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Sunday December 29, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday January 3, 2014 MYT 4:35:31 PM
Star2’s Reads columnists and regular reviewers pick their top three reads of the year.
How Much Is Enough: Money And The Good Life by Robert and Edward Skidelsky – This sort of book is exactly what we need more of these days when the tendency to binge-spend is the norm across the globe; it is a wake-up call to reinvigorate ethics and bring back the good life to everyone this holiday season when we resolve to be freed from financial burdens.
Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope For A Future On Earth? by Alan Weisman – Food for thought for anyone who cares about the earth and our future, this book is compelling and jam-packed with interesting and awe-inspiring facts.
Questions Of Travel by Michelle de Kretser – Ravishingly stylistic, satirical and intensely funny, this book is the best novel I have read in a long time, and the characters still linger, having visited me at night in my dreams....
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer – Another reminder that I should try to eat less meat and, eventually, no meat at all – books tend to appear at just the right time to prod me into making tough and important decisions.
Rawa by Isa Kamari – I was entertained and informed by this intimate portrayal of the Orang Seletar, the indigenous river people of Singapore (I’d never heard of them before and I now want to know more); the orang asli have important stories that must be told, and not just legends and myths, but of their lives.
Religion For Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide To The Uses Of Religion by Alain De Botton – I was raised Catholic and am now an atheist who believes in the value of religious rituals, practices and doctrine; De Botton articulates much more fluently and convincingly my feelings about why religion can be a comfort to even those who don’t believe in God.
The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child – Most of my reading year was defined by Lee Child’s work; after watching the Tom Cruise movie, I had to find out what all the fuss was about – and ended up reading 13 of the (now 18) books between January and June. The books are undeniable page-turners and Reacher is a strong, compelling hero for these merciless times.
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King – This sequel to The Shining was a real surprise, a genuinely emotional read that spoke to old memories, old fears and current feelings. King makes his protagonists believable, lovable, flawed beings – the only grouse being villains who fold too easily.
The Unremembered Empire by Dan Abnett – This latest contribution to the 27-volume (thus far) The Horus Heresy space opera brought together numerous threads from previous volumes, some by other authors, tying them neatly together and sowing the seeds for more mayhem: in an isolated corner of the Imperium, desperate men (demigods, more like) resort to desperate measures to preserve the beleaguered empire, even if their actions may be construed as heretical too.
Marc De Faoite
Ancient Light by John Banville
Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
All three books have a wonderfully lyrical use of language that portray the inner world of their characters with sensitivity and detail, and a certain wry sense of self-deprecating humour.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – There were so many things to enjoy, appreciate and admire that it is tricky to know where to start, but the book offers the pleasure of a bittersweet love story charted with sensitivity and conviction, a fierce intelligence which explores and exposes the issue of race in America with devastating effectiveness, and consistently beautiful writing.
The Cleaner Of Chartres by Sally Vickers – An altogether quieter affair but, in Agnes Morel, Vickers has created a memorable heroine who, despite all the questions about the darkness in her past, brightens the lives of those with whom she comes into contact while exposing small town gossip and self-righteousness for the thinly disguised evil that it actually is.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – The hype was always going to be hard to live up to, but this is a gripping and stunningly-written tale with memorable characters from beginning to end, asking lots of big questions about art, the role of beauty and individual morality along the way.
Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja – Fraction’s witty stories about what Hawkeye does when he is not being an Avenger is my absolute favourite currently ongoing comic series, and the two collected editions released this year are among the most re-read books in my collection right now.
Boxers And Saints by Gene Luen-Yang – This double volume story about the two sides of China’s bloody Boxer Rebellion is fantastical but historical, witty yet serius, and is one of the most entertaining graphic novels this year.
East Of West, Volume 1: The Promise by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin – Image Comics has published some great titles this year, but the “sci-fi Western” East Of West is probably the best – a menacing, fascinating story that manages to capture the essence of both the sci-fi and Western genres at the same time.
Hong Kong Noir by Feng Chi-shun – This is the Hong Kong the tourists don’t see, but I, as a former resident, know too well. Chillingly and skilfully narrated, the book takes sinful delight in probing the dark side of Asia’s most unforgiving city.
A Man In Full by Tom Wolfe – Long, sprawling and Biblical in scope, some of the set-pieces are so engaging and cinematic that I find myself returning to this novel every few years; in my book, the closest thing to The Great American Novel.
The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes – One of the themes of this masterpiece is how tricky memory can be. A highly thought-provoking metaphysical work, and a worthy winner of the Booker Prize in 2011.
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman – In this powerful ode to childhood, memories, nostalgia, magic and horror are delicately woven together with beautiful language in surprising and sometimes terrifying ways.
Lexicon by Max Barry – A fascinating thriller about the power of words, where shadowy “poets” wield language as weapons, that slyly comments on contemporary society.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio – This funny yet heartwarming children’s book tells the story of a young boy with a facial disfigurement with such sincerity that all your adult cynicism will be washed away ... most likely by your tears.
The Housemaid’s Daughter by Barbara Mutch – It’s gripping, and your emotions seesaw along with those of Ada’s; more than that, it shows that life goes on, no matter what.
The Heir series by Cinda Williams Chima – This series kept me up all night reading the books – Chima’s writing draws the reader in, and keeps them engrossed.
Ever After by Kim Harrison – In book 11 in The Hollows series, Harrison doesn’t shy away from making her main character do dark things for the sake of survival. While occasionally gritty, there is a balance of friendship, family, fun and romance that guarantees a good read.
Tan Shiow Chin
Butter by Erin Jade Lange – The most insightful and real, yet easy to read young adult book I read this year.
City Of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte – This was one crazy hell of a read, with a story that, upon analysis, shouldn’t make sense, but still does anyway.
Shade’s Children by Garth Nix – A gripping dystopian tale told well, with added informative and intriguing elements about the world and characters thrown in between the chapters, which I appreciated.
Sycamore Row by John Grisham – The master of the courtroom drama whips up a gripping tale of a rich man’s last gift to his impoverished maid.
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman – A haunting, lyrical tale of darkness, remembrances, and the mysteries of childhood.
11/22/63 by Stephen King – A man goes back in time to prevent President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and changes the world (and himself!) in unimaginable ways.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams – His arguments were so insensible, the humour so deadpan and the descriptions so vivid that the book forever changed my belief system about the Universe, aliens and the many usages of a towel.
Schroder by Amity Gaige – Gaige created a marvel: a hate-worthy man for whom you cannot help but feel love, and with whom you realise you have much in common.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – You cannot go around saying you love Lolita without getting a dirty look! Or looking dirty. Nabokov’s words dirty-danced their way into my heart, and the book left me completely harassed but satisfied, and the “rest is just rust and stardust”.
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