Sunday, 4 January 2015

2014: A year in books

Best Book You Read in 2014. If you need to cheat you can break this down by genre.
Of course I need to break this down! Impossible to narrow down otherwise (and pretty bloody difficult even now). So...
Contemporary fiction: A Song For Issy Bradley. This story of a Mormon family in mourning for youngest daughter Issy was brilliantly written. Each character comes alive on the page, each has a distinct voice in their point-of-view chapters, from teenage Al, constantly needling Ian about his Mormon teachings, to seven year old Jacob, who believes in miracles and is just waiting for one to happen. Fascinating, too, are the insights into the Mormon religion, and the ways in which their faith both helps and hinders them as they struggle to recover from Issy's death.

YA fiction: The excellent Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I fell hard for all the characters, who are so well realised that they felt like friends by the end of the book, but especially heroine Cath, a writer of fan fiction who is trying to navigate her first year at college without her identical twin sister.

Crime fiction: Sneaking in during the last days of 2014, I absolutely loved Sophie Hannah's new Hercule Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders. Full of the brilliant deductions and period details you'd except from Poirot, plus the dry wit of the originals.

Non-fiction: How To Be A Heroine was the most wonderful evocation of what it means to be a girl and woman who loves books. I adored it.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t

I awaited the release of the final Tales Of The City novel, The Days Of Anna Madrigal, with baited breath: sadly, it wasn't as perfect as I wanted it to be.

Most Surprising (In A Good Way) Book of 2014

After reading Val McDermid's reworked Northanger Abbey and really not enjoying it, I was pleasantly surprised by Joanna Trollope's Sense & Sensibility. 

Book You Read in 2014 That You Recommended to People Most.

I think probably Fangirl, although I've fangirled (sorry) about so many books this year - I think all of the ones I'm mentioning here have been recommended multiple times.

Best Series You Discovered in 2014

I've liked all of Louise Welsh's novels, but A Lovely Way To Burn is definitely her best so far and - oh happy days - is the first in a series. I loved the idea of a murder mystery set against the backdrop of a mysterious virus that has Londoners dropping dead (and reading it in 2014, with Ebola panic in the media, felt particularly relevant). Protagonist Stevie is believably flawed and Welsh convincingly - and chillingly - portrays a society crumbling in the face of fever, death and chaos.

Favourite New Author You Discovered in 2014

I discovered Sarah Moss thanks to a review on What Hannah Read and am very glad I did: I devoured her first two novels this summer and am eagerly anticipating reading her new one, Bodies Of Light, as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

Best Book That Was Out of Your Comfort Zone Or Was A New Genre For You

Economics & politics journalist Paul Mason's superb book, Why It's Still Kicking Off Everywhere, was a fantastic look at the uprisings and protests that have marked the post-recession global climate.

Book You Read in 2014 That You're Most Likely to Reread Again Next Year
I adored My True Love Gave To Me, a collection of festive YA romance short stories, and will no doubt re-read it over Christmas 2015.

Favourite Cover of A Book You Read in 2014

How To Be A Heroine has the most gorgeous cover - and the book itself is amazing too.

Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2014

There's so many I could mention here, but I'll go for Mrs Hemingway, which I read over a couple of sun-soaked days in July. The stories of the four women who married Ernest Hemingway, the author's description of place was astounding: I felt as if I could see and smell every detail of a lush Florida Keys garden, the Antibes in the roaring Twenties, and 1940s Paris at the end of the Occupation.

Book That Had the Greatest Impact On You in 2014

Two books by Laurie Penny, Unspeakable Things and Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism. Both full of righteous anger and a desire for change, Penny's work can be uncomfortable but is nevertheless essential and exciting reading for anyone interested in leftist or feminist politics.

Book You Can't Believe You Waited UNTIL 2014 To Finally Read

Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child, which I picked up from a Book Crossing point and absolutely loved.

Shortest & Longest Book You Read in 2014

Shortest, at just 40 pages, was Audrey Niffenegger's graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile.
Longest, with 1045 pages, was A Dance With Dragons, the last (so far) in the A Song Of Ice & Fire series. A fantastic read, but rather hard on the wrist when reading the hardback edition.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The ending of E Lockhart's brilliant We Were Liars: I shouted "No!" and then burst into tears.

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2014 (be it romantic, friendship, etc)

Cath & Levi in Fangirl. If you've read it, you'll know why: if you haven't read it, you really should cos it's ace.

Most Memorable Character In A Book You Read In 2014

Oh gosh, too many to mention, but Agnes from Burial Rites and Jack and Mabel in The Snow Child particularly stand out.

Favourite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You've Read Previously

Gossip From The Forest by Sara Maitland is a wonderful book about fairy tales, forests and folk traditions.

Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else

I didn't think Love, Nina - a collection of letters written in the 1980s by London nanny Nina Stibbe - would be at all my thing, but when I read a glowing review of it on a blog I decided to check it out. And it's wonderful! So glad I overcame my prejudices.

Genre You Read The Most From in 2014

I'm too lazy to do the maths, but from a quick glance through my ...Reads posts it looks like crime/thrillers might just take the crown.

Best 2014 debut

The Miniaturist has won all sorts of accolades and they are richly deserved. There is so much that's great about this novel: the sense of secrets bubbling under the surface, the tension in the household as Nella attempts to assert her authority as head of the house, and especially the vivid descriptions of 17th Century Amsterdam and the way in which Burton precisely pins down the Dutch national character. It's hard to believe it's Jessie Burton's first novel.

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2014

Hyperbole And A Half had me howling with laughter. This collection of Ally Brosh's cartoons is just about the funniest thing I've ever read.

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014

Oh gosh, probably loads of them - I'm a crier - but most definitely We Were Liars.

Book You Read in 2014 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out

I'm going to go with A Song For Issy Bradley again - I was sad to see it missing from most end-of-year round-ups, as it's just brilliant.

Total number of books read in 2014

127. My target was 100, so I'm pretty pleased with that.


  1. Ah Janet, your total puts my own completed books tally to shame! There's lots here that I've not heard of so I'm book marking (sorry) this for later. Laurie penny ones sound particularly good.

    1. Yes, definitely recommend all of Laurie Penny's books - they're quick reading too, which is good as I often find non-fiction a bit of a slog.

  2. This has been bookmarked to aid my future book purchasing! I had a similar reaction to the end of We Were Liars... Such a great book. X

    1. It really is - I'm amazed at how well the author makes her characters sympathetic, as in both We Were Liars and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, she's writing about very wealthy, privileged people who usually would get my back up.

  3. Holy moly, so many books! I thought I was doing well with my 42 books in 2014. Now I'm wondering what I've been doing with my life.

    Have seen so so much of Fangirl over blogs and Twitter in the last year. YA is not normally a genre that I venture near but if so many people are talking about it, it might be time to venture near it...

    1. 42 is pretty brilliant when you don't have long school holidays in which to read, I reckon.