I’ve read a grand total of 64 books this year – I’m rounding out my top picks with 21 of them. Here’s to 2014 and a year of amazing books! I’m also pleased to say that it’s almost exclusively women on my list!
Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
This lady redefined YA for me. This book is devastating and wonderful in equal measure and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a long time. It’s a love story at its heart but it’s also so much MORE. I was lucky to see her in real life in London and she’s bloody fantastic.
Longbourn – Jo Baker
I love Pride & Prejudice. It’s my favourite Jane Austen novel (I can’t wait for Curtis Sittenfeld’s reimagining next year) and this is P&P reimagined from the servants point of view. Beautiful writing that captured a whole different side of Regency era England and still wonderful to see the characters from P&P pop up here and there.
The Engagements – J Courtney Sullivan
This lady is one of my favourite contemporary writers. Centering on an engagement ring from 1946 to 2012, it charters an all manner of relationships and proposals. Great, ambitious stuff.
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
In a word: wow. I was enraptured by this novel. Atmospheric and fantastically written, it kept me gripped until the end. Despite the fairly maudlin (true story) subject matter, it’s tackled with a steady and sure grace.
Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
If you haven’t read this yet, then do! It follows a world ravaged by an airborne flu and what’s left afterwards. It’s dystopian fiction, yes, which might not be your first choice but it is so much more than that, almost every principal character’s life is intertwined in the most brilliant of ways. Truly excellent.
The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty
Can’t have my top books without including this. Following a heartbreaking secret kept under lock and key for years, it packs a massive punch and the twists keep on coming. Moriarty’s breakout novel (all her others are also fantastic) and it’s commercial fiction at its very best. A true masterclass.
The Fever – Megan Abbott
Dizzying, feverish prose which I whipped through. Concentrating on a mysterious hysteria that young women are falling plague to, we follow Deenie, her brother and her father as they navigate their life in the midst of it. I read three of her most recent novels in very quick succession and she just keeps getting better and better.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
After I read this one I was giddy. I wanted to talk about it and recommend it to everyone. In a year of truly outstanding books, this stood out from the crowd and was something exceptional.
The Secret Place – Tana French
The 5th title from the genius that is Tana French. (Yes, I may be biased.) She’s unrivalled in the suspense stakes and this, which investigates a murder in a girl’s boarding school in Dublin, is her best yet. Spellbinding.
We Were Liars – E Lockhart
The subject matter at the heart of this YA novel is endlessly fascinating to me. The story revolves around 17-year-old Cadence and the mysterious accident that befell her two summers previously. It’s sharp, smart and the prose blisters off the page until the very end. It will stay with you for some time.
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
I feel like the novel hasn’t got the recognition it so deserves. Every word is so crisp and clear in this book which tackles the death of a much loved daughter in a mixed race family in 1970s America. Devastating but real perfection.
Shotgun Lovesongs – Nickolas Butler
This is a big novel full of heart. Centering around four friends reuniting for a wedding, it charters the murky waters of friendship and what that really means. I had Bon Iver in my mind as I was reading as it’s set deep in the Midwest and it was like reading in your duvet. I can’t wait for Butler’s second novel.
The Ten Things I Learnt Above Love – Sarah Butler
Stunning debut novel revolving around a woman who returns from travelling, back to London, to see her ailing father and a homeless man searching for his daughter. Heart wrenching and poignant, this is an author to watch.
Mrs Hemingway – Naomi Wood
I raved about this as soon as I finished. I love this time period and find the characters that are so effortlessly written about and imagined, endlessly fascinating. This is graceful, exquisite and elegant.
Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham
In recent months, Dunham has received incredible amounts of flak for her book which has perhaps done her a disservice. I had the pleasure of seeing her in conversation with Caitlin Moran at the Southbank and promptly fell in love with her. Her book is written, at times, with painful and cringy honesty but you feel her heart, right there, poured onto the page.
Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay
I got this for Christmas, having wanted it since it was published, and finished it in a day. Gay is whipsmart and she writes with such a honesty I found myself nodding along to everything she was saying. Although I don’t agree with everything she says, she’s captivating.
My Salinger Year – Joanna Rakoff
This, I think, was my surprise breakout book of 2014. A memoir set in 1996 chronicling Rakoff’s first job out of college at a top literary agency in New York. It’s fascinating and delicately written, I gobbled it up. (I think I also found it interesting given my own chosen profession.)
Not My Father’s Son – Alan Cumming
This is a brilliant memoir covering a difficult time for Cumming in 2010 when he was taking part in Who Do You Think You Are? and struggling with some personal news from his father. Flashing back to his childhood and to present day, it’s poignant, electrifying and read beautifully by Cumming himself.
American Wife – Curtis Sittenfeld
The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer