For a couple of weeks now I have been seeing lists appear, I confess I love reading them, but soon began to worry about compiling my own list. Something I always enjoy doing, and yet find more and more difficult, it seems unfair somehow to judge one book against another. Still for all that I have attempted to whittle the 131 books I read down to twelve favourites – books which have stayed with me blew me away – or just made for an amazing reading experience. Sometimes it is just about the right book at the right time, but that counts for me just as much.
Before I get to my big dozen, I have also decided to highlight three books actually published in 2014 – I don’t read as many new books as old books – only twenty one books of the 131 read in 2014 were published in 2014, so before I get to my favourite twelve of the year;
Three brilliant books published in 2014
1 Winter by Christopher Nicholson – a novel about the last years of Thomas Hardy, as a big Hardy fan it was a must for me and I loved it.
2 Wake by Anna Hope – a novel exploring the fractured lives of three women in the early 1920’s – women forever affected by that most terrible of all conflicts just a few years before. I could barely put it down.
3 H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald – Which was my penultimate book of the year, and one of just a few non-fiction reads of the year too. An absolutely wonderful blend of biography and nature writing I loved every word.
Then I realised that I also wanted to celebrate a few re-reads – which I don’t usually allow into my top twelve.
My top three re-reads – all of them big classics – but classics are classics for a reason, I give you:
1 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy (1896) ok yes it’s sad – but honestly it is also absolutely brilliant, endlessly readable, my second reading of this novel, it won’t be my last.
2 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (1857) – I had forgotten so much about this book and was blown away by its sheet brilliance and readability.
3 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins, (1860) utterly unputdownable, multiple narratives keep the plot moving along and the dastardly Count Fosco has to be one of the best villains in literature.
So yes, basically I’m cheating a little bit, because I have just read so many great books this year. In purely numerical terms – my stats are not quite as good as last year, in fact the last two or three years I think have seen a downward trend – hmm – something to do with blogging? I wonder.
Of course 2014 was also all about two big reading challenges; I read all twelve novels of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time, and joining in with some friends from the Librarything Virago group spent some time reading books from a list we compiled for The Great War theme read. I haven’t included any of the Powell books to my list – because really it is the entire Dance that is so remarkable and I didn’t feel able to pick out just one individual part of it for special mention.
So here – at last are my twelve favourite books I read in 2014.
1 A Willow Cabin – Pamela Frankau – (1949) I carried this novel with me for days after I finished it, and still can’t adequately say why I loved it so much, I just did.
2 Ambrose Holt and Family – Susan Glaspell, (1931) I struggled over which Susan Glaspell novel to add to this list, Brook Evans was my other choice, Ambrose Holt probably isn’t as fine a novel as Brook Evans – but something about it, right book right time, and two characters I really loved, meant I had to include it.
3 All Quiet on the Western Front – Eric Maria Ramarque, (1929) read for the Great War theme read, I was blown away by this beautifully written portrayal of war.
4 Testament of youth – Vera Brittain – (1933) anther non-fiction book again read for the Great War theme read, an unforgettable story of war, loss and friendship.
5 In the mountains – Elizabeth Von Arnim – (1920) a little known Von Arnim, which provided a timely reminder that I must read more by her, probably not her best novel, but I loved every word.
6 Not so Quiet – Helen Zenna Smith – (1930) Another Great War theme read – and a book about the women ambulance drivers of WW1 – a fairly uncompromising portrayal it deserves wider recognition.
7 Letters from Constance – Mary Hocking (1991) – I love Mary Hocking and read about four of her novels this year, I particularly liked the two women at the centre of this novel, which focuses on two women and their families over many years from girlhood to middle age.
8 A Lost lady – Willa Cather – (1923) Read for Willa Cather reading week, this is probably Cather’s best novel, the writing is sublime.
9 Ruffian on the Stair – Nina Bawden – (2001) I enjoy Nina Bawden, and this novel of which I might not have expected much, took me by surprise, I couldn’t put it down, and the characterisation is excellent.
10 Operation Heartbreak – Duff Cooper (1950) A slim little Persephone book, it is aptly named, and utterly unforgettable, beautiful.
11 Patricia Brent, Spinster –Herbert Jenkins (1918) I first heard about this delightful little book on Stuck in a book’s blog, it is probably in that Miss Pettigrew category of grown up fairy-tale, it’s not faultless but I couldn’t help but love it.
12 The Midwich Cuckoos – John Wyndham (1957) I’ve included this one, because yes I love it, but also because, this book group read took me right outside my comfort zone.
So there it is, phew – it was great bookish year – only a few books really disappointed and they were largely more modern publications – but I won’t talk about them. I have plenty of great looking things to get stuck into in 2015 and I’m looking forward to continuing to share whatever I read with you all.
Happy New Year!