Decembers tend to be big book months for me. December 2014 was no exception. I finished seven books and got most of the way through an eighth.[1] Thus my final total for the year was 57 books. I’m pleased with that effort.

The Rise & Fall Of Great Powers – Tom Rachman
I loved Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, which was a pretty dazzling debut. So I picked this one up with high hopes. It took much longer to engage, was not as immediately charming as his first book, and in the end likely was not as good. But it rallies in the second half and ends up being an interesting statement on the meaning and significance of the personality we present to the world. When you spend your entire life reinventing yourself, do you ever really know who you are?

A Christmas Story – Jean Shepherd
Was there a burst of horns around the globe when I finished this, my 52nd book of the year, early in the month? Seems like there should have been.

My annual reading of the modern collection of many of the Shepherd works on which the movie of the same title was based. I’ve read it seven or eight straight years now, so I know it almost as well as the film. And each year I delight in the little differences. I marvel in how Shepherd and Bob Clark took these stories and built a screenplay from it. And I laugh and soak up one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.

Countdown City – Ben H. Winters
World Of Trouble – Ben H. Winters
Books two and three in The Last Policeman trilogy. To reset, an asteroid is hurtling toward earth and society is slowly breaking down as the date of impact gets closer. Detective Henry Palace, however, stays committed to his job of investigating crimes.

In book two, he searches for the missing husband of his childhood babysitter. His investigation leads him to search through the burgeoning black market community, a utopian commune on a university campus, and to a one-man effort to stop the US Coast Guard from sinking ships that carry refugees from the impact zone to the US. This book takes place in July, four months ahead of impact, and basic services are beginning to crumble. Electricity is rare. Food deliveries non-existent. Long-range communications largely gone. And when water supplies cease, wide-scale violence breaks out.

By book three only two weeks remain before impact. This time Palace is searching for his sister, who ran off to join a group that believes they can steer the asteroid away from earth with the right combination of scientific personnel and nuclear weapons. Palace is forced to investigate a murder attempt to find further clues of his sister’s whereabouts. That investigation uncovers a terrible truth behind the group his sister joined.

Through the series, there is always that wonder of how Winters will resolve the big question hanging over the books: impact. This idea that impact can somehow be avoided is especially tantalizing. “He’s not going to actually let it happen,” was a recurring thought in my head.

Without giving away the ending, I loved the way he ended book three. It resolved so many of the questions that surrounded the main characters. The theme of societal breakdown is countered with an especially poignant epilogue. And the final paragraph is absolutely brilliant and touching.

Flip Flop Fly Ball – Craig Robinson
I’ve followed Robinson’s wonderful graphic depictions of baseball for several years. Here he collects many of the infographs he’s published on-line over the years, sprinkled in some of his terrific 8-bit player pics, and added several short, but terrific, essays. They cover how he discovered baseball as an adult in England. His first trip to the States to see a game. His later, month-long trip across the US watching big league games. And his summer in Toronto, where he watched the Blue Jays from high up in Skydome over and over.

It’s a charming book and wonderful accounting of a man who fell in love with the game in a very different way than most of us who grew up in the US did.

Beatles vs. Stones – John McMillian
As the title suggests, this is an exploration into the rivalry between The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Or perceived rivalry, more correctly. McMillian looks into the bands’ interactions, comments about each other, and respective successes to determine exactly how deep the rivalry went.

His conclusion is the idea of a rivalry between the bands was vastly overblown. The band members were generally friendly and interacted socially often. The Beatles were where the Stones wanted to be, and the Stones, once they settled in, gave the Fab Four another challenge to match. There were tense moments, especially when it came to the business-side of the relationship. But the rivalry was more between fans of the bands than the bands themselves.

The Game – Robert Benson
Books are precious. Even for someone like me, who has averaged a book per week for over a decade, there is never enough time to get through all the books I want to read. For each book I complete, it seems like I add two or three to my To Read list.

Thus, it was incredibly frustrating that, after I knocked out this brief little rumination on the significance of baseball and attempted to add it to my Goodread’s catalog, I found it was already listed as a book I read. Frustrating because although it had its moments, it was not a great book. Frustrating because even though I apparently read it just over two years ago, nothing about it struck me as familiar. So not only did I waste a few hours on a book I’ve read previously, I didn’t pick one that I loved to re-read. Oh well.

  1. Which I will count as my first book of 2015, as I finished it on Jan. 1.  ↩