Hurts So Good

Our top books of 2014 provided pleasures despite the pain

Hurts So Good

It isn't that publishers failed to release any life-affirming or cheerful books in 2014 – one of my literary treats this year was the cheeky satire Famous Writers I Have Known (W.W. Norton & Co.) by Austin's James Magnuson, which had me grinning from first page to last. It's just that the Chronicle bookworms found their most rewarding reads in tales of darkness, abuse, even brutality, where the violence and suffering is redeemed in large part by the beauty of the language and skill of the writer. But before I leave you to their powerful recommendations, I'll add one more of mine: Thirteen Days in September (Knopf), in which Austinite Lawrence Wright renders the history of the Camp David accords as a claustrophobic page-turner, churning with tension, outsized characters, and monumental daring. It's more than a compelling read; it's a lesson in vision and statesmanship that we desperately needed.

  • Smiling Through the Pain

    Amy Gentry's top reads of 2014 thematized suffering in language so beautiful, she winced with every word

    Crimes That Paid

    In Jesse Sublett's top reads of 2014, wherever the protagonists go, trouble follows
  • Turkish Delights

    Jay Trachtenberg's top reads of 2014 gave him more insight into the culture of Turkey than a dozen guidebooks

    Liberating Lit

    Jessi Cape’s top reads of 2014 show welcome signs of improvement in the way women are celebrated in literature

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More Fiction
<i>Good Citizens Need Not Fear</i> by Maria Reva
Good Citizens Need Not Fear by Maria Reva
Anything can happen in the wonderfully weird Ukraine of this short story collection

Robert Faires, Sept. 4, 2020

<i>The Teacher</i> by Michal Ben-Naftali
The Teacher
This prize-winning novel's tale of a student piecing together the hidden life of her teacher, a Holocaust survivor who killed herself, is haunting

Jay Trachtenberg, Feb. 14, 2020

More Arts Reviews
"Shawn Camp & Darcie Book: Comity of Ghosts" at ICOSA Gallery
New ICOSA show unites the spirits within via the surfaces without

Wayne Alan Brenner, Oct. 16, 2020

<i>Murder on Cold Street</i> by Sherry Thomas
Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas
Sherry Thomas' fifth outing in the Lady Sherlock series is as fascinating and feminist as ever

Oct. 9, 2020

More by Robert Faires
Penfold Theatre's Interactive Show <i>The Control Group</i> Lets You Fix the Future
Penfold Theatre's Interactive Show The Control Group Lets You Fix the Future
The sci-fi drama by phone calls on you to correct a crisis in the time stream

Oct. 23, 2020

For His Dance <i>(Re)current Unrest</i>, Charles O. Anderson Keeps Moving
For His Dance (Re)current Unrest, Charles O. Anderson Keeps Moving
Through the pandemic and other obstacles, the choreographer and UT teacher continues to adapt

Oct. 16, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Fiction, Nonfiction, Top 10s 2014, Famous Writers I Have Known, James Magnuson, Thirteen Days in September, Lawrence Wright

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