Monday, January 19, 2015

My best books of 2014

This was a good reading year.  There are some great new authors with powerful voices and awesome story-telling ability.

The top 5 were:

In light of what we know—Zia Haider Rahman
I’m not a fan of Salman Rushdie, but his sentiment of a book of “everythingness” captures this book.  It’s less a coherent story and more an experience.  It knows no boundaries, it jumps back and forth in time, travels around the world, and wanders into physics, math and other subjects, but without pretension or sense of effort.  Enchanting to read.  I also had the opportunity to meet the author towards the end of last year, and he was every bit as engaging as the book!

The Rosie Project—by Gene Similian
Bill Gates recommended this book as one of his best reads in 2014, so I figured I’d give it a read.  It is hilarious.  The author puts you in the head of a brilliant professor who has Asperser’s syndrome, and proceeds to take you through his innovative and at times painfully awkward attempts to find a wife.  Through the story, you find yourself wondering if being “normal” is a good thing, and other assumptions we make all the time.  The sequel (the Rosie Effect) just came out, so don’t worry, there’s more!

The Lizard Cage—by Karen Connelly
This book is about as close to a Burmese prison as I would ever want to get.  Set in Yangon, it centers on the life and thoughts of a political activist who is living out a life sentence in jail and his friendship with a young orphan who also lives at the prison. Most of the book takes place at the prison, and at times it's quite dark, hopeless, and brutal.  But despite rarely taking the reader beyond the prison walls, the story is active and it's hard to put down.  I also read Burmese lessons: a true love story by the same author and was less impressed--too personal, too much "true story" that sounded exaggerated, etc.

David and Goliath: underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants—by Malcom Gladwell
My sole non-fiction recommendation this year.  Gladwell’s great at rounding up useful anecdotes, research, and theories, and making them digestible.  This book is about "underdogs," and how the odds aren't always as stacked against them as we assume.  Particularly recommend this for people trying to bring about change in big institutions, when you don't have hard power on your side.

A suitable boy: a novel—by Vikram Seth
Once I learned that this was one of the longest books in the English language (and that the longest, longest was a science fiction book that I could probably never get through), I had to give it a read.  It also happens to be one of the favorites of several women I know and respect here in Bangladesh.  Set in the context of newly independent India circa 1950, the book weaves together the stories of several different families from radically different backgrounds.  Though the bureaucratic discussions can drone on (as they do), the characters are vibrant the details of life vivid, and it's easy to get pulled into the main dilemma: who is Lata going to marry? 

What was on your list??

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