Friday, January 09, 2015

2014 - what we read


A look at the books that captured the world’s attention this year


Gray Mountain by John Grisham
Another year, another John Grisham legal thriller. This time the novelist took us to Appalachia and told us about the havocs of mountaintop strip mining in Gray Mountain, the story of third-year associate Samantha Kofer (his first female protagonist in over 20 years) who loses her job amidst the financial crisis and has to become an intern at a legal clinic in Virginia’s coal mining country. The fact that this was not even close to being one of his best efforts didn’t stop the novel from becoming a number one bestseller. (And the author also got into hot water for some of his unrelated comments, which probably got even more attention than his book did.)

Mr. Mercedes and Revival by Stephen King
Not one but two successful Stephen King novels came out in 2014. The first, Mr. Mercedes, was the story of Bill Hodges, a retired police detective who tries to chase down a killer. This was the writer’s “first hard-boiled detective book,” and it functioned as the first volume of a projected trilogy; it is set to be followed by the second installment, Finders Keepers, in 2015. Stephen King also released Revival, a return to the horror genre that he is best known for, which revolved around a disturbing relationship between a disgraced clergyman and a junkie.

Adultery by Paulo Coelho
Brazil’s most famous literary export, Paulo Coelho returned with his sixteenth major book, telling the tale of a privileged Swiss woman with an exemplary husband and perfect existence, who tries to fill the boredom in her life by hooking up with her high school ex. Adultery found itself on the bestseller list because of the author’s massive popularity and repute, even though the result this time was more stodgy and insipid than deep and inspiring.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Another example of an author selling bucket loads of books on the back of their massive popularity is J.K. Rowling, who made a second outing under her penname Robert Galbraith this year with a novel that could have used a thorough edit. This time round, investigator Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott tried to solve the mystery behind the death of a reviled author whose grotesque demise mirrors the final scene of his last manuscript. On the bright side, you could totally tell that Rowling really, really loves to write. If only it was fun to read her drones on and on about this street and that building in an overly graphic, underwhelming murder mystery, then The Silkworm would have been a riot.

How to Be Both by Ali Smith
“Who says stories reach everybody in the same order?
This novel can be read in two ways and this book provides you with both.
In half of all printed editions of the novel the narrative Eyes comes before Camera. In the other half of printed editions the narrative Camera precedes Eyes. The narratives are exactly the same in both versions, just in a different order.”
Intentionally printed in two different ways, Ali Smith’s How to Be Both showed us the modern world through the eyes of a Renaissance painter and also told us the story of a contemporary teenage girl’s struggle with her mother’s death, earning the author much critical acclaim in the process.

The Rogue Prince, or, a King’s Brother by George R. R. Martin
Over the last few years, The Game of Thrones has become a massive phenomenon. 2014 saw the author of the series release the novelette The Rogue Prince, or, a King’s Brother, which was part of the Rogues anthology and served as a prequel to 2013’s The Princess and the Queen, and is presented as the writing of Archmaester Gyldayn, who is also the (fictional) author of the previous installment.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell 
Cloud Atlas (2004) scribe David Mitchell’s sixth novel The Bone Clocks impressed some readers and confused others. Built around the concept of mortality, the book tells the story of a teenage runaway, from adolescence to old age, by means of linked stories with fantastical elements, and also features characters from Mitchell’s other works.


This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein
As the world tries to grapple with the nature, causes, and consequences of climate change, Canadian activist and analyst Naomi Klein came up with one of the most notable books of 2014 that happened to be on this topic. This Changes Everything is a treatise into the connection between capitalism and climate change, and suggests an environmental movement which argues that restructuring the global economy would be an important step in curbing this crisis. The author was lauded for her research and for blending politics and economics to come up with an informative and compelling book on a topic of great magnitude.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
Known for his books like Liar’s Poker, The New New Thing, The Blind Side, and Moneyball, writer Michael Lewis took a look at high frequency trading in Flash Boys, his latest number one bestseller, exposing the inner workings of the stock market, a subject of increased interest since the recent financial crisis. The FBI’s subsequent decision to investigate HFT has been linked to this book by some commentators.

A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett
Famous for his Discworld series, the delightful Terry Pratchett shared a collection of his non-fiction work in A Slip of the Keyboard, giving us a glimpse at his thoughts on a wide range of topics, from science fiction to hats. Witty and warm, this compilation of pieces that include essays, articles, speeches, and much more proved (if proof was still needed) that Pratchett isn’t just a master of fantasy fiction and showed us why he is one of the most popular authors of his generation.

41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush
Countless books have been written about American presidents, but none of them has been as unique as 41: A Portrait of My Father, the biography of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, penned by his son, George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the country. The book offers an intimate look at the life of Bush Sr. and it may not present any earthshaking revelations or offer the most objective take on the subject, but, by its very nature, 41 is a very interesting tome.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham may or may not be the voice of her generation, but her voice sure is very divisive. Some hail her for her raw, daring work; others criticize her over-sharing and self-indulgence. So it was hardly surprising that the 28-year-old’s first book raised quite a bit of controversy. The project, a collection of autobiographical pieces, for which she was reportedly paid $3.7 million, was seen by many as a look at what happens when over-privilege meets over-exposure.

What I Know For Sure by Oprah

North America’s only African-American billionaire Oprah Winfrey has had quite a life and career. The “Queen of All Media” has been sharing her life lessons in the popular ‘What I Know For Sure’ column in O, The Oprah Magazine for over a decade. In 2014, these pieces were “revised, updated, and collected” in What I Know For Sure, a collection of inspirational and motivational nuggets along with some personal accounts and introspective moments that made for a compelling read for her many fans.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 9th January, 2015 *

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