Dispatches | December 10, 2014

By Sarah Mosier

December brings many things you can’t escape from: snow, family gatherings, dry skin, the sun setting at 3 P.M. But perhaps the most unavoidable of all? Year-end lists. The minute the calendar strikes twelve, social media feeds are inundated with expansive lists outlining the “best of” in the preceding months. In the bigger picture sense, I think that these lists can be helpful. They refresh us on what was great about the last year or remind us of what we might have missed. But let’s be honest: these lists can also be incredibly overwhelming.

It’s always the year-end book lists that get to me. Mostly because I can’t remember the last time I read a book the actual year it came out. I don’t mean this in a cool, hipster way; I am not above getting excited every year when the New York Times publishes their “100 Most Notable Books” because, gee, those sure do look like great books that I hope to read someday. For now, I’m just a 21-year-old making my way through all the literature that was published before 2014. Bet y’all knew this already, but there’s a lot. There are so many books in this world.

In the spirit of being late to the party, here’s my personal list of the best books that I read this year, in no particular order:

1.) Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (1985)
In all honesty, I’m not sure I would have picked up this book had it not been required reading for a class, which might be upsetting for those who have a portrait of Harold Bloom hanging above their fireplace. But it’s one of those few novels of my college career that I’m glad I had to read. McCarthy’s stark descriptions of the Glanton gang roaming across the borderlands were honest in a way not many authors can be about ruthless and absolute violence. Also, in all seriousness, were dead baby jokes born of Blood Meridian?

2.) Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon (2009)
Full disclosure: I only read this book because Paul Thomas Anderson directed the movie adaptation that is coming out later this week. It was also the first Pynchon I read, much to the chagrin of English professors everywhere. Though a complete mess-up of a human, I found Doc to be a completely endearing character and I’m curious to see how this’ll all shake out on screen.

3.) Class Matters, The New York Times (2005)
This book is actually the culmination of a 10 part series published in the New York Times in 2005 that looks at a combination of factors to determine what class is, how it exists in America, and how it affects the outcomes of the lives of everyone interviewed. Of all the books I read this year, this one had the biggest impact. There’s an incredible amount of information covered and even if the statistics mentioned might be outdated by now, it challenges the reader to face the fact that not all opportunities in America are made equal.

4.) The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides (2011)
I have been an unapologetic fan of Eugenides ever since I read Middlesex late in my sophomore year of college and I feel like this novel is even that much better. Not to say that it doesn’t have its flaws- a story that focuses on three white kids and their Ivy League education can only go so far- but I believe I liked this book so much because while I was reading it, I identified with Madeline Hanna, a young English major about to step into the real world with a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding her future as well as her interpersonal relationships.

5.) Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer (1400’s)
Wow, have you guys read this? So good, right? I’m positive it’s going to be an important piece of literature someday.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmosier