Features / Five in Bloom

FIVE IN BLOOM: The Year That Was

by Juhi Singhal Karan

Here’s a list, there’s a list, everywhere there’s lists and more lists! In keeping with the tradition, we bring to you the best of the best, a meta-list if you will, of the best books of 2014, authored by none other than bloomers!

In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman

In the Light of What We Know is in the words of The New Yorker’s James Wood, “a novel unashamed by many varieties of knowledge—its characters talk, brilliantly, about mathematics, philosophy, exile and immigration, warfare, Wall Street and financial trading, contemporary geopolitics, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, English and American society, Islamic terrorism, Western paternalism, Oxford and Yale.” Zia Haider Rahman came to novel writing by way of investment banking and lawyering. The novel’s protagonist, Zafar, follows Rahman’s footsteps, from his humble beginnings—born in “a corner of that corner of the world—if a corner can have a corner,”—to his erudite journey through the elite corridors of the world. One of NPR’s Best Books of 2014, this “dazzling” debut was brought to life after Rahman was done seeking “in jobs things that jobs are not good at delivering.”

Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley

Tessa Hadley became a published writer at the age of 46. In her own words, “It took me a long time to come into my own authority. It can be very circuitous to find your way to what’s plain, what’s natural to you, the best forms for your mind.” The Wall Street Journal praised Clever Girl as “a steely, unsentimental paean to the muchness of ordinary life,” featuring the book in its list of Best Fiction of 2014. Of Stella, the 50 year old heroine, who’s recounting the story of her life through the course of the book, Hadley says, “Middle-age is just as interesting to live, but it’s harder to write than youth: so much of the adventuring has moved inside the person, there’s less outwardly to show.”

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not only one of Time magazine’s top 10 books of 2014 but is also, according to Lev Grossman, a book with “[S]ome of the best prose writing published this year.The New York Times concurs—it had called Whiskey Tango Foxtrot the “novel of the summer” with Dwight Garner saying that “Reading his [Shafer’s] prose is like popping a variant of the red pill in “The Matrix”: Everything gets a little crisper. The sunsets torch the horizon with increased fire.” Shafer, who wouldn’t mind being the novelist laureate for the USPS, took 7 years to write the novel that has “trace elements of DeLillo, of Pynchon, of Philip K. Dick, of the Hari Kunzru of Transmission, [and] of the Neal Stephenson of Cryptonomicon.”

The Other Language by Francesca Marciano

For Francesca Marciano writing, “gives meaning to the apparently insignificant, it illuminates the blind spots. It connects us.” Marciano, a screenwriter in her native Italian, found herself writing her first novel, Rules of the Wild, in English: “there are no witnesses if you write in another language.” The Other Language, her first collection of short stories, is one of Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2014 and “explore[s] relationships between men and women, the lure of fame, and the desire to escape one’s life.” According to Kirkus Reviews the stories feature “fully realized characters wistfully and beautifully captured through dialogue that is both pensive and poignant.”

Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish

Preparation for the Next Life, in the words of The New York Times’ Dwight Garner, has “[A]t its knotty core . . . perhaps the finest and most unsentimental love story of the new decade.” It follows characters who are usually overlooked as the dregs of society: a PTSD afflicted war veteran with a mind that is steadily crumbling, and an illegal Chinese Muslim immigrant woman. While Lish is still settling into his identity as a writer, he’s figured out that “[I]f Hemingway’s lesson is to write like you talk, the key part is to write how you yourself talk, not how Hemingway talks.” Lish’s story about, in his own words, “the sort of working-class people I’ve had in my life who don’t always have books that speak to them and who don’t always have authors interested in telling their stories” is one of Vanity Fair’s 11 best books of 2014.

Bloom Post End

Homepage image via Tune of the Day

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