James’s 2014 reading list

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  • #200951
    jameskearl
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    My goal is to read at least 25 books in 2014. Because I’ve bought a lot of new releases lately (hooray for gift cards and sale prices!), I decided to focus on new and recent novels. Once I get through those published in 2013, I’ll continue with those published in 2012, 2011, etc. As you can see, my bookshelf is quivering under the weight of waiting books.

    2013 (21 books):
    [strike]Margaret Atwood – MaddAddam (preceded by the other two in the trilogy: Oryx and Crake & The Year of the Flood[/strike])
    [strike]Joseph Boyden – The Orenda[/strike]
    [strike]Eleanor Catton – The Luminaries[/strike]
    [strike]Lynn Coady – Hellgoing[/strike]
    [strike]Douglas Coupland – Worst. Person. Ever.[/strike]
    [strike]Roddy Doyle – The Guts[/strike]
    [strike]Dave Eggers – The Circle[/strike]
    Khaled Hosseini – And the Mountains Echoed
    [strike]Stephen King – Doctor Sleep[/strike]
    [strike]Rachel Kushner – The Flamethrowers[/strike]
    [strike]John le Carré – A Delicate Truth[/strike]
    [strike]Jonathan Lethem – Dissident Gardens[/strike]
    [strike]J.A. Marlow et al – Cat Eyes[/strike]
    [strike]Ken McGoogan – 50 Canadians Who Changed the World[/strike]
    Haruki Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
    Ruth Ozeki – A Tale For the Time Being
    Thomas Pynchon – Bleeding Edge
    [strike]George Saunders – Tenth of December[/strike]
    [strike]Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch[/strike]

    2012 (13 books):
    Susan Cain – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
    Stephen Colbert – America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t
    Tamas Dobozy – Siege 13
    Gardner Dozois – The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection
    Dave Eggers – A Hologram For the King
    Will Ferguson – 419
    William Gibson – Distrust That Particular Flavor
    Dennis Lehane – Live By Night
    Jonah Lehrer – Imagine: How Creativity Works
    Ben Marcus – The Flame Alphabet
    Alice Munro – Dear Life
    Kim Stanley Robinson – 2312
    Robert J. Sawyer – Triggers

    2011 (10 books): (I probably won’t make it this far)
    Orson Scott Card – Shadow In Flight
    Ernest Cline – Ready Player One
    Patrick DeWitt – The Sisters Brothers
    Gardner Dozois – The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection
    Esi Edugyan – Half-Blood Blues
    John Hodgman – That Is All
    Michael Ondaatje – The Cat’s Table
    Neal Stephenson – Reamde
    Guy Vanderhaeghe – A Good Man
    David Foster Wallace – The Pale King

    2010 (10 books):
    Roberto Bolano – The Third Reich
    Emma Donoghue – Room
    Umberto Eco – The Prague Cemetery
    Jonathan Franzen – Freedom
    Joe Hill – Horns
    China Mieville – The City & the City
    Walter Mosley – The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
    Qiu Xiaolong – Years of Red Dust
    Dan Simmons – Black Hills
    Dianne Warren – Cool Water

    2009 (6 books): (this is my stretch goal)
    Paolo Bacigalupi – The Windup Girl
    Jonathan Lethem – Chronic City
    Jeff Rubin – Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller
    John Scalzi et al – Metatropolis
    Alice Sebold – The Best American Short Stories 2009
    Dan Simmons – Drood

    #224686
    jameskearl
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    • Topics - 17
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    #1. J.A. Marlow et al – Cat Eyes

    #224687
    jameskearl
    Participant
    • Topics - 17
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    #2. Stephen King – Doctor Sleep

    Stephen King returns to the character and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

    On highways across America, a tribe of people called the True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, the True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the steam that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

    Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel, where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant shining power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

    Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to this icon in the King canon.

    #224688
    jameskearl
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    #3 Jonathan Lethem – Dissident Gardens

    At the center of Jonathan Lethem’s superb new novel stand two extraordinary women: Rose Zimmer, the aptly nicknamed Red Queen of Sunnyside, Queens, is an unreconstructed Communist who savages neighbors, family, and political comrades with the ferocity of her personality and the absolutism of her beliefs. Her precocious and willful daughter, Miriam, equally passionate in her activism, flees Rose’s influence to embrace the dawning counterculture of Greenwich Village.

    These women cast spells over the men in their lives: Rose’s aristocratic German Jewish husband, Albert; her cousin, the feckless chess hustler Lenny Angrush; Cicero Lookins, the brilliant son of her black cop lover; Miriam’s (slightly fraudulent) Irish folksinging husband, Tommy Gogan; their bewildered son, Sergius. Flawed and idealistic, Lethem’s characters struggle to inhabit the utopian dream in an America where radicalism is viewed with bemusement, hostility, or indifference.

    As the decades pass—from the parlor communism of the ’30s, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, ragged ’70s communes, the romanticization of the Sandinistas, up to the Occupy movement of the moment—we come to understand through Lethem’s extraordinarily vivid storytelling that the personal may be political, but the political, even more so, is personal.

