I’m an avid reader (although there’s NEVER enough time to read all the books on my tbr pile) and my taste is not restricted to any particular genre. I recently blogged about my unconscious preference for female writers and one of the comments on the post was how many books Louise Walters (a writing friend from Twitter who’s debut is well worth a read) had read in 2104 and the breakdown of male/female writers. It made me look up the back pages of my 2014 diary where for the first time ever, I’d kept a record of the books I’ve read (or started to read) in 2014. Interesting (to me anyway) there was indeed a gender bias with 15/43 on my list being male writers.
Also, a surprise to me was I hadn’t read as many books as I thought as I’d assumed that I read roughly a book a week. But when life gets in the way of reading (I might’ve read more on holiday if I’d been lying on a beach but in Switzerland & Norway I was too busy then too tired to read much) that wasn’t the case (I blame Shantaram for taking up 3 weeks of my reading life and not being worth the investment!) With hunners of new books released daily (not to mention all the millions of books already out there) I always find it fascinating to see each week what the folk on Twitter mention on #FridayReads. When the book choice is tweeted from someone whose opinion I respect I often seek out the book and also follow excellent review blogs such as On the Literary Sofa, The Writes of Woman and A Life in Books.
However, I’m a lover of charity shops and often can’t resist a gamble on a book for 50p. So between, Twitter, random charity shop purchases, a list of ‘must read’ books and a desire to support contemporary Scottish fiction (my thinking is that if that’s what you write, that’s what you should read) I’d say that my reading choices are quite diverse (albeit with 66% written by women) and although my gender bias might’ve been unconscious, I do deliberately vary my reading. If I’ve read something very dark, I pick something a lot lighter in tone next and if I’ve read something set in Scotland, I choose a book set in a different country to follow.
Another issue I’ve blogged about is my reluctance to write reviews but I’m happy to highlight the books which really stood out from my eclectic 2014 reading list with an * (the list is in order of reading, not ranking). If I had to pick out my favourite book of the year it would be The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer. They’re all worth a read for different reasons but I now apply the 50 page rule and if I haven’t engaged with the book by then, it’s off to the charity shop with it.
The best book I read in 2014.
- The Emergence of Judy Taylor by Angela Jackson
- Damian and Me by Damian Barr *
- The Guts by Roddy Doyle
- She Left Me the Gun by Emma Brocke
- The Book Thief by Markas Zusak
- The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker
- The Railway Man by Eric Lomax (memoir)
- Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
- And The Land Lay Still by James Robertson *
- The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh *
- All The Beggars Riding by Lucy Caldwell
- The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
- The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer *
- Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (abandoned after 50 pages – life’s too short to keep reading a book you HATE.)
- The Crow Road by Iain Banks
- All the Little Guns Went Bang Bang Bang by Neil Mackay *
- Americannah by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
- Baggage by Janet Street Porter (memoir)
- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
- We Can’t Be Strangers by Isabel Costello (as YET unpublished) *
- Thirst by Kerry Hudson *
- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler *
- Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker *
- Call of the Undertow by Linda Cracknell
- A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bradley *
- Dear Allies by Margaret Henderson (non-fiction research for WIP)
- Nella Last’s Diary (non-fiction research for WIP)
- Man At The Helm by Nina Stibbe
- All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld *
- The Gori’s Daughter by Shazia Hobbs
- Resistance by Anita Shreve (abandoned after applying the 50 page rule – just couldn’t get into it at all)
- Fall Out by Janet Street Porter (memoir)
- The Birds That Never Flew by Margot McCuaig *
- Solar by Ian McEwan
- Tiger,Tiger by Margaux Fargoso (memoir)
- The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark
- Glue by Irvine Welsh
- Refrigerator Cake by Dickson Telfer (short story collection)
- The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
- Glaswegian Dialect by Kate Sanderson (non-fiction research for editing)
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce*
What was your top read of 2014? How many books did you manage to read this year?
