A Year in Books: 2014

I feel like I’ve been putting this post together for some time because I’ve been finding it very difficult to decide on my favourite books I’ve read this year. 2014 has been a good reading year for me. Part of this, I think, is still the feeling of freedom I have being away from school/university reading lists. The other reason is that I started blogging, and I’ve never been exposed to as many brilliant books as I have now. I touched on this in my How I Choose Books post, but it is reading reviews on book blogs and getting recommendations from you in the comments that means I rarely read a book I don’t enjoy in some way anymore. Which makes putting a list like this together very difficult! But it’s certainly a good position to be in.

You can see a list of the books I’ve read this year here. It was only when looking at this list that I realised how difficult it’s going to be choosing my favourites. But here’s my ‘shortlist’ (click on the title to see my review):

All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld
Quiet – Susan Cain
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Detour – Gerbrand Bakker
Levels of Life – Julian Barnes
The Twin – Gerbrand Bakker
The Night Guest – Fiona McFarlane
The Still Point – Amy Sackville
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride
Orkney – Amy Sackville
He Wants – Alison Moore
Stoner – John Williams
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

To choose my favourite books, I’m basing the books on my feelings now, rather than only what I thought when I first reviewed them. I wrote positive reviews of all of the above books and my thoughts remain the same but, for me, a book is a favourite if it’s stayed with me. And all of the ones I’ve chosen have stayed with me for one reason or another, whether it’s the plot, characters, or the writing. I could have chosen all of the above as my favourites but here is my choice of favourite books read in 2014:

 

All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

I read this very early on in the year and, as a result, the details of the plot are hazy to me now. But what I do remember is the beautiful writing, the excellent characterisation, the original descriptions which vividly evoke the setting, and the sensory nature of the book. It’s a compelling novel that’s full of intrigue.

The Twin – Gerbrand Bakker

I could have easily included Bakker’s other novel The Detour in my final list of favourites, but I thought I’d just choose one. Bakker has a writing style that I very much enjoy – pared down and sparse, but atmospheric. The prose throughout this novel is restrained but I remember the huge amount of emotions which were simmering underneath this – the animosity, the desire, the hope. When I was deciding between the two of Bakker’s novels I read this year for my favourites list, it was the character of Helmer in The Twin which I found had stayed with me more than the characters in The Detour. He’s an interesting character who we see grow and change throughout the book until the novel’s poignant ending.

The Night Guest – Fiona McFarlane

This book has stayed with me since I read it this summer. I feel like I couldn’t stop talking about this book after I’d finished it. I love the character of Ruth, the unsettling moments which compel you to keep reading, the delicacy with which Fiona McFarlane writes about the subject of old age and memory, the way the book made me feel disorientated and unsure who to trust at times. This book is one at the top of my list to re-read – McFarlane’s writing is excellent.

He Wants – Alison Moore

Having now read two of Moore’s novels, I can safely say she is one of my favourite authors. He Wants showcases the same restrained and controlled prose that I loved in her first novel The Lighthouse. It’s a deceptively simple story which begs to be reread – in fact, I reread it straight after finishing, noticing more of the subtlety I’d missed before and the links between stories. It’s an assured novel with precise descriptions, a subtle humour, and confident prose which is a joy to read.

Stoner – John Williams

Stoner was a book I didn’t want to end; it was a book I savoured. The character of William Stoner got under my skin, I got so involved in his life and struggles and was so completely invested in him that I could have gone on reading about him for a lot longer. In some ways Stoner is such an unexpected hero and his life so quiet, but that made his victories and struggles even more poignant.

The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

I’ve read a couple of books since finishing The Luminaries and I’m still in awe of what Eleanor Catton has done with this novel. In some ways, I think it’s made reading my follow-up books difficult because I really didn’t want to leave this book behind. And this is one of the many strengths of this novel – even at 832 pages, I still could have read more. The novel is vast and complex, and Catton handles it all expertly. It’s a novel that I still think about and one that I definitely feel I need to reread.

 

So that’s it, my favourite books of 2014. Have you done a similar post to this? If so, please share the link! If not, do let me know what your favourite books of this year have been. Are any of our choices the same?

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This will probably be my last post of 2014 – I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, if you’re celebrating, and a Happy New Year! 🙂

 

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16 thoughts on “A Year in Books: 2014

  1. Wonderful!!

    Ah it’s a great feeling, isn’t it, to feel accomplished and relatively happy with the books you’ve enjoyed through the year! I haven’t heard of some of these titles, so this is a great recommendation! I’ll certainly be looking into these books. I’ve heard especially good things about Burial Rites, A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing and The Night Circus. Oh, and The Goldfinch also!

    Can’t wait to see what books you choose for the new year!!

    Gemma
    http://www.fadedwindmills.com

  2. I love looking through these lists, and it’s great to see The Luminaries and Gerbrand Bakker in your final six. Eleanor Catton’s amazing, isn’t she? I plan on reading The Rehearsal next year (hopefully as my next choice for my book group).

    I read Bakker’s The Detour and The Twin last year, and there’s something very compelling about the combination of the characters and his prose. Out of interest, which of the two novels did you read first? I started with The Detour, and Emilie is the character who still flits in and out of my mind from time to time. Both novels are excellent though, and I’m keen to see what Bakker does next.

    All the Birds, Singing was another one I read last year. Wyld’s prose is beautiful, quite visceral and vivid in a way.

    I’m still thinking about my end-of-year list so it’ll probably be January before I post it. Merry Christmas and all the best for 2015.

    • I’m planning on reading The Rehearsal next year too!

      Like you, I read The Detour first – it really was a close call which one of the two novels I included in my final list because, like you say, they are both excellent.

      Looking forward to seeing your list, Jacqui. Merry Christmas!

  3. Loved Burial Rites and The Luminaries (not so keen on The Goldfinch though!). I agree it’s the ones that stay with you that are the best in the longrun – I sometimes think I should do my ‘Best of…’ a year behind. Merry Christmas and have a great New Year! 🙂

  4. Loved your list Gemma. I will do some tops but I tend to wait until January to do it. I’ve read 5 on your list, 4 of them this year (and another one I know I’ll be reading next year with my reading group). At least two of yours will be on my list – Wyld and McBride, and Kent may make it too. I enjoyed Catton but not as much as you did clearly!

  5. Several of these books is on my current TBR list, so I’m glad to know that you liked them so much. I’m going to try and get my favorite books of 2014 posted on Friday. Hope you have a very Happy Christmas!

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