Yesterday I shared my best reads of 2014 as reviewed for Shiny New Books. Today, I turn my attention to titles reviewed here. The links will return you to my full reviews:
Best Retro-Subversive Laugh-Out-Loud Book
Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler
So nearly my book of the year, Discovering Scarfolk is just hilarious! Stuck firmly in the 1970s world of public information films and Cold War paranoia, every page of this little book which is designed from front to back yields gems of parody and references in its tale of a missing man who got stuck in the unique town of Scarfolk.
There is also an comic twist to each illustration too, which ironically does make you look again to see if you missed anything…
For more information please reread this poster.
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell
Gaiman’s reworked fairy tale is fabulous on its own, but with Chris Riddell’s illustrations it reaches a new height.
Inked in black and white with gold highlights, Riddell’s characteristic strong-browed young women, cheerful groteseques and skull-like gargoyles are simply gorgeous.
Best Cover Art
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
And whilst we’re on the subject of illustration, I must mention the best cover concept of the year – in this horror spoof of the IKEA catalogue.
The graphic design extends to the inside of the novel too with lots of attention to detail, but the story itself, although entertaining, is standard horror fare.
Best in Translation
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (trans. Ann Goldstein)
Like many this year, I too have caught ‘Ferrante Fever’. The first in a sequence of four novels by the elusive Italian author captures growing up in backstreet Naples in the 1950s perfectly for two young girls. Volumes two and three are now available, with the fourth to come. I’m so looking forward to catching up with Elena and Lila’s lives.
Best Medical Drama
Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston
The second book by Weston, a surgeon herself, is a novel that looks at one of the toughest things that obs & gynae surgeons may ever have to do – provide abortions. It was not an easy book given its subject matter, but it was completely compelling to read and gives a profound insight into this difficult area.
The Echo by James Smythe
My book group will disagree with this choice for they hated the first book (The Explorer) in this planned quartet. However, I loved the utter claustrophobia of outer space in these books, and The Echo takes the central premise of the first book and keeps twisting it further with great effect. Roll on the third volume I say.
Best Book-Group Choice?
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maris Remarque
Arguably, we read some great books this year including Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, but the added poignancy of reading this novel of WWI during the centenary month of August was very fitting and moving too. Our discussions were wide-ranging and everyone enjoyed the book, proving you don’t always need a voice of dissent to have a good book group meeting.
Best YA Shocker
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
I am glad to have read the controversial Carnegie Medal winner to see for myself what it was all about. I can honestly say it is the bleakest novel I have ever read and it is for younger teens and upwards. If it had been written for adults, we wouldn’t find it so shocking at all, but despite its subject, I wouldn’t stop any child from reading it – I would encourage discussion afterwards though!
… And Finally, My ‘Blog’ Book of the Year
by Patrick Hamilton
I read this back in January it is still, frankly, the best book I’ve read all year.
Set in 1938 pre-war Earls Court in London, this is the story of George Harvey Bone and his unrequited love for the teasing Netta. This tragic novel is billed as a black comedy, and I suppose it is in a way. The laughs, however are never at George’s expense. When they come, it is Netta and her friends we laugh at, over their outrageously bad behaviour that makes them targets for our scorn. I nearly cried for George, wishing he hadn’t spotted her across a crowded room that day.
Hamilton’s prose is beautiful, incendiary, moving, clinical, full of ennui – everything it needs to be to tell George’s story. I shall be reading more Hamilton in 2015.
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So that’s it for my Books of the Year.
Have you read any of these from yesterday or today?
Do share yours too.