The Best Books I Read This Year (2014)

The Remains of the Day

Stephen King – 11.22.63 (2011)11.22.63

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

1Q84Haruki Murakami – 1Q84 (2010)

The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

George Tiffin – All the Best Lines (2013)All the Best Lines

Pithy put-downs, hard-boiled snarlings, words of love and regret… ALL THE BEST LINES presents 500 memorable movie quotes, embracing both one-liners (‘My name is Pussy Galore’) and slices of snappy dialogue from pictures as diverse as When Harry Met Sally and Pulp Fiction. Arranged under such timeless themes as Dreams, Friends, Libido and Memories, the quotes juxtapose films and stars from every era and every genre.

Dotted throughout the text are feature capsules focusing on themes and stories in the movies from Goldwynisms to Mae West, plus a generous scattering of cinema anecdotes, making the book both a joy to browse and an authoritative reference.

Lavishly illustrated with full-colour photographs, ALL THE BEST LINES will delight and entertain you in equal measure, reacquainting you with your favourite movies and introducing you to some forgotten classics.

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on EarthChris Hadfield – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (2013)

Colonel Chris Hadfield has spent decades training as an astronaut and has logged nearly 4000 hours in space. During this time he has broken into a Space Station with a Swiss army knife, disposed of a live snake while piloting a plane, and been temporarily blinded while clinging to the exterior of an orbiting spacecraft. The secret to Col. Hadfield’s success-and survival-is an unconventional philosophy he learned at NASA: prepare for the worst-and enjoy every moment of it.

In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Col. Hadfield takes readers deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. Through eye-opening, entertaining stories filled with the adrenaline of launch, the mesmerizing wonder of spacewalks, and the measured, calm responses mandated by crises, he explains how conventional wisdom can get in the way of achievement-and happiness. His own extraordinary education in space has taught him some counterintuitive lessons: don’t visualize success, do care what others think, and always sweat the small stuff.

You might never be able to build a robot, pilot a spacecraft, make a music video or perform basic surgery in zero gravity like Col. Hadfield. But his vivid and refreshing insights will teach you how to think like an astronaut, and will change, completely, the way you view life on Earth-especially your own.

Garth Stein – The Art of Racing in the Rain (2008)The Art of Racing in the Rain

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life…as only a dog could tell it.

ComplicationsAtul Gawande – Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science (2002)

In gripping accounts of true cases, surgeon Atul Gawande explores the power and the limits of medicine, offering an unflinching view from the scalpel’s edge. Complications lays bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is—uncertain, perplexing, and profoundly human. 

Complications is a 2002 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.

Matt Haig – The Humans (2013)The Humans

Body-snatching has never been so heartwarming . . .

The Humans is a funny, compulsively readable novel about alien abduction, mathematics, and that most interesting subject of all: ourselves. Combine Douglas Adams’s irreverent take on life, the universe, and everything with a genuinely moving love story, and you have some idea of the humor, originality, and poignancy of Matt Haig’s latest novel.

Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man–as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son–who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew–the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth.

Long Walk to FreedomNelson Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom (1994)

The book that inspired the major new motion picture Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s antiapartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality.

LONG WALK TO FREEDOM is his moving and exhilarating autobiography, destined to take its place among the finest memoirs of history’s greatest figures. Here for the first time, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela tells the extraordinary story of his life–an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph.

Randy Shilts – The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982)The Mayor of Castro Street

The Mayor of Castro Street is Shilts’s acclaimed story of Harvey Milk, the man whose personal life, public career, and tragic assassination mirrored the dramatic and unprecedented emergence of the gay community in America during the 1970s. His is a story of personal tragedies and political intrigues, assassination in City Hall and massive riots in the streets, the miscarriage of justice and the consolidation of gay power and gay hope.

The Remains of the Day**BOOK OF THE YEAR**

Kazuo Ishiguro – The Remains of the Day (1988)

In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper. Ishiguro’s dazzling novel is a sad and humorous love story, a meditation on the condition of modern man, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change.

Jonathan Miller – Stripped: The True Story of Depeche Mode (2003)Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode became the world’s best -selling synth-led group selling in excess of 40 million albums. Contains exclusive interviews with founder member Vince Clark and producer Gareth Jones. Also includes previously unpublished interview material with the band members themselves.

The Third Reich in PowerRichard J Evans – The Third Reich at War (2005)

The final volume in Richard J. Evans’s masterly trilogy on the history of Nazi Germany traces the rise and fall of German military might, the mobilization of a “people’s community” to serve a war of conquest, and Hitler’s campaign of racial subjugation and genocide.

Already hailed as “a masterpiece” (William Grimes in The New York Times) and “the most comprehensive history… of the Third Reich” (Ian Kershaw), this epic trilogy reaches its terrifying climax in this volume.

Evans interweaves a broad narrative of the war’s progress with viscerally affecting personal testimony from a wide range of people–from generals to front-line soldiers, from Hitler Youth activists to middle-class housewives. The Third Reich at War lays bare the dynamics of a nation more deeply immersed in war than any society before or since. Fresh insights into the conflict’s great events are here, from the invasion of Poland to the Battle of Stalingrad to Hitler’s suicide in the bunker. But just as important is the re-creation of the daily experience of ordinary Germans in wartime, staggering under pressure from Allied bombing and their own government’s mounting demands upon them. At the center of the book is the Nazi extermination of Europe’s Jews, set in the context of Hitler’s genocidal plans for the racial restructuring of Europe.

Blending narrative, description and analysis, The Third Reich at Warcreates an engrossing picture–at once sweeping and precise–of a society rushing headlong to self-destruction and taking much of Europe with it. It is the culmination of a historical masterwork that will remain the most authoritative work on Nazi Germany for years to come.

Follow Dave

Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
Follow Dave
Pin It

Leave a Comment