A year of striking debuts, successful follow-ups and admirable crossovers from regional languages—Indian writing in English had some big moments in 2014, particularly strong writing by and about women. On the international front, readers found big comebacks in fiction, compelling memoirs and hard-hitting treatises on history and politics
THE SUN THAT ROSE FROM THE EARTH
by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi
A lush collection of five mini-epics that join to narrate the larger and very human story of the lives of Mughal-era poets, this gorgeous Urdu crossover follows his The Mirror of Beauty. A story that is both historically rich and compelling for contemporary readers (‘The Last Ustad’, Open, 3 November).
CLOSE TO HOME
by Parvati Sharma
One of the most original voices to emerge in recent fiction, Sharma delivers a clever and unfailingly entertaining commentary on Delhi society. This slight book is wonderful on the interplay of class, just stopping short of the larger book she must deliver one day (‘The Real Deal’, 4 August).
WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES
by Karen Joy Fowler
How could the tale of a girl who was brought up with a chimpanzee as her sibling turn into something significant? Fowler took that kind of risk with this raw, powerful story, lifted by its singular heroine (‘The Booker Shortlist’, 20 October).
HOW TO BUILD A GIRL
by Caitlin Moran
Here is one of those books that is already a movie as you read it. But even at its most shouty, Moran’s novel both celebrates and elegises British music subculture in a great big riot of a coming-of-age novel: pure fun (‘The International List’, 21 July).
MECCA: THE SACRED CITY
by Ziauddin Sardar
The scholar and critic is at his finest in this elegiac, comprehensive account of this holy city in its modern glory. Read it regardless of whether you know of the old Mecca or the new; Sardar is as an example of an academic in top form as journalist (‘The Reconfigured Utopia’, 6 October).
INDIANS AT HEROD’S GATE: A JERUSALEM TALE
by Navtej Sarna
A lovely, slight story of Indians in Jerusalem that fell between the cracks of history and was restored by a diplomat who sets out like Kapus´cin´ski after chance and forgotten stories (‘A Curious Tale from the Promised Land’, 13 October).
AND THEN ONE DAY: A MEMOIR
by Naseeruddin Shah
Indian cinema and theatre’s coolest enfant terrible has written a compelling account of the early life and times of a thespian: good, old-fashioned storytelling from an entertainer (‘The Big Bad Shah’, 22 September).
MY SALINGER YEAR
by Joanna Rakoff
An elegant, crisply written memoir from the decadent world of old school publishing, this small and rather self-deprecating tale is full of urban myths from New York publishing (‘The International List’, 21 July).
by KR Meera
What is arguably the most memorable novel of the year comes to us from Bengal via Kerala. One of Malayalam’s leading contemporary voices, KR Meera, delivers a contemporary classic through the dense, almost cloying narration of a woman who inherits the vocation of hangman, pitting her against the media. Her expression of the idea of India is more powerful than that of any ‘big’ book (‘The Executioner’s Song’, 21 July).
THE CHILDREN ACT
by Ian McEwan
A remarkable book from the master storyteller, this tale of a woman judge and the remorseless nature of modern justice gives us a great writer at the height of his powers, just when we thought he was beginning to let us down (‘I Feel Like the Same Person. The World Has Changed’, 15 September).
by Atul Gawande
Even if you dreaded reading ‘that book about death’, as it came to be known, Gawande’s authoritative treatise helps us prepare for the end. Powerful even if slightly repetitive, the author’s empathetic voice is a must for us mortal souls (‘Courage in the Face of Death’, 20 October).
A CURIOUS CAREER
by Lynn Barber
Veteran British journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir about interviewing celebrities is full of wisdom and fun. Her candour and graceful wit have always been admirable, and here, from Tracey Emin to Salvador Dalí, she shines (‘The International List’, 8 September).
2014 BOOKS REVIEW: EDITOR'S CHOICE
2014 BOOKS REVIEW: OPEN reviewers on their favourites