15 thoughts on “My 2014 Reading List”
Thanks so much for the mention, Helen, and I’m in complete agreement with the 50-page rule – three weeks is far too much of your life to spend on a book you’re not enjoying! Here’s to a happy reading 2015.
You’re very welcome Susan. I stuck with Shantaram until the bitter end as it had been highly recommended by two friends who’d raved about it so I felt obliged to hang on in there! 🙂
Oh, that’s always uncomfortable.
Thanks for the mention, Helen! I’ve started 43 books this year and will put them up on my blog later. Your 50 pages rule is one I’m going to apply from now on, as I have just given up on a novel I got half way through – 214 pages to be exact. Infuriating, but my own fault! Anyway, my best reads of this year were Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and Regeneration by Pat Barker, both of them outstanding reads that have enriched my life. Merry Christmas, and here’s looking forward to an exciting 2015 x
Hi Louise, I’m going to look out Regeneration now – haven’t read any Pat Barker before. I LOVE Kate Atkinson’s books and I know I’m in the minority view but Life After Life wasn’t one of my favourites of hers. I found the whole repetition scenario technically very clever as a writer but a bit boring as a reader and I didn’t care as much for Ursula as I did with her Jackson Brodie character.
Have a lovely time over the festive break. x
Thanks, Helen, I now have some suggestions for my 2015 TBR stack. I like the 50 page rule, will be adopting that. My best read for this year is the one I’m currently reading. It’s keeping me up very late and stays with me all day – it’s a thriller-romance called The Secret Chord and it’s by Kathryn Guare.
Hi Anne, It must be great now that you’re retired to focus on your writing and do more reading. Thanks for the recommendation, not a book I’ve heard of so will look it out… All the best for 2015. x
I love reading about other people’s book choices – unfortunately, that means my TBR pile just gets bigger. I’m thinking adding Americannah to it at the moment but it’s getting more than a wee bit unwieldy and in danger of toppling and trapping me beneath the pile! If you don’t hear from me for a while you’ll know what’s happened!
Sorry to add to your tbr Angela but I’d definitely recommend Americannah. It’s an interesting read although I did begin to feel as if the themes were laboured and it was a bit ‘preachy’ at times. Enjoy digging your way out of your tbr pile! 🙂 x
Great post, Helen and some really interesting thoughts and choices. Like you I am becoming less patient with unpromising books – I recently abandoned a novel 300 pages in (about 3/4) and was so cross with myself for persevering in the hope it would redeem itself!
It goes without saying that I’m touched and delighted that you nominated my as-yet-unpublished novel as one of your standouts – thank you so much for that! I enjoyed yours hugely too as you know and am so delighted that 2014 brought you the deal you so clearly deserve. When Talk of the Toun comes out I will take great pleasure shouting about it on the Literary Sofa (and thanks for that mention too!)
Enjoy the holidays x
Thanks Isabel. As I said on Twitter, I genuinely loved your book and I’m sure it will be in bookshops one day. Thanks for all your support throughout 2014 and hope you and yours have a great time over the festive season. x
Great list but think No.35 is The birds that never flew by Margot McCuaig.. I read it & loved it too.. Great read.. Looking forward to reading some more on your list .
Hi Clare, Thanks for spotting the typo. I’ll amend the title right now…
I spend a great deal of my time reading and reviewing books – I always look to the reviews of others before making purchases so I thought I’d repay the favour. I also review through Netgalley which has introduced me to many new writers I may not have had the confidence to try on my own. If I can’t give a book a minimum of 3* I usually refuse to review – as a writer myself I’d hate to receive a scathing review. But I do keep a list of books I refuse to review and most of these are books I’ve given up on. As I read mostly on Kindle I use the 10% rule because you are right: life IS too short to waste on books that just don’t do it for you.
Yours is an interesting list and I’ll certainly look out for your starred entries. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Annette, I’ve only just discovered your review blog but I’m following now for new recommendations. Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts on reviewing. Your 10% rule is even more ruthless than my 50 page rule and I hope that if you read my debut novel when it’s published next year it will pass the test!