    Lethem’s characters may pursue their fates within History with a capital H, but his novel is—at its mesmerizing, beating heart—about love.

    #224689
    jameskearl
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    #4 Joseph Boyden – The Orenda

    The Orenda opens with the kidnapping of Snow Falls, a spirited Iroquois girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. Although it’s been years since the murder of his family members, they’re never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter; he sees that the girl possesses powerful magic, something useful to him and his people on the troubled road ahead. The Huron Nation has battled the Iroquois for as long as Bird can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous peril from afar.

    Christophe does not see himself as a threat, however. A charismatic Jesuit missionary, he has found his calling amongst the Huron, devoting himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. As an emissary from distant lands, he brings much more, though, than his faith to the new world.

    As these three souls dance one another through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars, and a nation emerges from worlds in flux. Powerful and deeply moving, The Orenda traces a story of blood and hope, suspicion and trust, hatred and love. A saga nearly four hundred years old, it is at its roots timeless and eternal.

    #224690
    jameskearl
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    • Topics - 17
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    #5 Ken McGoogan – 50 Canadians Who Changed the World

    Amazing people who have built our present and are shaping our tomorrow

    Using the successful format of How the Scots Invented Canada, Ken McGoogan takes the reader on a compelling journey throughthe lives of fifty accomplished Canadians born in the 20th century who have changed—and often continue to change—the great wide world.

    He discovers an astonishing array of activists, humanitarians, visionaries, scientists and inventors, all of whom have made an impact internationally. From Tommy Douglas, Pierre Trudeau, John Kenneth Galbraith, Naomi Klein, Marshall McLuhan, Stephen Lewis and Roméo Dallaire to Glenn Gould, David Suzuki, Mike Lazaridis, Margaret Atwood, Oscar Peterson, Leonard Cohen and thirty-seven others, Ken McGoogan shows us why and how Canadians move in the wider world as influencers and agents of progressive change.

    Say hello to fifty Canadians who are shaping the future.

    #224691
    jameskearl
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    • Topics - 17
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    #6 Margaret Atwood – Oryx and Crake

    A stunning and provocative new novel by the internationally celebrated author of The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize

    Margaret Atwood’s new novel is so utterly compelling, so prescient, so relevant, so terrifyingly-all-too-likely-to-be-true, that readers may find their view of the world forever changed after reading it.

    This is Margaret Atwood at the absolute peak of her powers. For readers of Oryx and Crake, nothing will ever look the same again.

    The narrator of Atwood’s riveting novel calls himself Snowman. When the story opens, he is sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the pleeblands, where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes – into his own past, and back to Crake’s high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

    With breathtaking command of her shocking material, and with her customary sharp wit and dark humour, Atwood projects us into an outlandish yet wholly believable realm populated by characters who will continue to inhabit our dreams long after the last chapter. This is Margaret Atwood at the absolute peak of her powers.

    #224692
    jameskearl
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    • Topics - 17
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    #7 Margaret Atwood – The Year of the Flood

    Set in the visionary future of Atwood’s acclaimed Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood is at once a moving tale of lasting friendship and a landmark work of speculative fiction. In this second book of the MaddAddam trilogy, the long-feared waterless flood has occurred, altering Earth as we know it and obliterating most human life. Among the survivors are Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, who is barricaded inside a luxurious spa. Amid shadowy, corrupt ruling powers and new, gene-spliced life forms, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move, but they can’t stay locked away.

    #224693
    jameskearl
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    • Topics - 17
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    #8 Margaret Atwood – MaddAddam

    The trilogy may be her crowning achievement, a suite of books that ranks among the most important work produced by a writer from Canada, or any country, this century, and a narrative that will likely be remembered as her defining contribution to literature. Despite the fact the novel is set in a post-apocalyptic future, it is a very funny book. Maybe when the world ends all one can do is laugh.” National Post

    In this #1 national bestseller and international bestseller, Margaret Atwood brings together characters from Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood for the thrilling conclusion to her speculative fiction trilogy, which confirms the ultimate endurance of humanity, community and love. Now available in paperback from Vintage Canada.

    Months after the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of humanity, Toby and Ren have rescued their friend Amanda from the vicious Painballers. They return to the MaddAddamite cob house, which is being fortified against man and giant Pigoon alike. Accompanying them are the Crakers, the gentle, quasi-human species engineered by the brilliant but deceased Crake. While their reluctant prophet, Jimmy–Crake’s one-time friend–recovers from a debilitating fever, it’s left to Toby to narrate the Craker theology, with Crake as Creator. She must also deal with cultural misunderstandings, terrible coffee and her jealousy over her lover, Zeb.

    Meanwhile, Zeb searches for Adam One, founder of the God’s Gardeners, the pacifist green religion from which Zeb broke years ago to lead the MaddAddamites in active resistance against the destructive CorpSeCorps. Now, under threat of an imminent Painballer attack, the MaddAddamites must fight back with the aid of their newfound allies, some of whom have 4 trotters.

