Randy Richardson’s Best Reads of 2014

randy richardsonMy name is Randy Richardson.  I work as an attorney in Evanston and live here with my wife and son and our two cats, Smokey and Bandit.  When I’m not working or coaching my son’s baseball team, I am either sitting in the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field or writing about baseball and my fictional worlds.  I am the author of two novels, Lost in the Ivy and Cheeseland, both from Chicago’s Eckhartz Press.

1) Once I Was Cool by Megan Stielstra (2014)

For the past four years, I’ve been judging books for the Chicago Writers Association’s Book of the Year Contest.  Each year, there’s always that one book I can’t get out of my head.  This year, it was Megan Stielstra’s Once I Was Cool, a collection of personal essays about daily life and how it is anything but ordinary.  In a voice that is all her own, Stielstra seamlessly weaves together a tapestry of stories, lifted from her own life, that speak to the strength of the human spirit.  As you cry and laugh along with her, you will come away from it all feeling a bit dizzy but in a good way.

2) Wrigley Field: The Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines by Stuart Shea (2014)

For Cubs fans desperately looking for reason to cheer, this superb history of the ballpark they so cherish surely is it.  Shea, a lifelong Cub fan himself, provides a fascinating chronology of the ballpark’s growth into a baseball temple “surely larger than the team it houses.”

3) Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (2011)

A small masterpiece, Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams is a spare but beautifully atmospheric work of fiction, telling the story of how a seemingly simple life can be anything but.

4) Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005)

Looking-for-alaskaYA is hot, and it’s not just for teens. Perhaps no YA author is hotter right now than John Green, whose most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, became a major motion picture in 2014.  One of the best things about movie adaptations is that they can open our eyes to authors we might otherwise have overlooked and that’s what happened for me with Green. I went looking into his back catalog and came upon the wonderful discovery that is Looking for Alaska, a charming coming-of-age journey of love, loyalty, friendship and reaching for The Great Perhaps.

5) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)

See No. 4 above. Some of today’s best literature is on the YA shelves. Again, it was the movie adaptation that led me to the late discovery of this 1999 gem of a story told by the shy, awkward and introspective wallflower Charlie through letters he writes to someone of undisclosed name, age and gender. Like Looking for Alaska’s search for The Great Perhaps, Charlie is seeking that feeling of “being infinite.” The story unfolds into a sweet and yet haunting tale that will stick with you long after you put it down.

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