Summing up 2014 – Books

Sunday, 11 January 2015

I’ve run through my favourite theatre, films and hotels of 2014. Here are some of the book favourites:

Travel Books – I met William Blacker while I was in Transylvania last year, so reading Along the Enchanted Way, his colourful account of his love affair with Romania (and a couple of Romanians) was certainly appropriate. Laura Jean McKay’s Holiday in Cambodia isn’t much of a holiday, it’s a collection of often rather dark tales about the often troubled country, stretching from the French colonial period through the Khmer Rouge era right up to today’s backpackers and aid workers.

Politics & HistoryIron Curtain – The Crushing of Eastern Europe by Anne Applebaum topped the list, a good book to read on the 25th anniversary of the wall coming down and the Iron Curtain finally rusting away.

Narrow Road to the Deep NorthBooker Long Lists, Short Lists & a Winner – I don’t know how I missed out writing something about Richard Flanagan’s Booker Prize winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North, particularly since my travels up through the Solomon Islands and into Bougainville in Papua New Guinea working on Dark Lands certainly had me thinking about Japan in World War II. Flanagan’s novel bounces from Tasmania and South Australia in the lead up to the war and then the terrible years on the Thai-Burma railway where the novel’s hero Dorrigo Evans performed medical miracles and where Flanagan’s father also suffered.

During the year I also read two short listed novels from the 2013 Booker – Jim Crace’s Harvest and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. Harvest was the right book to read around the time I was in Romania because it’s centred around the upheavals that swept England as feudalism morphed into capitalism and subsistence farming disappeared during the enclosures period as sheep and wool took over the countryside. It’s a change the farmland of Transylvania is still undergoing.

Spoiled BratsShort Stories – Well Simon Rich’s Spoiled Brats was certainly one of my 2014 reading highlights, a wonderful collection of often surrealistic short stories including one story about some truly spoiled brats told by a hamster in their school classroom. And a superbly unaware tale by doting parents who’s beloved child just happens to be the devil. Well Mr Rich is noted for a New Yorker story of life in a wallet as told by a condom.

More Novels – Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano’s Suspended Sentences and Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing, a delightful little mystery from the point of view of an elderly woman who really cannot remember anything, let alone the clues to the mystery which she sets out to solve. And does!