Top five books of 2014
1. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, pictured, (Victoria University Press).
My top book. Okay, strictly speaking this is a 2013 book but, despite winning the Man Booker prize, it's not really been fêted. Yes, readers either love it or hate it, but it's a famous New Zealand book, youngest ever prizewinner, only her second novel, and she really knows how to write, so that's more than good enough.
2. White Ghosts, Yellow Peril by Stevan Eldred-Grigg (Otago University Press).
My runner-up. This history book covers the complicated, yet important relationship between New Zealand and China up to 1950. So everything readers thought they knew about it, and were wrong, told by a master historian who sets the record straight.
3. Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (Penguin Viking).
Its brilliance is in telling a story about an old woman with Alzheimer's from her point of view, alternating between total confusion and crystal clarity. The book combines superb human interest with a gradually unfolding mystery, told masterfully, and this is only Healey's debut.
4. The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith (Borough Press).
This historical novel set in late 1700s North Carolina about people caught up in the aftermath of the American War of Independence has a pedestrian title but the writing is the exact opposite. Here is sharp, insightful and delightfully flowing prose expounding a story that is complex and sad but ultimately hopeful.
5. The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (Michael Joseph).
Could've been a bog-standard novel plot: solo mum with struggling kid meets a friendly chap and romance ensues. But it's what Moyes did with it that made it special. Readers agreed: it spent weeks on the bestseller lists, so this is the populist choice.
- Waikato Times