Our best books of 2014

December 8, 2014, Article by Richard in Books


What a year 2014’s been. Germany won the world cup, Daniel Radcliffe rapped, and the United Nations International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s Antarctic whaling program is not scientific, but commercial, and forbade grants of further permits. Aside from all that, there have been some absolutely splendid books what we done stared at.

So, without further ado, here are our pick of the best books of 2014…

RICH

all completely
Fiction: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

What a bloody great title that is. It certainly beats this new trope of titles like ‘The spectacular demise of Mr Jeremy Custardchops’. Fowler’s unreliable narrator has one of the most engaging voices I’ve read in ages. This is a wonderful meditation on family, sibling interaction, and self-discovery, and Fowler tells a story that could have easily gone disgustingly kooky with real skill.

Non-Fiction: The Year Of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

I confess that my main reason for picking up this book was because Andy Miller was being interviewed at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival by alternative comedy God and crumpled Morrissey lookalike, Stewart Lee. The event itself was hilarious and thought-provoking – but not quite as much as the book itself. Part touching memoir, part astute literary criticism, this is a book for anyone who’s slightly fallen out of love with books, and a potent reminder of the joy of reading for reading’s sake.

TOM

Us
Fiction: Us by David Nicholls

I must admit, I hated One Day. It just made me feel a bit queasy, and the film version didn’t help matters. So, I picked up Us with a sense of trepidation and the feeling that I probably should read it as it was going to sell billions of copies. To say it surprised me is an understatement. It made me laugh, it almost made me cry, and in Douglas I think Nicholls created a truly brilliant yet realistic character. I can’t shake the feeling that he is just me in 20 or so years time.

Non-Fiction: Chapter and Verse by Bernard Sumner

I’m a big New Order and Joy Division fanboy, so the chance to learn more about one of the most influential figures in British music was something I was never going to miss. Really well-written, entertaining, and very open about the troubles his bands have faced over the years, it was everything you’d want from a music autobiography. Read our report on Bernard’s recent Times+ event here

BEAU

the-children-act
Fiction: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

As a fan of Ian McEwan, I await each new novel with a genuine sense of excitement. After the mis-step that was Solar and the enjoyable, yet flawed, Sweeth Tooth it was great to have McEwan back writing classic McEwan. This is the story of High Court judge Fiona Maye, whose home life is crumbling whilst at the same time she becomes absorbed in the case of a boy refusing life-saving medical treatment due to his religious beliefs.

A gripping slow-burner full of the fascinating complexities of the court room (brilliantly researched) and the devastating line that can be crossed with the smallest of gestures. Brilliant stuff.

Non-Fiction: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

I picked it up mainly due to the beautiful cover and a strong recommendation from my ol’ Dad, but I was blown-away by the touching and absorbing story of Helen, who after the death of her father, aims to fulfil her burning desire to train a goshawk. A task that’s far from easy.

A true story of hope, love and loss left me moved like I never imagined. A massive, pleasant surprise.

BEN

Fiction: The Dig by Cynan Jones

What an incredible novella this is. As dense as a diamond, every words counts in Jones’ short novel about a farmer and a badger baiter, and the language is at once suspenseful, moving and unsettling. Like his earlier novel, The Long Dry, nature takes centre stage, and man’s relationship with the wild – and its animals – is presented here wonderfully. Perfect for a winter afternoon. Or a summer one. Or whenever, really.

war
Non-Fiction: @War by Shane Harris

Relentlessly interesting, bizarre and terrifying, @War is a timely piece of work which traces the development of cyber warfare since the internet’s inception at the end of the last century. It’s impossible not to have your mind blown by the amount governments spend on cyber defence in 2014, and the lengths they’re willing to go to electronically and physically hack, sabotage and destabilise other nations’ infrastructure via the internet – and perhaps more terrifyingly: without even needing a connection to the internet.

Honourable mentions

Fiction:

  • Waiting for Doggo by Mark B. Mills
  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
  • The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
  • A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

Non-Fiction:

  • Football Cliches by Adam Hurrey (find out why here)
  • I Think Therefore I Am by Andrea Pirlo
  • Crap Taxidermy
  • Scarfolk

 All images © the respective publishers


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