[Year-End Issue: Critics' Picks]

Best of 2014: Books

Chuck Twardy

Call Me Burroughs: A Life, by Barry Miles This probably won’t make anyone else’s top-whatever lists, but it’s a fascinating and deeply detailed account of the Beat godfather’s peculiar and occasionally abhorrent life on literature’s countercultural fringe.

A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James A sometimes maddening but ultimately rewarding mélange of Jamaican voices, as ghetto gangsters on the periphery of Bob Marley’s world violently scrabble for pieces of North America’s drug trade.

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, by Ben Macintyre The story of how the charming Philby successfully penetrated the West’s Cold War intelligence inner sanctum by exploiting the inherent reluctance of the British upper class to distrust one of its own.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, by Michael Lewis Another swipe by the one-time Wall Street denizen at the hand that fed him, this time examining how greedy geeks and bankers turn stock-trading milliseconds into easy millions.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert The New Yorker staff writer’s look at the histories of extinctions on our planet—and an examination of the ways in which we’re bringing about the next one.

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