I’m a sucker for “Best of” lists, and count The Millions‘ Year in Reading among my favorite annual features. (I wish I could say the same for Pitchfork, whose writing has fallen off a cliff this year.)
My favorite reading experience in 2014 was Roth Unbound by Claudia Roth Pierpont. This survey of Philip Roth was my sole companion during a week in upstate New York, and the physical idyll was quickly superseded by Pierpont’s literary one. Ever finish a book and wish it were an entire series?
The books and albums I enjoyed most in 2014 reflect my growing interest in the impostor syndrome of adulthood. You know the feeling: The wind of youth at your back has softened to an anxious nip. But not to worry! You’ve somehow amassed an impressive collection of cardigans to warm up with.
Speaking of the cold (and awkwardly extended metaphors), Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle Vol. 1 upheld the communion between writer and reader like few novels can, which I suppose makes it grade-A literature.
Cyrille Martinez’s The Sleepworker and Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker are both great New York books, but different in every way. Sleepworker is a satirical novella-in-translation about the art world, and a left-field love letter to Andy Warhol and John Giorno. Its first page is also flat-out brilliant. The Power Broker, currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, doesn’t need much introduction. I’ll add that after reading it in March I now see Robert Moses everywhere like some jowly bureaucratic ghost.
As for music, four albums stand out. Joyce Manor’s Never Hungover Again, a paean to late adolescence, doubles down on nostalgia for friendships that are barely over. On the other side of the coin, Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes to Love investigates whether nostalgia is even possible. (Welcome to your twenties.) Alvvays’ debut record is pure sunny shoegaze about marriage and drinking too much. And finally Spoon, the cool older brothers of indie rock, released They Want My Soul, embracing weirdness over dolefulness and romance over despair. Not a bad way to go.
And why not, here’s a Spotify playlist of those records and a few other favorites: