My Books of the Year 2014 – Part One – the Shiny Edit…

This year for the first time, I’ve split my best of list in two. Having read around 130 books this year, there are too many to feature in just one post and there is an obvious split – today’s first part will feature those books that I’ve reviewed over at Shiny New Books

Forgive me for continually banging the drum, but I’m inordinately proud of Shiny and I am immensely grateful to all the lovely bloggers, friends, authors, translators, publishers who have written reviews and features for us. Special thanks to my three co-editors: Victoria, Simon and Harriet.

Tomorrow’s list will feature my favourite books this year reviewed on this blog, which includes many titles not published this year. 

But first over to the Shiny Edit! The links will take you over to my full reviews:

Best (Auto)biography

Bedsit Disco Queen: How I grew up and tried to be a pop star by Tracey Thorn.

Tracey writes beautifully about life, love and the music business but does it quietly with warmth, wit and wonder at the good luck she’s had along the way. I loved this book so much, that sharing a maiden surname, I wish I was related to her!


Best YA Read for Adults Too

Picture me Gone by Meg Rosoff

This novel about a girl and her father who go on holiday to visit his best friend only to find him missing is an understated novel, with a teenager as its reliable narrator who discovers that it’s the adults who are unreliable. Gently told, there are no big shocks but it reveals a lot about how we learn to see the world in shades of grey rather than black and white.


Best Coming of Age

American Sycamore by Karen Fielding.

A tale of siblings growing up by the banks of the Suequehanna river in north-eastern USA. Billy Sycamore’s life may start off as a modern day Huck Finn but something terrible happens that affects his whole life and family. Narrated by his young sister, it is both funny and sad, and has some transcendant turns of phrase.  Loved it.

She was beautiful, our mother; an extrovert yet flammable, a walking can of gasoline just waiting for a match.

Best Woods

Into the Trees by Robert Williams

Forests play a huge part in mythology, yet can a modern family find their own enchanted life living in one?  The very first paragraph of this novel tells us that the forest may be a safe sanctuary one moment, a dangerous and lonely wild place the next. This is a powerful drama of families, finding a life-work balance, true friendship … and trees.


Best Totally Un-PC Book

Don’t Point That Thing At Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli

Imagine a 1970s Jeeves and Wooster crossed with James Bond, an upped double-entendres quotient and totally un-PC and you’ve got the Charlie Mortdecai books, of which this is the first. Written in the late 1970s, these capers narrated by the art-dealing aristo are great fun.


A Quick Mention for These Two

Mother Island by Bethan Roberts and Tigerman by Nick Harkaway.

The former a drama about child abduction and growing up on Anglesey in Wales, the latter an eco-thriller set on an island paradise that is ‘full of win’. Totally different, but both fab.


… And Finally, My ‘Shiny’ Book of the Year

Station Eleven
by Emily St.John Mandel.

I loved this elegant dystopian novel that takes place in the aftermath of a flu pandemic and following the links from former lives that persist between some of its survivors.

Awful things happen, yet seen through the journey of the Travelling Symphony – a collective of musicians and actors who struggle to keep the canon alive – there is positivity instead of despair for the fate of mankind.

Speculative fiction is possibly my favourite sub-genre of reading and this book is superb.

Read my review at SNBks.




15 thoughts on “My Books of the Year 2014 – Part One – the Shiny Edit…

  1. Harriet Devine says:

    Good idea splitting the books like this — I shall emulate! SNB has been a huge pleasure, thanks in so many ways to you, Simon and Victoria. Here’s to an even more successful 2015!

    • Annabel (gaskella) says:

      Off to look up the David Shafer – a book I’ve not heard of – thanks for the recommendation. Of those above, I’m keen to promote The Robert Williams book – Into the Trees – it didn’t get a lot of attention when published in the spring, but was wonderful.

  2. lizzysiddal says:

    Why would you stop banging the SNB drum? You (and your co-editors) have every reason to be proud. When I think of the committment you show and the hours you must spend reading, writing and editing, I feel – well, to be honest – exhausted! I don’t know how you maintain your enthusiasm. But, however you do it, keep shining!

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  3. BookerTalk says:

    I don’t usually ‘do’ dystopian fiction but am very tempted by Station Eleven after hearing the author on the Guardian book blog and reading your SNB review. Keep up that good work please!!!

  4. crimeworm says:

    Yes Station Eleven is being raved about by everyone – I’m going to have to submit at some point! And I must read Tracy Thorn’s book – I loved EBTG when I was in school. And as for Shiny New Books – do keep raving about it! It’s wonderful!

  5. kimbofo says:

    Wow. 130 books. Just thinking about that much reading leaves me feeling exhausted. My total won’t even be half that, but then this was the year I had a blog rest for almost three months, went back to study part-time, took part in two 65-mile cycling sportives and walked a minimum of 5 miles per day every day…!

    I haven’t read any of these books… so I guess that means my wish list has got just that little bit higher! 😉

  6. Caroline says:

    I too am amazed how you and the others maanage to read so much and with such enthusiasm.
    I like the way you categorize the books. I’m not thrilled that it makes my wish list grow. 🙂

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