First Book of 2015

You know how some mornings you wake up with what you think is a brilliant idea?. Some weeks ago I thought it would be interesting to get a sense of what all my blogging friends are reading on day 1 of the New Year. Opening my computer later that day however it was to discover that the idea was such a good one, it had already been taken. Sheila at Book Journey beat me to it with her First Book of the Year 2015 feature. What else could I do but join in graciously?

bookertalkThe book I chose  to take across the threshold from 2014 to 2015 combines my interest in writers from outside the British/American literary canon and a determination to keep the ethos of the public library alive.

In the Light of What We Know by the Bangladesh-born author Zia Haider Rahmen is a story of a bond between two men who met as students and remained close until one of them, Zafar, disappeared in mysterious circumstances. One September morning in 2008 Zafar turns up unannounced and dishevelled, at the doorstep of his former friend and begins to reveal just what’s happened to him in the intervening years.

Rahmen has been gathering much critical acclaim since his novel was published early in  2014. Some reviewers likened it to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, others to Grahame Greene’s novels of dislocation. The Guardian newspaper reviewer called it “epic and intensely moving”; the New Yorker described it as “a dazzling, astonishment achievement”  and the Daily Telegraph picked it as one of the best books of the year, shortly after the judges of the Folio Prize long listed the novel for the 2015 award. The more I read about this book, the more I wanted to get to read it myself.

Fortunately my reserve in the library came through just in time. Having spent much of the last five months campaigning to keep our small local library open (the battle is still ongoing) I am trying to use the service as much as I can. It therefore seemed highly appropriate to make my first book of the year one that I acquired via the library service.

What’s your first book of 2015?

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on January 1, 2015, in Bangladeshi authors, world literature and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 68 Comments.

  1. That sounds like a very good but possibly heavygoing book? But then my choice was deliberately on the light and fluffy side: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. I was full of cold and we had lots of visitors coming and going, so I knew I needed something I could pick up and put down a lot. I think it worked out, as I enjoyed it despite all the interruptions.

    Belated happy 2015!

  2. This sounds like a good book. Wonderful picture! Oh, I hope your library is able to stay open! I’m a library clerk at our small-town library and use it as often as I can. The one in my little town that I live in closed many years ago, and I still miss it dearly. The library has so many wonderful resources!

    My first book of the year post is here:

    • I suppose having lost one library you’re even more inclined to hang onto the one you still have Brooke. Thanks for your good wishes – keep your fingers crossed for us

  3. What a fun topic! I started What Matters in Jane Austen before the New Year and I’m slowly making my way through it. Looks like I’ll be reading quite a it of non-fiction this year. Happy New Year!!

  4. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. It was a slow start but once I got into it I found that I was completely absorbed into the world she’d created. I’m hoping it’s a sign that 2015 will be a great reading year for me!

    Here’s hoping 2015 is the year your library starts to thrive again!

  5. Happy New Year and enjoy reading your first book of 2015!!

  6. I hope that your library is able to stay open. We are blessed to have two thriving libraries near me. Happy New Year.

    • Hang onto them Nise – I know local authorities are arguing that with e readers etc, borrowing patters are changing and libraries need to change accordingly but not everyone has an e reader. Especially elderly people who tend to be big users

  7. I began the year with the Bible, as I always do. This year, I’m planning on reading the Chronological Bible in One Year. As for fiction, I’m carrying on with Volume Two of Ferrante’s trilogy. Wonderful books!

    • So many articles recently about Ferrante – and many positive reviews about her latest novel so if you like volume 2 at least you know you don’t have to wait long for number three

  8. Great minds think alike, they say. Looks like a good book and I like your photo!

  9. I have quite a few books I have carried over into 2015, but one I just started yesterday is This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. I had In Light of What We Know from the library in October and only managed 30 pages before I had to turn it back in. I plan on trying again in 2015. Happy New Year!

    • Isn’t it irritating when that happens Stefanie. I had the same experience with Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt last year. I was desperately trying to read it while I was in the hairdressers but the stylist kept insisting on talking. Grrrr

  10. This sounds fascinating and touches on topics I know very little about. Hope you enjoy it! Fantastic that the library came through just in time. Have a happy New Year!

  11. Well I’m between 2 books: Palace Walk which I started in Dec. of last year and got side tracked from and starting The Appointment by Herta Müller.

  12. As always, I’m reading more than one, but the one I’m enjoying most is a re-read of Roth’s ‘American Pastoral’. I remember thinking highly of it first time round many years ago, but this time I’m really loving it so far – perhaps my increased age is helping me to empathise more fully with the characters…

    • I had a similar experience with re-reading Grahame Greene. I enjoyed Heart of the Matter when I first read it but that was about 30 years ago. Re-reading it last year it was even more powerful

  13. That sounds like a wonderful book!

  14. You have a lovely way of writing, covering beginning to conclusion. Hau’oli Makahiki Hou to you.

  15. Falling out or time by David Grossman a poetic book of voices from Israeli

  16. Very graciously done, indeed! Your book choice sounds fantastic and I am adding it to my TBR list! Happy New Year, and keep fighting the good library fight!

    • Thanks for the lovely comment Laurie – I just noticed that this book came up on the NPR choice of best reads in 2014 so word does seem to be getting around

  17. Sounds quite interesting, and it looks like a chunkster. 🙂

    Nice blog…I love finding new blogs. Going to look around and follow if I can.

