Best of 2014: Books

Arifa Akbar picks this year’s must-read book releases


Down to the Sea in Ships by Horatio Clare

Travel writer Horatio Clare’s romantic prose in A Single Swallow made us fall in love with the swallow’s flight. Now he takes to the high seas to travel on cargo ships to witness the battle between man and the great waters. Chatto & Windus, January

On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee

The winner of the Hemingway Foundation/Pen Award, with a bestselling novel – Native Speaker – under his belt, Lee offers a provocative tale of a woman’s quest in a dystopian future America. Little, Brown, January

The Last Word by Hanif Kureishi

Juggling screenwriting with novels, Hanif Kureishi’s latest offering is billed as an outrageous, clever and very funny story of sex, lies and art. It revolves around an Indian-born writer in his autumnal years whose reputation is fast fading. Faber & Faber, February

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Following her international bestseller, Room, the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author now gives us a tale of intrigue and murder set during a heat-wave in the San Francisco of 1876. Expect Parisian circus stars, exotic dancers and eroticism. Picador, March

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

As a gritty crime writer from Scotland, this reworking of Jane Austen’s classic must be a challenge like no other for McDermid, but also one that will undoubtedly be worth waiting for. The writer is set to turn the gothic novel into a suspenseful thriller for teenagers, and vampires will apparently feature in there somewhere. HarperCollins, March

The Snowden Files: The True Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding

This highly-anticipated study by an award-winning investigative reporter will profile the man – and fugitive – responsible for the biggest leak in history, as well as those around him. Faber & Faber, April

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

A novel from the celebrated New York author in which the central character – an artist – conceals her female identity behind three male ‘fronts’. The story is told through evidence compiled following her death. As inventive in its telling as it is in its concept and subject matter. Sceptre, March

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The ever protean author of Cloud Atlas, among others, tells a characteristically colourful story of mortality, survival – and a cult of soul-decants – in which his female protagonist, living in the west of Ireland (where Mitchell himself lives), looks back at her life. Sceptre, September

The Paying Guest by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters follows up her 2009 creepy ghost story, The Little Stranger, by returning to her roots with this historical novel, set not in the Victorian era of Tipping the Velvet, but in 1920s London, where disillusioned ex-servicemen, impoverished widows and spinsters abound. Virago, Autumn 2014

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Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
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