This time last year I did a list of the best books I’d read all year. It was really tough narrowing it down then, and it hasn’t got any easier. I’ve read some brilliant things this year, and looking back through my Goodreads was a real pleasure. There were some dreadful ones too, but overall the quality has been very high.
I get so many books, I’m really trying to be particular about what I choose to read, and trying to win the ever-lasting battle of balancing review books with things from my shelf that I haven’t got round to reading yet. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, unfortunately, and one of my 2015 resolutions is going to be to try to be better with my reading – not to read more, but to be more discerning.
Which, of course, will make this list even harder next year!
So, without further ado, the top ten best books I read in 2014:
Not the most groundbreaking book, nor the most original, but I had a really, really good time listening to it, and immediately looked up the sequel. In terms of reading enjoyment, this one ranks really high.
A book that took the unreliable narrator to a really interesting place. I wanted to start listening to this again as soon as I finished it. It’s been a year of great unreliable narrator books for me – I’ve read several and most are on this list. For something that can be such a gimmick, it can be really heartbreaking in the hands of talented writers.
It’s also been a great year for contemporary – not normally my genre, but again, a number of books on this list are contemporary YA. As it’s not normally my genre, I do tend to only read the cream of the crop, but still, books like Impossible Knife make me want to read so much more contemporary YA, because they’re so brilliant.
A creepy, uncomfortable read that shows exactly how to do an unreliable narrator, and how to say a lot with very very little. I loved how this played with my head and my emotions, and a killer of a twist at the end made it one of the most affecting and memorable reads of the year.
6. If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Another supremely creepy contemporary read, this time for different reasons. If You Find Me takes you to plenty of uncomfortable places, exploring the terrible betrayals that parents are capable of committing against their children, and the impact that tragedy can have on families. I passed this straight onto my mother when I was done reading, and she loved it too.
5. Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
Read all three one after the other, so don’t really distinguish between them. This was a fantastic YA trilogy that featured many great characters, an original set up and fascinating plot line. I really loved the ending and how all the issues resolved, but at the same time would be over the moon to hear that Bardugo was writing a sequel trilogy, perhaps featuring one of the other characters. Hugely enjoyable, and definitely a trilogy I would readily recommend to others.
4. The Humans by Matt Haig
I read The Radleys too, but The Humans was the book that stole my heart. I adored the main character and his clumsy integration with the human race. I loved the way the situational comedy was used to highlight things about humanity, life and love. I also loved that it was all about maths, so I could recommend it to my sister, who is studying maths at university. She absolutely loved it too.
This books is probably a fair bit responsible for my decision to run a half marathon this year. Equal parts memoir and advice and guidance for runners, it was uplifting and inspiring and one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read for a very long time.
This comes a very, very close second. A genuinely scary story about child abduction with a terrifying villain and some horrific central concepts (teeth falling out and replaced by hooks? Stuff of nightmares), NOS4R2 was a brilliant read, but also a brilliant listen. I loved the narrator of the audiobook – her voice was just perfect for really bringing the scary characters to life. And like all the best horror stories, I couldn’t stop thinking about it when the virtual audiobook pages closed – listening became a compulsion as I got so invested in the story and needed to know how the badguy was ultimately beaten, just so I could sleep at night.
And the winner is! Lies We Tell Ourselves has definitely been the book that’s caused me to think, experience intense emotions and want to read just one more page the most this year. It’s a hugely affecting story about racism in the 1950s and how it’s still so, so relevant to the world today in a lot of ways. If I could only recommend one book I’ve read this year, it would be this one. And that’s why it’s my best book of 2014.