2014 in Books

As the New Year dawned (not this one, last one - my blog schedule has been somewhat knocked off course by half a bottle of Glenlivet scotch), I was just finishing up this beautifully repackaged hardback edition of all three of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Love them all, but The Amber Spyglass in particular still blows me away.

I read this back in January so naturally I remember almost nothing about it. Was good though, I think? Let's take the Costa Book Awards' word for it.

Mid-February. Life was beginning to Get A Bit Much (ie. I had to go to work and wear winter coats, at the same time, 5 days a week). I felt the need to revisit a classic - something that would wrap me in plot and fantasy and a world with no fucking e-mails in it - and duly ended up under a blanket with this, my favourite book of 2005. Ten years on and they're finally doing a TV version, which I'm trying not to prejudge too heavily on the basis of the single released clip so far.

Don't get married. Don't ever get married. Husbands are - variously - evil, crazy, erratic and/or completely unsuited to your needs. That is the moral of this suburban page turner.

I'm not one to be snobbish about YA fiction, let alone one all about witches and wizards, but I only managed half of this one. Hashtag fitting.

Late March, and I felt strangely compelled to read a former alcoholic's memoirs. Did it have anything to do with the boozy wedding I attended a few days previously? Very possibly. Regardless, Augusten Burroughs is my second favourite witty American writer man (behind David Sedaris, obviously).

I really struggled with this one - not because Emma Healey isn't a terrific and talented writer, but because everything about dementia is so wildly distressing and awful. As the lead character battled to solve a long-dormant mystery from her past, I found it difficult to look beyond the painful reality of her present.

This one was a lot of fun, even if the author did steal my last name. Sometimes the only way to fully appreciate the ridiculousness of our human condition is to reappraise it through the eyes of fictitious aliens.

I'll confess all the zodiac stuff went completely over my head, but for two glorious weeks I was fully immersed in Catton's vividly reimagined 19th century Hokitika. Really great stuff, as everyone else already realised when it came out in 2013.

Reading The Silkworm was like having Harry Potter back in my life - just minus one leg and with Hermione recast as his enterprising receptionist/assistant. I still think The Casual Vacancy got an unfair rap, but JK's really found her (cuckoo's) calling as an ex-military crime writer.

David Mitchell. I will forever love you on account of Cloud Atlas, but this one was fucking demented from start to finish. As tolerant as I am of wild narrative leaps, turns out I have my limits - and it's following a polite yarn about marital tension with a frenetic romp round a spectral chapel for soul-sucking immortal not-vampires. Nice cover though.

It took a slightly unexpected (and maybe even unnecessary) detour in the second half, but that didn't stop me from reading it cover to cover in about 3 days.

Thought this would be right up my street; ended up so enraged by the sickly sweet tweeness of it all that I wanted to burn the circus and its green tea-sipping illusionists to the ground.

The Miniaturist, by comparison, was positively fire retardant. Just as heavy on the elaborate, flowery descriptions of marzipan as the Night Circus; but managed to squeeze in a plot and three-dimensional characters in between the adjectives. Well done Jessie Burton - you wrote my favourite book of the year! Hurrah for you! Hurrah for mildly unsettling tales of dolls houses in 17th century Amsterdam! Sorry to the various authors mentioned above who had the temerity to write something not 100% catered to my tastes as a reader!