    ENJOY your first day of reading in 2015.

    Happy New Year!!

    Silver’s Reviews

  18. Sounds like a book full of diversity, it’s great that it came through at the library for you in time.

  19. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    This sounds fascinating. I have something altogether different to start off the year: Alias Hook, a reimagining of Peter Pan from the villain’s point of view. I’m also reading How To Be a Heroine, a wonderful literary memoir. I’m also giving up the library for one month in order to read off my own shelves, but happily my library is in very good shape and won’t notice my temporary defection. : ) I hope that your campaign is successful.

  20. I chose something light, a mystery: The Cinderella Murder, by Mary Higgins Clark. I like the look of your choice, and the blurb piqued my interest. Enjoy, and good luck with the library campaign.

    Here’s my “FIRST BOOK OF 2015”

  21. The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith. I want to see the film but decided to read the book first, and that was months ago. Seeing the NY approaching, I decided it was time.

  22. Happy New Year! 🙂

    I’d love to read your review of this book and then decide if I would like to try it. I think my first book of 2015 is going to be the first book of the Lord of the Rings. I’ve been dying to re-read it for ages, and having recently acquired my slip-case edition I though I would break it in now. 😀

    • thats one series I just can’t get into. Practically everyone I was at university with decades ago was into Tolkein and I was totally perplexed why. Eventually I worked out that its because its based on the premise that animals can talk…

      • Animals can talk? I can’t recall any talking animals…except for a crow in The Hobbit, and I think that was just an anomaly in Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

        I was first drawn to Tolkien because of this fascinating creature called the hobbit, and then there were the dwarves and the wizards and the elves. I love high fantasy, so I was easily hooked by Tolkien. Later on I was amazed at how detailed his world was, with its languages and history of the races. There’s nothing like it in literature (I think). Tolkien was a phonologist and was fascinated by languages. He had wanted to create languages of his own. But he needed a setting, a background for them, and so he created Middle-earth – its peoples, its cultures, its history, its creation. I think when these ideas began to form in his mind, he decided that England needed a mythology of its own, having dwelt so much on European mythology for centuries. Even the legend of Arthur does not belong to England but to Wales. He draws a great deal of inspiration from Scandinavian mythology and languages. Truly, I think Tolkien is amazing! 🙂

        • You’re right – they are not animals strictly, I guess I was responding more to the fact they are not humans. i like my fiction to be grounded in reality. I think I read somewhere that the trilogy is a metaphor but i can’t recall of what..

  23. Happy 2015! My first book of the year will be Americanah. I’ve been wanting to read that for a while. I also just started The Humans by Matt Haig — lighter reading so that one will probably be my first one finished.

  24. Great first book choice! So glad you joined in, I have the collage up now 🙂 Happy New Year!

  25. Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2015! The book sounds amazing, as do your efforts to keep your library open.

    • today was the last day for the formal consultation. we’ve done all we can now until a decision is made – if it goes against us we have to decide whether to mount a legal challenge

  26. My first book in 2015 will be ‘There Must be Some Mistake’ by Frederick Barthelme which has a main character described as ‘a sly wit who embraces life fully even while knee deep in our dreary cultural junk’.

  27. Now that looks like an interesting start BookerTalk, your bridge the years choice.

    My book is Sarah Waters The Paying Guests, which I ended up surrendering to, following some mixed reviews, after Cleopatralovesbooks recommended it .

    I don’t think (3/4 way in) it touches what for me are her two finest, Affinity and Fingersmith but it is certainly way better than her Second World War set one, which is the last I read from her, which I found too much as if she had settled into a groove with her writing. It will for sure be a 4 star, and therefore make it to my blog, though the next scheduled post will be one from last year, which I finished earlier, and needed to take time to really think about and disentangle from – another Booker entry, not sure if long or short list, Richard Powers’ Orfeo, a book which mingles classical music, genetics, philosophy, American culture from the 60s to present, and the picking apart of romantic, parental, and friendship relationships. This felt like a book with my name on the cover, in terms of the music, metaphysical, scientific subject matter, and has sent me right back to attentive focused musical listening

    I’m also, as well as the Waters, working my way through a factual book (in real book form) which is stunningly illustrated, helping viewers to ‘read’ modern art more clearly

    • I was following Cleopatra’s review of Waters with interest too because of the many mixed reviews I’d seen. Still undecided whether to read it – I have so many other options that I’m reluctant to read something that could turn out just so-so. Whats the name of the book on modern art? I’m trying to get more confident about responding to paintings.

  28. I stepped into 2015 with Mark Slouka’s Essays From the Nick of Time. Rereading Sense and Sensibility is what’s up next – I’m very anxious to start, I must say.

    Happy New Year!

  29. My first book of the year is The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, although I technically started it in December. I wish you luck with your campaign – I think local libraries are immensely important in promoting literacy and literature to all ages.

    • That’s a wonderful book that I remember reading one holiday years ago in Malaysia. It felt very odd to be sitting looking at hills covered with tree plantations and to be reading something set in the arid mountains of Spain. Hope you enjoy it. The film is pretty good too

  30. I am late for this bandwagon but Gone Girl is next on my list. I must be one of the few people in the world that hasn’t read it yet.

  31. I’m going hyper-local and reading “deeds not words” by Katherine D’Souza who lives in and sets stories in Birmingham – the main character’s grandmother lives in the same part of Birmingham I do!

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