What you should be reading in 2014

THIS year has already been an exciting one for literature. 2014 has seen political and social mayhem, ever-changing cultural steps and expanding horizons across all media. The Man Booker prize has shortlisted US authors for the first time. Karen Joy Fowler’s work We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a personal favourite, with an impressive exploration of family and the strangest and most shocking psychological twist I’ve read in some time. If we turn to the prize’s longlist you can find David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, which doesn’t quite match the masterpiece of his previous work Cloud Atlas but remains an essential 2014 read.

book2COUAlternative and indie literature still reigns as it did last year, and if you’d like a beginner’s guide to the strange world of alt lit The YOLO Pages, released earlier this year, is  “poems, tweets, image macros, and prose” from across the genre – including the likes of Tao Lin, Steve Roggenbuck and @horse_ebooks. One form of writing that has seen somewhat of a comeback is the collection of essays – which to students writing them on a weekly basis might seem awful, but is in fact a long under-appreciated art form and commentary. Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli and David Lodge’s Lives in Writing are superb, but perhaps the most anticipated essay collection has been Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist. Gay is provocative and hilarious and her works sum up a running theme in books that has been building for over a year now: feminism. With Eimear McBride landing several prizes last year for her work A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing and new books from Lena Dunham (Not that Kind of Girl) and Caitlin Moran (How to Build a Girl) over this summer, the feminist agenda is on the up across all media.

My favourite book of the year? It’s been anticipated for months and a million Japanese readers bought it in its first week on the shelves – Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Smaller but darker than his previous epic 1Q84, Murakami’s signature surrealist style with a plot as mysterious as ever are all evident in his latest work – where a physics student who soon becomes ostracized by those deemed more ‘colourful’ than him. As always, Murakami’s novel has a quietness to it that manages to crossover as much in an English translation and will leave you feeling far more introspective than the more politically and socially themed works of 2014.

This year also saw the deaths of two writers whose literary prowess cannot be understated – Maya Angelou and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I won’t go into their lives and works or elaborate on why their writing careers had such a profound impact on literature – I’ll only add that if you’re entranced by the magical realism of Murakami, Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude was the genre’s masthead, and if you’ve been shocked by events such as Ferguson, Angelou’s autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a love-song to literature as a savior from prejudice.