    At the centre is the extraordinary story of Zeb’s past, which involves a lost brother, a hidden murder, a bear and a bizarre act of revenge.

    Combining adventure, humour, romance, superb storytelling and an imagination that is at once dazzlingly inventive and grounded in a recognizable world, MaddAddam is vintage Margaret Atwood, and a moving and dramatic conclusion to her internationally celebrated dystopian trilogy.

    #224694
    jameskearl
    Participant
    • Topics - 17
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    #9 Douglas Coupland – Worst. Person. Ever.

    Douglas Coupland’s gloriously filthy, side-splittingly funny and unforgettable new novel, his first full-length work of fiction in four years.

    Worst. Person. Ever. is a deeply unworthy book about a dreadful human being with absolutely no redeeming social value. Raymond Gunt, in the words of the author, “is a living, walking, talking, hot steaming pile of pure id.” He’s a B-unit cameraman who enters an amusing downward failure spiral that takes him from London to Los Angeles and then on to an obscure island in the Pacific where a major American TV network is shooting a Survivor-style reality show. Along the way, Gunt suffers multiple comas and unjust imprisonment, is forced to reenact the “Angry Dance” from the movie Billy Elliot and finds himself at the centre of a nuclear war. We also meet Raymond’s upwardly failing sidekick, Neal, as well as Raymond’s ex-wife, Fiona, herself “an atomic bomb of pain.”

    Even though he really puts the “anti” in anti-hero, you may find Raymond Gunt an oddly likeable character.

    #224695
    jameskearl
    Participant
    • Topics - 17
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    #10 Lynn Coady – Hellgoing

    With astonishing range and depth, Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Lynn Coady gives us nine unforgettable new stories, each one of them grabbing our attention from the first line and resonating long after the last.

    A young nun charged with talking an anorexic out of her religious fanaticism toys with the thin distance between practicality and blasphemy. A strange bond between a teacher and a schoolgirl takes on ever deeper, and stranger, shapes as the years progress. A bride-to-be with a penchant for nocturnal bondage can’t seem to stop bashing herself up in the light of day.

    Equally adept at capturing the foibles and obsessions of men and of women, compassionate in her humour yet never missing an opportunity to make her characters squirm, fascinated as much by faithlessness as by faith, Lynn Coady is quite possibly the writer who best captures what it is to be human at this particular moment in our history.

    #224696
    jameskearl
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    • Topics - 17
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    #11 John le Carré – A Delicate Truth

    A counterterrorist operation, code-named Wildlife, is being mounted on the British crown colony of Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office minister, a private defence contractor who is also his bosom friend, and a shady American CIA operative of the evangelical far right. So delicate is the operation that even the minister’s private secretary, Toby Bell, is not cleared for it.

    Three years later, a disgraced special forces soldier delivers a message from the dead. Was Operation Wildlife the success it was cracked up to be—or a human tragedy that was ruthlessly covered up? Summoned by Sir Christopher “Kit” Probyn, retired British diplomat, to his decaying Cornish manor house and closely observed by Kit’s daughter, Emily, Toby must choose between his conscience and duty to his service. If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, how can he keep silent?

    #224697
    jameskearl
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    • Topics - 17
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    #12 Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch

    WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

    “The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind….Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction.”–Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review

    Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love–and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

    The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

    #224698
    jameskearl
    Participant
    • Topics - 17
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    #13 Dave Eggers – The Circle

    The Circle is the exhilarating new novel from Dave Eggers, bestselling author of A Hologram for the King, a finalist for the National Book Award.

    When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

    #224699
    jameskearl
    Participant
    • Topics - 17
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    #14 George Saunders – Tenth of December

    One of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation, George Saunders is an undisputed master of the short story, and Tenth of December is his most honest, accessible, and moving collection yet.

    In the taut opener, “Victory Lap,” a boy witnesses the attempted abduction of the girl next door and is faced with a harrowing choice: Does he ignore what he sees, or override years of smothering advice from his parents and act? In “Home,” a combat-damaged soldier moves back in with his mother and struggles to reconcile the world he left with the one to which he has returned. And in the title story, a stunning meditation on imagination, memory, and loss, a middle-aged cancer patient walks into the woods to commit suicide, only to encounter a troubled young boy who, over the course of a fateful morning, gives the dying man a final chance to recall who he really is. A hapless, deluded owner of an antiques store; two mothers struggling to do the right thing; a teenage girl whose idealism is challenged by a brutal brush with reality; a man tormented by a series of pharmaceutical experiments that force him to lust, to love, to kill—the unforgettable characters that populate the pages of Tenth of December are vividly and lovingly infused with Saunders’s signature blend of exuberant prose, deep humanity, and stylistic innovation.

    Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.

    Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in Tenth of December—through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit—not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhov’s dictum that art should “prepare us for tenderness.”

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