In a year with many excellent books published, I'm sure the judges of this prestigious award had many hard choices to make. But the winners were recently announced. They include:
Fiction: Redeployment by Phil Kay
This collection of stories by an ex-Marine takes us to the front lines of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and in the best tradition of battle writing, the stories describe what it feels like to be on the front line. Klay also makes vivid the experience of coming home again after living through the loss of many comrades.
His inspiration to write came from reading Roald Dahl and Shil Silverstein as a child and Edgar Allen Poe and Shusaku Endo as a young adult.
Nonfiction:Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
Osnos spent many years in China and was thunderstruck by the rapid onslaught of many changes in work, family, culture and politics. He compares it to America’s Gilded Age but perhaps our Gilded Age on steroids. While writing this book, he was inspired by Katherine Boo’s Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. He found it overwhelming to record a country's experience with such depth as Boo did with India. Read more about 2014 National Book Award Winners Announced
If you like yoga, or are merely curious about it, this lovely book covers all the basics and can get your practice jump-started. Even though I've been doing yoga for years, the author surprised with many details that I had not heard before about its philosophy and forms.
In five brief parts it covers all the basics of yoga: its history, branches, all the yoga styles. It also covers the philosophy of yoga, many of its poses with brief illustrations, also breathing, meditation, mantras, mudras, bandhas, and chakras.
The meditation section is a six page description of types of meditation including walking and compassion ones. Yes, just what it sounds like helping others as part of doing yoga. This part begins with a quick list of how to start a meditation practice.
The last section, appropriately subtitled "Yoga off the Mat" covers yoga at work and school, while traveling, in relationships, and at rest.
The poses--obviously not a complete compendium--are illustrated with 2 or 3 line drawings, a verbal description of how to do them, and in closing, a list of benefits for each.
This beautiful red book is highly portable and with its amazing summary and synthesis of yoga would make a lovely gift. Perfect for the bedstand table, so you can practice breathing or peaceful asanas just before bed, or more active ones after waking up in the morning.
If you loved Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall novels, this collection of stories will convince you that she can capture modern people at least as well as medieval ones showing all their foibles and unachieved dreams.
Mantel’s prose is startling clear, her metaphors striking but en pointe, and her feel for characters both rich and sure. She has a ready feel for plot and for infusing her stories with a deep feel for the mysterious.
In the opener, “Sorry to Disturb,” she portrays a sick British ex-pat living in Saudi Arabia, who is almost a prisoner in her own apartment (because of women’s very restricted social and cultural standing there.) An Asian foreign man starts to visit her in the afternoons and though he is married, she immediately suspects his lack of good intentions. When he tells her that she reminds him of his first American girlfriend who was risque, she knows her perceptions are right. Read more about The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher
Remember reading the Old Testament and seeing the list of “begats” that seemed to last forever? This book examines human history as recorded in our DNA. It’s full of fascinating lore: recently geneticists and statisticians have proved that African countries where the slave trade was rampant have not only a much higher sense of distrust toward friends and strangers, but also have much poorer economies today over a hundred fifty years later.
And Genghis Khan really did father thousands of children, yet at the same time he lived up to his name as the Destroyer. During the two centuries of the Mongol raids that he initiated, 40 million people died. So many that much of the inhabited earth became reforested. This was the only time in recorded history that the CO2 in the atmosphere actually dropped enough to measure.
Genghis Khan also lives on for his particular Y chromosome. Not only did he pass this on to countless sons, but he and his armies killed so many men with different Y chromosomes that his became the predominant one in many parts of Asia. Read more about Family Secrets
What happens when an energetic, middle-aged Bostonian moves to a sleepy town in Florida in 1962? First, she starts a radio show under the persona of Miss Dreamsville and secondly forms a book club. Ex-Bostonian Jackie Hart starts a ruckus when she invites people of other races and sexual persuasions to the club in a decidedly racist, homophobic town where a divorcee is considered socially-risque and improper.
Narrated by a lovable octagenerian, Dora, who does not fit into Naples herself, this novel discusses important issues such as racism, feminism, and homophobia while presenting an interesting mix of characters. With a backdrop of serious and important issues, it provides a humorous and entertaining read.
Like bookstores? Like islands off the coast of New England? Favor novels that feature an orphan and a single dad? Drawn to love stories especially ones where the couple start off at each other's throats? Have a thing for rare manuscripts especially those of Edgar Allen Poe? If so this charming book-celebratory novel is just your thing.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry begins with publisher’s rep, Amelia Loman (“a tall dandelion of a woman") disembarking from a ferry to visit a small bookstore on Alice Island to go over the winter accounts for her publisher, Knightley Press. The owner, the very curmudgeonly A.J. Fikry, is decidedly unfriendly and shocked by the fact that the old book rep has not come. Loman tells him that he has died and then proceeds to push her favorite book, a memoir by a widower dealing with his bereavement.
For Fikry this hits too close to home but he does not tell Alice why. He has recently lost Nic, his intelligent and beautiful wife while she was pregnant with their first child. Fikry begins a delightful rant about all the books he does not like: postmodern, post apocalyptic, magical realism, ones with multiple fonts, children’s books, poetry, YA, etc. Read more about The Storied Life of A.K. Fikry