2014 Books

by Eric Daryl Meyer

One wouldn’t know it from the amount of activity here on this rather neglected corner of the internet, but 2014 was a very tumultuous year for me—as it was for many people across the U.S. My personal ups and downs pale in comparison to the events surrounding the murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Renisha McBride, Darien Hunt, and others, and the rightful anger that followed these callous displays of the latent white supremacist millieu of American life. To my mind, these are among the most significant events of 2014 in the U.S., and it feels a bit trite even to mention them here in passing. But silence is rarely the better path, so I would rather place 2014’s anger and mourning at the surface once more.

Personally, 2014 brought news of a child in January and the birth of a daughter in September. It brought me to the completion of my dissertation and to my graduation from Fordham with a Ph.D. in Theology in May. It brought a move from the Bronx to Denver in June, followed by a second move (within Denver) when our apartment massively flooded in November. Days after our flood, I was in San Diego for interviews at the AAR/SBL. I have mixed feelings about 2014 and, all in all, I’m glad it’s over. In many ways I’m still recovering. Take that as explanation for posting a 2014 retrospective two weeks into 2015.

One of the few traditions I’ve kept up here is to post my reading for the year. These are the books that I read cover to cover. I’ve put in boldface the books which I found the most insightful, most moving, or most useful for my work. The classification scheme is my own and is (like all taxonomies) somewhat arbitrary. Of course, I welcome comments on these books or books that other folks found particularly rich in 2014.

Theology / Religious Studies:

Gerard Loughlin (ed.), Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body.

Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable.

Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering.

Benjamin Dunning, Christ Without Adam: Subjectivity and Sexual Difference in the Philosophers’ Paul.

Elizabeth A. Johnson, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love.

Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk.

Daniel L. Pals, Eight Theories of Religion.

Stephen Moore, Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology.

Philosophy / Critical Theory:

Catherine Malabou, Ontology of the Accident: An Essay on Destructive Plasticity.

Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory.

Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism.

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson, and the Idea of Negritude.

Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception.

Giorgio Agamben, The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath.

Mary Midgley, Animals and Why they Matter.

Andrew Norris (ed.), Politics, Metaphysics, and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer.

Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive.

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth.

George Yancy, Look a White!: Philosophical Essays on Whiteness.

James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son.

Saidiya V. Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America.

History / Historiography:

Virginia Burrus, Saving Shame: Martyrs, Saints, and other Abject Subjects. Theodore W. Jennings, Plato or Paul: The Origins of Western Homophobia.

Biography / Memoir:

Rob Delaney, Wife, Sister, Mother, Falcon, Yardstick, Turban, Cabbage.

Science:

E.O. Wilson, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth.

Fiction/Literature:

Thomas Pynchon, Vineland.

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge.

James Baldwin, Another Country.

Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice.

Don DeLillo, White Noise.

Self-Help/Self-sabotage:

Penny Simkin, The Birth Partner.

Making public one’s reading list as an academic feels, to me at least, vaguely shameful. There is a open record here for people to see all the things that I haven’t read (and should have). That’s one of the reasons that I’ve kept up the practice—to stare down my own sense of myself as a fraud, my own looming imposter syndrome. In the vein of shameful confessions, I’ll add to my explicit shame. I made a concerted effort (or, what I thought was a concerted effort) to read more books by women and people of color this year, to sit with a broader range of perspectives and do my own thinking with that multiplicity of voices ringing in my ears. It was a valuable endeavor and one that I mean to continue in 2015. Nevertheless, a significant majority of the books that I read this year (20 of 32) were written by white men. On the other hand, 7 of 32 were written by women and 7 of 32 were written by people of color. If I had to guess, I’d venture that those proportions are not enormously out of line with the demographics of the American academic scene. Still, at the end of the year, I’m embarrassed that my concerted effort is not better reflected in the demographics of the authors above. Nevertheless, the voices of Yancy, Hartman, Fanon, and others are still ringing disproportionately in my ears.

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