2014 A Year in Books

As 2014 draws to a close, it’s a good time to think back to all you’ve achieved in the previous year. One of mine is the amount of great (and not so great) literature I’ve managed to munch through over these 12 months (one of the pros of having a 90 minute round commute). Over the next two posts take a look of my year in books, a year of absolute favourites, and a few I wish I’d not wasted my time on!

List courtesy of my obsessive memory and Goodreads


The Ruby Slippers

I was lucky enough to preview this book pre-release through a publisher friend of mine. I love the film the Wizard of Oz so was quite intrigued by this book which focused on the iconic shoes as a central premise. This is the author’s first novel, but you’d never tell, and that is high praise indeed.

The Clocks by Agatha Christie

I have read near enough all of the Queen of Crime’s books, so 2014 was a closing-the-gaps year for all those I haven’t. This one featuring Poirot (my favourite fictional detective) was entertaining but forgettable.


Judy Garland: A Biography by Anne Edwards

While I am fully prepared to admit Edwards was ever so slightly biased in Judy Garland’s favour, making everyone else in her life from her husbands to her mother sound like money-grabbing monsters, if at least half of it’s true then she really led a heart-breaking life. I can’t watch a film of hers now without feeling a sense of guilt.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

A book that’s as epic as the nearly 4-hour long film, and provides much more depth to the story. The beauty of this book is all of the characters is as flawed as each other, yet are so likeable. One of my instant favourites.

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

A Marple mystery this time, set in the Caribbean (wouldn’t you know) and was lovely to read during a bleak February. Slight racism aside, (it’s very much of its time) this was an interesting mystery. but again not particularly memorable.


The Beautiful and Damned by F Scott Fitzgerald

My absolute favourite Fitzgerald novel. The tale of a self-destructive author who doesn’t know the value of a dollar and his catastrophic marriage to his shallow wife is painfully close to being autobiographic, and reads beautifully for it.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Mr Galbraith (cough J K Rowling cough) certainly can tell a fantastic crime story! I finished this in day I was so hooked. I am having some trouble warming up to the main character; Cormoran Strike seems interesting, just not too likeable. But this may well be a book series I read religiously, much like Harry Potter (hmm, not sure why I made that comparison…)

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

This short book tells us everything we can be certain we know about William Shakespeare… which is why it’s so short. I never knew how little we knew about this great writer till I read this, we don’t even know what the first play he wrote was!

Happy Like Murderers by Gordon Burn

Not too sure why I picked up this grisly non-fiction book about the serial killers Fred and Rosemary West, but I couldn’t put it down once I had. Uncomfortable reading but it gave the facts without being too gory or demonising.


Someone Like You by Roald Dahl

As an absolute fanatic of all things Dahl I left reading this collection of ‘adult’ stories embarrassingly late. Once I got over the uncomfortable feeling of ‘Mr Dahl talking about naughty things’, I really enjoyed these twisted tales. I’d expect nothing else, after all even his children’s stories are pretty dark reading.

Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

Just because I read every Agatha Christie I can possibly find at my local charity shop, that doesn’t mean I’m not discerning. This was definitely not one of her best, (although it was nowhere near the worst, see next week’s post!).

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I devoured this book in a few days while on holiday, but it wasn’t much of a holiday for my poor husband who had to put up with me screaming questions and exclamations into its pages the whole time. If you don’t take it too seriously (it seems to have sparked some conversations about feminism in the media, but what doesn’t these days?) this is a cracking light read.

The Mousetrap and other plays by Agatha Christie

Now these Christie stories I liked! After seeing The Mousetrap a few years back, I loved revisiting it in play form, as well the play versions of some of her well known books such as The Hollow. It’s impressive how she simplify her convoluted stories into a few acts.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

I really wanted to like this book, I really did. I so enjoyed Atonement and everyone raves about McEwan so I tried this, as the second most well-known of his books. After a promising start, it just descended into silliness. I decided to give him one more chance though…


High Rising by Angela Thirkell

I judged this book solely on its cover, (a gorgeous simple painting of a woman in 1930s dress) and despite what they say, it worked! A lovely gentle read very much of its era. Nothing too challenging, and a very Austen-esque story, perfect for a warm day in the park.

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

Nothing to write home about, but I’ll try. Average story, a few interesting insights into 1930s circuses, some not particularly fleshed-out characters, and the animal cruelty made me skim-read the paragraphs in discomfort. Absolutely laughable ending though, and not in the good way.

The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

Sorry Ian, this was your last chance! Amsterdam at least started well; this book however was confusing and tedious right from the start. I struggled to finish it despite its short length. I now see Atonement as the rare exception to your terrible writing rule, and even that was flawed.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I rarely read this sort of story, (although I did enjoy Stardust), but it was on offer for 99p in Waitrose (of all places) so I’d be stupid not to read it! Quite a beautiful story, but not enough to turn me on to read any more Gaiman.

The Human Story: Where We Come From and How We Evolved by Charles Lockwood

I picked this up at the gift shop after seeing the Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition at the Natural History Museum Fascinating succinct read covering our evolutionary progress from our very first ancestors. Great as an overview but not much depth, but to fair it’s probably all the depth that I could handle!


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I get the feeling I may ruffle a few feathers here, but I believe S and S is far better than Pride and Prejudice (which, embarrassing confession time, took me three attempts to even finish). The characters feel a bit more well-rounded and the story feels far more entertaining. Emma is still my favourite Austen novel though and I will fight anyone who says different (or, more likely, have an interesting discussion with them in the comments).

A Portrait of Jane Austen by David Cecil

On a bit of Austen binge this month! Jane Austen, by anyone’s definition, did not lead a very stimulating life. None-the-less this book, through her letters and family history, gives a real insight about the context in which she grew up, and makes you read her novels with a whole new understanding.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I think I enjoyed thinking about the premise of this book more than I enjoyed reading the book itself. I absolutely couldn’t bear living in a world where censorship is so strict we burned any book that could be offensive or created negative thoughts. However I believe nowadays, especially with the help of the internet, people will always find a way to express themselves.

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Moran’s how-to guide on everything female. While I didn’t agree with everything she said (nobody has ever satisfactorily explained any difference between stripping and burlesque to me) I did enjoy this book. The content was so confessional and the style so informal, it left me convinced we were now best friends, and I could just call her up for a chat.

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Let’s get the obvious out the way - yes, I sobbed like a little girl at the end of this book. A story about two teens who meet at a cancer support group is never going to end well, and it was emotional while I was reading it. But unlike other sad stories it didn’t stay with me afterwards and I instantly forgot it, sorry!

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Fantastic story, and definitely, in my view, very close to what would happen in real life, Golding obviously knows children very well! If you’ve seen the Simpsons episode ‘Das Bus’ then you know the story.

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

I don’t particularly do well with the stream-of-consciousness style writing that Woolf is famous for, so I didn’t really enjoy this as a story. I can however appreciate that the style, while not for me, is beautiful when done well and I’m happy to revisit this again when I may get more out of it.

Phew, and we’re only halfway through! As a reward for reading this far, go enjoy the rest of your Christmas break and I’ll be back next week with the second half of my year in books.

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