A Year in Books, What I Read in 2014.

Well there has been far too much silence here of late but it has been a busy year!

I moved to another country, I got married and I started my Masters degree, but I am back and am going to update you on my reading for the last year.

I won’t cover everything as there was a lot, but high’s and low’s of my personal and academic reading.

The Lows

Right lets start with the bad news, and please remember this is my personal view, I understand that many of the books I love, will not be universally loved and many I hate will be lauded and awarded and praised for many years!  So sorry if you don’t agree with my thoughts!

Ian McEwan – Atonement

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I said it would be the year that I reattempted Ian McEwan, I had previously read, and hated On Chesil Beach. This year’s book was Atonement.  I promised to read it and it was a set text for one of my courses.  It did not disappoint, it was as bad as I had anticipated.  Some in my class called it genius, the voice of our generation in literature, I bloody hope not, if so our voice is boring as hell and could put you to sleep!  I really hope we have better than that! Plus my copy had Keira Knightley on the cover, enough to put any one off before they begin.

Zadie Smith – On Beauty

Another voice of our generation, again not for me!  The liberal arts pretension that she is highlighting seems to be reflected so deeply within the text.  The book is supposed to be approachable, but many I know who are not academics would not understand what Smith was trying to do here.  If they have not read Howard’s End they would miss so much and without an understanding of the academic world she is somewhat lauding it would give nothing.  I enjoyed the characterisation but it was too pretensions for me.

The Surprises

Most of my surprises this year have been positive, there have been books in the past that I have expected a lot of and been let down, thankfully this was not something I experienced this year!

Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey

I had read other Austen and enjoyed it, but this was one I had never really heard a lot about and so never really thought about reading.  It was actually one of her first written novels and it shows, it is less polished but it is very funny and you can see the building blocks on which she later built her name.  I really enjoyed the comedy and satire presented here and what I felt was a loving mocking of the gothic novel.

Anne Bronte – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Again much as the Austen novel, I had read the other sisters but had never heard much of or considered reading Anne’s novel and it was a big surprise! I loved the feminism on show here and that the strongest character was the female who, surprisingly for the era was taking charge of her own life despite the problems this would create for her due to the laws and beliefs of the time.

Ben Aaronovitch – The River’s of London and Sequels

This was my biggest surprise of the year.  I had zero preconceptions.  I had never even heard of the genre Urban Fantasy but they were in the sale so I gave them a go. They are obviously not going to be classics and the sex scenes/sexual references I personally found pretty cringe worthy but I enjoyed these a lot! I liked the characters and the narratives and upon finishing one I looked forward to the next. I actually liked the mix of modern urban with fantasy instead of a fully fantasy world. For a bit of light reading I’d recommend them.

The Highlights

One is a perennial classic, the other two were new to me but I feel like I will be recommending them for a long time to come!

Michel Faber – Under The Skin

This was read for a class, and again no preconceptions, I didn’t know the author and hadn’t heard of the book. This was a close one, it was almost my book of the year. I loved the characterisation, the allegorical readings possible and just generally enjoyed the narrative. It’s pretty graphic in parts, both the events and some of the language, but hey we are in deep dark Scotland here so you can’t be too shocked! And for all of the graphic scenes, they didn’t feel unnecessary, they were all needed. The reason it’s my number 2, the ending, don’t come to this for the ending, getting there is a great ride but it was all over a bit quickly and a bit disappointingly, but don’t let that put you off. Well worth the read.

Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

I had heard of both the book and author but read nothing and I loved this. Yet another touted voice of a generation and if this was the one I’d be happy. The voice is the triumph here, Kathy B is so perfectly characterised. The whole thing is well written, and Ishiguro certainly deserves his position as the go to author of first person narrative. Read this!

Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol

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An old one but a good one! I read it every Christmas, the tone is so wonderful for me. The ghosts the best antidote to all the Christmas cheer and so perfect for a wet, cold, dark month like December. Not a lot more to be said. Classics are classics for a reason.

My Favourite Read of the Year

AND THE WINNER IS!!!

Neil Gaiman – The Ocean At The End of The Lane

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This book, almost, almost, usurped the wonderful Margaret Atwood as my all time favourite author and she has been there a long time.
Gaiman’s world, his narrative, the vivid images just amazing. And it’s only a novella so you can read it in an afternoon. It for me is one of those rare books that I wish I hadn’t discovered yet so I could experience it for the first time again.
Most definitely an addition to my read over and over again.
Honestly the imagery this book creates is astonishing, it’s so well written and perfectly visualised that I will never forget the images created in my mind.  Describing them makes no sense, a blanket monster, a worm in a foot, the ocean in a bucket, and that is just testament to Gaiman’s writing, honestly I cannot praise this story enough!
I think I will be recommending this one for a good few years to come! Well worth the few hours it takes to read, just make sure you have a few simultaneous hours free because you won’t want to put it down, I promise!

The Year Ahead

I have a lot of reading for my classes, and a lot of Christmas books, and things that have been on my list for a while, any recommendations of what should make my 2015 reading list?