It’s been a strange year.
I reread many novels, burned my way through Garnier, abandoned Proust because he gave me sleepless nights, and didn’t read as much Balzac as I’d intended. Anyway here’s the best books I read this year; I make these categories up as I go along.
Best Russian novel:
Anna Karenina. I loved this novel the first time I read it but for this rereading I appreciated its cinematic qualities.
Best South American Novel:
Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa. Someone… please make a film out of this.
Best British fiction:
Incredible, brilliant–a state of the declining nation book: Jonathan Coe’s The Winshaw Legacy.
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household. Incredible. Thanks to New York Review Books for republishing this.
Pascal Garnier (he gets a category all of his own).
Moon in a Dead Eye . A look at the hellish life of a bunch of retirees in a ‘safe’ gated community
Most Surprising novel:
Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole Me Ma by Kerry Hudson. A horrible title but the book was wonderful–this is a tale of a nomadic life of extreme poverty seen through a child born to a woman who makes terrible taste in men.
Best Short Story Collection:
Funny Once by Antonya Nelson. Not a loser in the bunch
Best American fiction:
During the Reign of the Queen of Sheba by Joan Chase. This is one of those books you read and marvel that you never heard of before. An American classic of mythic proportions. Don’t miss this.
Ten North Frederick by John O’Hara. A quintessential American novel of small town life: hypocrisy, power, money and the ruling class as seen through the staidly predictable life of a man who never did anything wrong but neither did he do anything right.
Best Crime Novel:
The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette. No contest.
Best Irish Fiction:
Time Past and Present by Deirdre Madden. Time and memory in the lives of Irish siblings.
Best Non Fiction:
The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World by George Prochnik. I always wondered why on earth Zweig killed himself after successfully escaping the Nazis. Now I understand.
Best WWI Novel:
Fear by Gabriel Chevallier. Always tough to read about WWI, but I loved the anger in this.
Best Psychological Study:
The Unknown Bridesmaid by Margaret Forster. I’ve passed over this author numerous times as I had the impression that I wasn’t the right reader for her books. This is the story of a strange little girl, shaped by childhood events, who grows up to be a strange woman. The sort of book to gather many interpretations of its main character.
Writing is Easy by Gert Loveday. Through a colourful cast of characters, Gert Loveday shows that writing isn’t easy, and while it’s hard to keep a novel consistently funny, Gert Loveday creates a laugh on every page.
Best Australian novel:
This was the hardest category as I read so many great Australian books this year. While there are several titles I won’t forget, two stick out:
Amy’s Children by Olga Masters. This is the story of a young woman who abandons her children and seeks employment in the city. The reader may forgive Amy, but her eldest daughter doesn’t.
Julia Paradise by Rod Jones. Initially hard to read due to the subject matter of incest, I ended up loving this morally complex book which is not at all what it first appears to be.
Roll on 2015….
21 responses to “It’s a Wrap: Best of 2104”
Wow! It’s impressive to see a list of the books people have read in a year. What are your plans for 2015? Another stab at Proust?
I’m going to read Zola’s ‘Three Cities’ at some point as well as Perec’s ‘Life: A User’s Manual’ as well as others that I haven’t quite decided on yet.
No concrete plans, but lots of authors I want to return to. As for Proust, yes I’ll try another go, but the time isn’t right yet.
Thanks for the list. Some of the books look real interesting. Will check some out!
Thanks Erma. I always keep up with what you’re reading on Goodreads.
What a nice Xmas present! Thanks, and happy New Reading Year.
I have another book from GL on the kindle to get to.
Ah, Crane Mansions, the dear creature. Curious to know what you think.
Always a pleasure to see some of my favourites on your list too, Guy (Garnier, Manchette, Kerry Hudson, Anna Karenina). That book about Stefan Zweig’s exile sounds fascinating – I’ll have to take a look at that. Seems like you read some excellent and very varied books this year, hope 2015 brings you lots of new reading joys!
I hope you get a chance to read the Zweig. It’s very detailed but the author takes an unusual approach. The book still haunts me to be honest.
This is a great list Guy. It has indeed been an interesting year.
I look forward t your posts on 2015!
I like your list and I’m pleased to see Deidre Madden made it on yours as well. Although I read Fear and know I appreciated it – I can’t remmeber anything. Isn’t that odd? I alway include that when I put a book on the list. No matter how much i liked it at the time – when it’s gone by the end of the year -it’s gone.
Why did Proust give you sleepless nights?
I need to read Garnier and finally the Manchette I own.
Happy Holidays, Guy
I was reading Proust at night and this sparked a lot of memories which led to sleeplessness.
Interesting list Guy. I immediately rushed off to look up the Coe – but of course in the UK, it was called ‘What a Carve Up!’ and was Coe’s breakthrough novel. Looking forward to reading your review.
The one from your list I’m most drawn to is the Joan Chase – only heard good things about this book, and I’m interested in the book about Zweig – but I haven’t read any of his novels yet – something to remedy.
All the best for 2015.
Can’t say enough good about the Chase novel. It’s phenomenal. Same with the non fiction Zweig–but that’s very sad.
Loved the Garnier and Severina, and I have the Manchette in my TBR (along with The Prone Gunman). I must try John O’Hara although I ought to start with the one I already own, Appointment in Samarra – I can’t recall whether you’ve read that one?
The Impossible Exile sounds fascinating but tough (as does Fear) but I’d like to read it at some stage. The Chase is a new one on me so I’ll have to take a look at that! Looking forward to reading your review of The Winshaw Legacy. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel.
Appointment in Samarra–no I haven’t read it but intend to as the main character has a minor appearance in Ten North Frederick.
I couldn’t find you on Twitter so wanted to leave a brief message to say thank you so much for your incredibly thoughtful and insightful review of Tony Hogan and to say how excited I am to be on your ‘Best of…’ 2014 list. Thank you and happy New Year!
Thanks for the comment Kerry–I look forward to your next book
Impressive list as always. I keep the best of year posts in a special folder. It’s always good to be able to to back to them.
I have the Garnier, I should read the Manchette and a few others are on my radar.
Thanks for that year of sharing your reading and I’m looking forward to discovering where your reading path will lead us next year.
Same here Emma.