By David Steinberg
In the literary world, the end of the calendar year brings out “the best” from book reviewers. Meaning the reviewers declare their picks for the top books published that year. Perhaps the most prestigious list in this country is in the New York Times; its longer, secondary list are referred to as “notable” books.
The list I’m about to present doesn’t purport to contain the “best,” but rather an enumeration of books I have enjoyed reading during 2014. Each possess qualities that compel me to recommend them to readers.
Here’s my list of books, in no particular order, with brief descriptions about each.
–“The Son” by Jo Nesbo (Knopf). This is a work by Norway’s premier crime fiction writer. But it also a deep and satisfying story about retribution and redemption. And it is not as graphic as Nesbo’s earlier crime novels. Here’s a salute to the translator.
–“The Burning Room” by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown). The author is not only a prolific and captivating writer of police procedurals, but he ensnares you with his recurring protagonist, the lone wolf, ethical LA police detective Harry Bosch. Underlying the storyline of this novel is the reader’s uncertainty over Bosch’s future on the police force. It’s not the first time he’s in this situation, but could it spell the end of the Bosch series of novels.
–“One Kick” by Chelsea Cain (Simon & Schuster). Don’t mess with Kick Lannigan, the protagonist of this thriller. She’s survived a childhood abduction. Now as an adult she’s embroiled in solving a missing-child case. There’s no stopping her. She’s a heroine for our time.
–“Lessons From a Dog” by Patrick Moberg (Plume). “Listen to your instincts … but be willing to change your mind.” This is among the sweet, relevant tips for living from your best friend, your dog. On the final facing pages the humans speak: “When you are gone, you will be missed.” RIP Willie. He was our family’s dog for 13 years.
–“The Booby Blog, A Cancer Chronicle” by Hollis Walker (Osiris House). Walker, a breast cancer survivor, accomplishes what she said she set out to do in this small book. And that is to share with others with cancer or a similar life-threatening disease the belief that “we can be the authors of our own healing.” Walker, a Santa Fe resident, is a veteran journalist and an independent interfaith minister.
–“Shores of Knowledge – New World Discoveries and the Scientific Imagination” by Joyce Appleby (W.W. Norton). The author, a historian living in Taos, concludes that we have good reason to thank European explorers and discoverers. They set in motion paths of scientific inquiry, thereby shaking up the stagnant , institutionalized European thinking that “curiosity was dangerous.”
–“New Mexico’s High Peaks – A Photographic Celebration” by Mike Butterfield (University of New Mexico Press). This coffee table-size book is a keeper. It brings you into the crisp air of the state’s roof and it inspires you to climb to the summits of its high peaks. Butterfield, an Albuquerque resident, has been photographing the state’s mountains for 40 years. The book shows he’s still in love with them.
–“Bush League Boys – The Postwar Legends of Baseball in the American Southwest” by Toby Smith (University of New Mexico Press). For 15 years after World War II, minor league baseball thrived in New Mexico and West Texas. Toby Smith’s tells the story of four leagues, its star players, its owners, the sportswriters who covered the teams and the fans who came out to watch the action. Smith is an Albuquerque resident and veteran journalist.
–“In the Kingdom of Ice – The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette” by Hampton Sides (Doubleday). In the year 1879 Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was awarded a patent to design the Statue of Liberty and Thomas Edison gave the first public demonstration of his incandescent light bulb. The same year, spurred by the international craze of “Arctic fever,” the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco for the North Pole. The ship never made it. It sank north of Siberia. The book is a great adventure story filled with heroism. The author lives in Santa Fe.
–“West of the Revolution – An Uncommon History of 1776” by Claudio Saunt (W.W. Norton). The year 1776 is the birth year of the United States and evokes American colonial life on the East Coast. But this book notes that there were noteworthy events out West involving the Spanish, Indian tribes and even Russians. Yes, Russians were trading with Aleuts in Alaska and were exploring what is today the West

Coast of the United States.
–“Stars and Swipes” and “Hugs and Misses” by Wilhelm Staehle (Quirk Books). Two books of 30 picture postcards each. They are funny and satiricial and, as subtitled “awkward.” The cover of “Stars and Swipes” gives a hint of the flavor with characters in silhouette speaking: Patrick Henry states, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” In reply, another character says, “Just liberty for me!”

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