I listened to that blew my mind in 2014. Now there only seems to be D’Angelo’s Black Messiah and there will likely be nothing else before this year ends.
Before that fantastic surprise, I made due by wearing out some older records: Billy Preston’s Everybody Loves Some Kind of Music, Prince’s Parade, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, Marvin Gaye’s I Want You, Junior Parker’s Love Ain’t Nothing But a Business Going On/You Don’t Have to Black To Love the Blues, and Donny Hathaway’s Live. There were a few new ones, but not many: Little Dragon’s Nabuma Rubberband, the Sales EP, FKA Twigs’ LP1, and Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness.
There is no way for me to pick favorites here. It hurts, even, to leave so much of what I read this year off this list. Most of the books I read in 2014 were dear friends and fellow travelers and they were all magic to me in their own unique ways. Here were my highlights. Most conspicuous absences are very likely books I’m still halfway through.
Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi
A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James
I Am Having So Much Fun Without You, Courtney Maum
Love Me Back, Merritt Tierce
A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, Will Chancellor
An Untamed State, Roxane Gay
Ugly Girls, Lindsay Hunter
When I Was the Greatest, Jason Reynolds
All Our Names, Dinaw Mengestu
Nobody is Every Missing, Catherine Lacey
Man v. Nature, Diane Cook
Flings, Justin Taylor
New York 1, Tel Aviv 0, Shelly Oria
Loitering, Charles D’Ambrosio
The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison
Age Of Ambition, Evan Osnos
Thrown, Kerry Howley
Becoming Richard Pryor, Scott Saul
Epilogue, Will Boast
Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot, Masha Gessen
Playing the Whore, Melissa Gira Grant
Prelude to Bruise, Saeed Jones
Faithful and Virtuous Night, Louise Glück
Citizen, Claudia Rankine
Collected Poems, Jack Gilbert
Traces of the Past, Mary Ruefle
How To Be Happy
From the Archives:
In Love, Alfred Hayes
A Sport and a Pastime, James Salter
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
The Incal, Moebius/Jodorowsky
Visitation, Jenny Erpendeck
The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, Masha Gessen
Mourning Diary, Roland Barthes
In moving pictures:
Much like Black Messiah‘s late entry and total dominance — Top Five (film) and Black Mirror (tv) swooped in late in the game and stole my heart completely. But not completely enough to make me forget the joy that was Ken Burns’s The Roosevelts.
Lisa Lucas is the publisher of Guernica, an online magazine of art and politics. Lucas also serves as co-chair of the nonfiction committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival.