Book List 2014

This has probably been the Year of the Series – I started the Dark Tower series, Hunger Games trilogy, Cairo Trilogy and Song of Ice and Fire series in this year. However, the first books of the latter two series I couldn’t complete, so they are not present in this list. In retrospect, lots of sci fi and horror are present. What can I do? I love those genres so much.

Read previous years’ lists: 2010 part 1 / 2010 part 2 / 2011

Note: Books marked with an asterisk (*) are non-fiction.

  1. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski – Best haunted house story I’ve read up ‘til now. A good horror novel or movie gives you creeps even after it ends – this gave me creeps for weeks after. Bit of a tough read in places but still excellent.
  2. The Shadow Lines – Amitav Ghosh – I loved this book because the beauty of the writing was almost Arundhati-Roy-level good. I read it soon after the breakup and the sadness of its plot resonated deeply with the sadness inside me. A beautiful book.
  3. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green – What can I say that hasn’t been said already? Although a young adult novel, I still enjoyed it and yes, I cried in places. I think what I liked best was that it didn’t go overboard – it kept a refreshing honesty while dealing with a tragic plot.
  4. Sweet Tooth – Ian McEwan – Having read both Atonement and The Comfort of Strangers, its no wonder I went into this book expecting something horrible to happen at any point. Oddly enough, nothing much did. An atypical McEwan novel but nonetheless quite cute. I enjoyed it.
  5. Room – Emma Donoghue – One of the best books I read this year. The story, which is written from the point of view of a five-year-old boy who has spent his entire life captive in a room, was both intense and moving while being very believable – she keeps up his ‘voice’ accurately throughout.
  6. Dune – Frank Herbert – Classic sci-fi! And very epic. I loved best the detailed world building (continued in appendixes), the intense description of Dune’s culture and of other cultures as well (like the Bene Gessirit). The level of sheer detail is amazing and adds to the intense plot.
  7. A Mind to Murder – P. D. James – Fluff reading. Adam Dalgliesh as serious and intense as always.
  8. Silas Marner – George Eliot – I’d read Mill on the Floss, which was long and weird and sad and boring. This wasn’t as long, and was boring in places, but overall it was quite a good read. Heartwarming and sweet.
  9. Mothsmoke – Mohsin Hamid – Enh. I really didn’t like this book, possibly because I can’t identify with the high-flown drugs-and-sex elite-Lahore culture described. None of the characters were very likeable either. The most positive I could say about it was that it showed up hypocrisy in our country, but then it doesn’t take much skill to do that.
  10. Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmith – I honestly don’t know why I read this book. I knew highsmith’s novels are creepy as fuck, but after reading her excellent short stories I decided to give her another try. The plot of this was great but there were way too many “suspenseful” periods in which the characters went through mental agony – enough to give the reader plenty of mental agony too.
  11. Let The Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist –When you’ve read as much horror as I have, you go into a vampire story expecting some clichés at least. But this novel was less about vampires per se as other things, like bullying and child abuse. So the novel was quite engrossing and would’ve been dark and grim even without the vampire element.
  12. Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger – I read this because I had to. People had told me not to expect much, that the main character wasn’t very identifiable with, and I found that true, but I mean, it was still quite a clear look into his mind, so I appreciated the true-to-life aspect of the novel even if the events themselves were kind of boring.
  13. Unnatural Causes – P. D. James – More fluff reading. More Dalgliesh!
  14. Kafka On the Shore – Haruki Murakami – I avoided Murakami for the longest time because magical realism isn’t really my thing and I hated his short stories. However, I’m glad I picked up this book because it was weird and interesting and engrossing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The various plot threads start miles apart (literally) and come together with the beauty of a symphony.
  15. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn – Hated it. None of the characters are likable, the plot is unbelievable and most of its fame, I’m guessing, comes from shock value and the plot twists. It was also too damn long.
  16. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins – I liked this because there was a strong female character in it who was intensely focused on things like survival instead of romance. The story was also interesting even if simply written. Have yet to read the other parts.
  17. Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman – A hilarious book especially at the start although I got a bit bogged down towards the end of it because the buildup kept going on and on. I enjoyed the book although I have loved Gaiman’s and Pratchett’s individual works more than this one, to be honest.
  18. The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith – I think it’s probably impossible for Rowling to write a bad book, and this was good in terms of character development and plot, but it was just too damn long for a detective novel. The masters (Christie, PD James, Rex Stout) all complete their stories in 100-200 pages – this book was 400 pages long.
  19. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders – Daniyal Mueenuddin – one of my friends loved this book, but I didn’t like it much. Too many of the stories were unnecessarily cruel to female characters (which is perhaps reflective of Pakistani society, but even so) and the stories were flat more often than not.
  20. *The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande – Gawande’s books are always informative, clear, fast-paced and interesting. He’s like the Malcolm Gladwell of the medical world. This was no exception.
  21. Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton – Edith Wharton – I didn’t expect to like this book but it was actually good. It was nice to read horror with a minimum of gore in it, and there was lots of old-timey mystery and suspense and some genuinely unique ghostly encounters. An enjoyable read.
  22. Halloween Candy – Douglas Clegg – Forgettable, largely fluff horror reading.
  23. *How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran- Best non-fiction book this year. As a feminist, or even as a woman, there is so much in this that was hilarious and identifiable with, I giggled and outright guffawed through parts, while nodding violently in agreement at others. Can’t recommend it enough.
  24. A Good Death – Gil Courtemanche – This book was good. I have a parent who is in the grip of a slow disease that is eating away at them, so parts of it resonated with me quite strongly. The ending was also perfect.
  25. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman – Like Rowling, Gaiman can do no wrong, but…I loved the book, honestly, but it wasn’t as good as Neverwhere or American Gods. The realism of the story shifted its tone from outright fantasy (which Gaiman is good at) to fairytale/magical realism, which dampened the spell for me, somewhat. Nonetheless a great read.
  26. Shroud for a Nightingale – PD James – One of the longer James novels, still surprisingly good despite its unusual length. Enjoyed it.
  27. *Mortality – Christopher Hitchens – Hitchens’ prose is so good that I can’t have enough of it, but these essays were still difficult to read because of the topic matter. He describes his thoughts on death and the cancer invading his body with eloquence that one can only aspire to in the face of the truth that awaits us all.
  28. American Psycho – Brett Easton Ellis – Before I read this, I thought I was immune to gore. I had watched six Saw movies, read innumerable Stephen King novels and other gory horror books, and dabbled in Japanese horror movies. This book, however, is unmatched in its sheer, pointless, disgusting gore, violence and horror. Do not recommend. If you have a copy, set it on fire and then douse the ashes with salt and bleach, and wash your hands afterwards for good measure.
  29. *The Gift of Fear – Gavin de Becker – I found a recommendation for this on the site Ask A Manager, as a book that teaches you how to set boundaries and ward off harassers. I found the book a lot more than just that – a whole anthology of anecdotes and evidence about how to avoid all kinds of threats using innate instincts, based on the experience of a man who provides risk assessment for a living. Highly recommended book.
  30. The Amityville Horror – Jay Anson – After reading House of Leaves earlier this year, this was just BORING. Also the attempt to pass it off as true was tasteless.
  31. Revival – Stephen King – A friend of mine told me to read this because the book was allegedly similar in style to his older works and therefore better. I found this to be largely true. King’s writing is still slightly formulaic, but the book was creepy and weird and had a great hook, keeping me reading until the end.
  32. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson – I was hooked from the moment I realized that the Deliverator, who is described in the beginning as an assassin-like character, is actually a pizza delivery boy. One of the fastest paced books I’ve read in a while. Most great science fiction is slow, with a lot of world building going on and very little active action. This was the first science fiction book I’ve read with a thriller element predominating. Very exciting, very well written, thoroughly enjoyable book.
  33. The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin – Although cited everywhere as a feminist science fiction novel, I didn’t find it feminist beyond the fact that in the book gender roles are completely dismissed, which is logical in a place where discrete genders don’t exist (everyone is androgynous in that world). The book itself was a good read, though slow in places.
  34. The Dark Tower Series – The Gunslinger – Stephen King – So glad I’ve finally started this. It seemed good in the first book, although I’ve gotten stuck in the second. It is definitely more fantasy than horror, and therefore not the genre King is king of. I’m not expecting too much, and it hasn’t exceeded my expectations yet.
  35. The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye – A.S. Byatt – Not a huge fan of modern fairytales, but these were interesting stories nonetheless. My favourite was the title story, set in modern times, with a practical middle-aged lady as the protagonist. A nice book to while away the time, nothing amazing.

3 thoughts on “Book List 2014

  1. Consider when Mothsmoke was published and the time period depicted. I think I actually love it partly just for that! But other than that…yeah…couldn’t identify with the sex-and-drugs Lahori elite culture but could definitely identify with being a bitter, out-of-place middleclassiya who’s never quite a part of it till he suddenly is.

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