Top 10 Books of 2014

In no particular order, here are my top 10 favourite reads for 2014.

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1.     The Children Act by Ian McEwan (2014)

This novel follows a High Court judge as she presides over cases in the family court in London. Her professional successes contrast with a domestic crisis and the lingering regret of never having children. As with all Ian McEwan novels, the writing is beautiful and the characters believable. I rambled though this one with mild interest until suddenly I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. Overall left me feeling quite moved and thoughtful.

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2.     Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (2014)

Told from the perspective of Maud, an 82-year-old with failing memory, this clever and moving mystery will both haunt and amuse you. Part mystery, part drama, this novel is an unsettling and compelling debut from Emma Healey that I highly recommend. “How do you solve a mystery when you can’t remember the clues?”

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3.     The Quiet American by Graham Green (1955)

A beautiful piece of fiction, short but sweet with not a single word out-of-place. If you have never read any Graham Green before then this is a great place to start. “It might be nearly 60 years since The Quiet American was first published, but it still evokes the exotic promise of the Orient, and the troubled relationship Vietnam has with the West” (Wanderlust)

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4.     Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro (2001)

I’ve had something of an Alice Munro year and could probably have listed any of the 5 books I have read from her over the last 12 months. She is the master of contemporary short stories and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. Always with a sense of regret and nostalgia, she captures a glimpse of life that is deeper than most full-length novels.

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5.     Rabbit, Run by John Updike (1960)

Set in 1959, this novel is told from the perspective of a high school sports star whose post school life is going nowhere. Married to an alcoholic who is pregnant with his second child and stuck in a job selling utensils to housewives, 26-year-old Rabbit decides to flee from his family in an attempt to escape his mediocre existence. This is not a nice book. I did not like the main character and the ending is horrifying, but ultimately it’s a brilliant novel and deservedly a top book for the year, even though I didn’t enjoy the taste much.

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6.     The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955)

Tom Ripley is leading a strained existence in New York. Sick of his friends and bored of the city, he has a lucky break when the father of an acquaintance offers to send him to Italy, in an attempt to persuade their son to come home to America. Once in Italy though, Tom’s jealousies and paranoia get the better of him and the tension begins to  build.

Read my full review of this book here.

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7.     Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (2005)

This novel centers around intertwining lives of three people who together witness an event that will dictated the path of not only the rest of their lives, but the fate of everyone on earth. The astronomical changes of that day in October set course for a time-altering event that means the sun will be extinguished in the next forty years. This October Event wasnt naturally occurring phenomena, so what set it in motion and why? How do you go about living in a dying world and how do you plan for a future that might not exist?

I wrote a longer post about this novel here.

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8.     The Rosie Project by Graham Simsion (2013)

Don Tillman is a Professor of Genetics living in Melbourne, he finds most social situations awkward and has never been on a second date. Pushing 40, he knows that statistically there should be someone out there for him and so he embarks on “The Wife Project”, a lengthy and comprehensive questionnaire aimed at finding the perfect match. Much amusement ensues and the naivety in which Don views the world makes for a very charming and quirky adventure.

Read my earlier review here.

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9.     Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler (1982)

There are no loveable characters in this novel, but there is no need for them. The story will pull you along through all the dysfunction, bitterness and misplaced pride until you wind up enjoying to hate them all. “Excellently done; the minutiae of domestic landscapes, the lunatic irrationality of family quarrels, the torments of sibling rivalry” (Sunday Telegraph)

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10.    An Artist of the Floating World by

Set in Japan in 1948, this quiet and reflective novel follows celebrated artist Masuji Ono into his retirement. Rather than a time of tranquility though, his later years are haunted by dark memories until guilt and regret ultimately begin to shadow his days. A fascinating and slow-paced novel from

Delicious.

Have you read any of these novels? What books did you enjoy reading in 2014?

“The Talented Mr Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith

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Another very recent read, I haven’t seen the film so I can’t compare them but this was a real delight. I think I’ll have to watch the film now too.

What’s it about?

Tom Ripley is leading a strained existence in New York. Sick of his friends and bored of the city, he has a lucky break when the father of an acquaintance offers to send him to Italy, in an attempt to persuade their son to come home to America. Once in Italy though, Tom’s jealousies and paranoia get the better of him and the tension begins to  build.

Worth reading because:

It held me from the beginning, I was so engrossed in this book every morning on the Tube that I had to be careful not to miss my stop. Perfect! I totally believed the era I was transported to and descriptions of places I was reading about, they oozed a liquid decadence, drip, drip, drip and I felt jealous of their lives, just like Tom. Although I’m not certain the characters felt like real people, they were definitely interesting ones. It’s a great thriller and I think it achieves the same effect as American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis but without the intensity.

Any other books by this author worth reading?

After finishing this book I read the sequel Ripley Underground straight away as I wasn’t ready to part with the world Patricia had created yet. It wasn’t quite as good but still a decent book. I will probably read others in the series later on, they would make good plane reads. I’d also like to try some of her other stories like Strangers On a Train which was made into a Hitchcock film.

Choice Cuts:

Why should Dickie want to come back to subways and taxis and starched collars and a nine-to- five job?

Tom envied him with a heartbreaking surge of envy and self-pity.

He loved possessions, not masses of them, but a select few that he did not part with. They gave a man self-respect. Not ostentation but quality, and the love that cherished the quality. Possessions reminded him that he existed, and made him enjoy his existence.

They were not friends. They didn’t know each other. It struck Tom like a horrible truth, true for all time, true for the people he had known in the past and for those he would know in the future:

Delicious.

What did you think of The Talented Mr Ripley?