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Memorable Reads of 2014

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Not necessarily books published in 2014, just the books I read this year.

Defending Jacob by William Landay
An exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing story of a 14-year-old boy who is accused of murder. The is rooted in the very sense of ambiguity—it’s possible to get almost all the way through the book without knowing where it heads and how it will end. Expect huge twists at the end.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
The slow, murderous disintegration of a marriage is all too believable in this painfully suspenseful book set in Chicago that switches between Todd and Jodi’s perspectives. The murder is announced right off the bat, but Harrison takes her time, building the small details and emotional nuances which make the killer’s move to commit the unspeakable believable.

Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story by Tony & Maureen Wheeler
This is a vast armchair travel around the world, but is also a chronicle of how the staff would go to make the tedious run to update the information. There’s a personal touch to the book as Wheeler reflects not juggling between work, family, and travel. The book is a remarkable testimony to how a love and passion of travel has led to a life of fulfillment.

The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig’s autobiography, published a year after his suicide in Brazil in 1942, is not a conventional one, for it is a mirror of an age rather than of a life. Beautifully written but utterly poignant, it is through this book that we appreciate the full measure of a man in the lost era before the First World War.

The Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse
Is it possible to open a bookstore that strictly carries high-brow literature? Who is to judge what good literature? What happens if people go to the extreme to dictate what good literature the public is to read? It’s a very creative and provocative story.

Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin
This is part biography and part history. Writing with such suppleness and understatement, Larkin reports that Orwell is known as a prophet in Burma, so closely to Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four reflect what has happened in the tragically oppressed land afflicted by a streak of authoritarianism. Larkin also seeks to get to the bottom of what might have provoked Orwell to write with remarkable precision on oppression.

Ficciones I & II by Jorge Luis Borges
Borges is a brilliant mind. This collection of stories, through Borges’s best-known motifs like mirror, labyrinth, library, and chance, explores the ideas of parallel times in a multiverse in which, we, human beings, are part of the mystery that it’s impossible for us to attain full knowledge of such infinite domain. Borges uses the reader’s collective memory—preconceived images, ideas, experiences, and knowledge as the foundation of his stories, only to subvert them and replace with a new, unfamiliar context.

The First Three William Monk Mysteries by Anne Perry
The first three mysteries in one volume. All there concerned hidden family secrets that constitute murders. All three keep me guessing to the very end, pulsating as the truth is slowly revealed. Perry’s characters are complex, flawed, and authentic. She doesn’t spare the squalor of the Victorian age, nor waste any opportunity to lambaste on the hypocrites who claim to be of genteel rearing but whose endeavors are as pathetic and treacherous as those in the underworld league of fraud and vices.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
It’s no spoiler to reveal that Anne Boleyn is beheaded. While it is in the nature of historical fiction that one knows what happens next, the genius of Bring Up the Bodies is that Thomas Cromwell, opaque, labyrinthine and vengeful, despite controlling the fates of so many, doesn’t know the outcome of these events that are narrated through his consciousness. On top of his acumen and perspicacity, Mantel suggests that it’s Cromwell’s origins, together with his almost total absence of friends and family that allows him to play the role he does.

A Time to Kill by John Grisham
This is a riveting story of retribution and justice set in the South. It is a provocative read that grabs you from the start. Grisham raises very thought-provoking questions on races and justice. It’s more than just a page-turning legal thriller. The book is an intense social commentary that begs the question: can justice be truly color-blind?

5 Responses

  1. I have Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel, and I’ve never been able to read it. The writing is so abstract to me. Was Bring Up the Bodies like that?

  2. Looks like you had a great reading year! I really would like to read the Hillary Mantel and one of these days I’d also like to discover Borges. Hope you have a great reading year ahead!

  3. I think Defending Jacob has got to be the #1 book club pick for the last few years. Holy cow that book was a wild ride. And I read A Time to Kill so many years ago, but is probably still the most memorable of his books along with his true crime book An Innocent Man.

  4. I’m aiming for 100 books in 2015 and trying to read more nonfiction. Unlikely destinations looks like a strong contender.

  5. Are you looking for any nonfiction recommendations? There’s Wild by Cheryl Strayed, The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins.

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