Top 10 Books of 2014

Happy New Year everyone. Here’s to another year full of health, happiness & lots of reading time.

This time last year, I was looking at this pile of books on my desk & vowing to read at least some of them in 2014. Well, I read five of them – that’s it, only five. So, the other day, I had a clearing of the decks & shelved what was left (there were another two piles of books behind these that I was going to read “next” but of course, I didn’t). I also shelved the pile of books & magazines sitting on the table beside my reading chair. This year I’m going to have only the books & magazines I’m currently reading on that table. It was a wonderful feeling to see my desk almost clear, apart from library books. It also gave me time to listen to two episodes of In Our Time (on Tennyson’s In Memoriam & the Restoration of Charles II) with Melvyn & guests as it took me ages to rejig the overflowing tbr shelves to fit them in to their appropriate places. See this post here if you’d like to see how I organise the tbr shelves).

Looking at that post of reading resolutions from last year I did manage to read more from the tbr shelves, including those middlebrow authors I love. I read fewer books though than I have for years – only 95 & only 3 rereads. I think I’ve been rereading less because I still feel I need to post regularly & I don’t usually review a book if I’ve already written about it. I bought 181 books last year (another useful, or scary, aspect of Library Thing is that I can see when I added books) & I’ve read 42 of them. This sounds quite good until I confess that some of the books I bought were duplicate copies of books I already own (for the justification for that little habit, read this post). I also added 56 books to my Kindle, quite a few of them were free downloads & that doesn’t include the books I bought from elsewhere such as Delphi Classics.

So, finally, here it is, my Top 10 list for 2014. It wasn’t difficult to come up with the list, I knew as soon as I read most of these books that they would be on my Top 10 for the year. The books are in no particular order & the links are to my reviews.

The Far Country – Nevil Shute. As Thomas from My Porch says, Shute is D E Stevenson for boys. I loved this story of a refugee doctor who emigrates to Australia after WWII & the new life he makes for himself here.

Kirkham’s Find – Mary Gaunt. A book I’d had on the tbr shelves since 1988. Another Australian story about an independent woman overcoming the disapproval of her family to make a life for herself.

The Prime Minister & The Duke’s Children – Anthony Trollope. I’m going to cheat with two of my choices because I read pairs of books that go together. I finally got around to reading the last two Palliser novels this year as I watched the wonderful BBC TV series. You can’t beat Trollope for an absorbing story & I loved reading about the lives of Plantagenet Palliser, Glencora & Phineas Finn, their families & friends.

Campaigning for the Vote : Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary & Kate Parry Frye : the Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette – Elizabeth Crawford. My other cheat involves the two books I read about Kate Parry Frye. I think Kate was the person I enjoyed meeting the most this year through her diary & through the excellent biography by Elizabeth Crawford. I was so moved by Kate’s long life, the challenges she overcame & her courage in her later years, caring for her husband, John.

The English Air – D E Stevenson. I read 9 books by DES this year, spurred on by discovering Open Library & by the reprints of her work that seem to be coming thick & fast. The English Air was reprinted by Greyladies a couple of months ago. This was my favourite, set during WWII it’s the story of a young German who visits English relatives in the years leading up to the war & experiences a new way of life that changes all his ideas.

Invisible – Christine Poulson. I haven’t read many mysteries or thrillers this year at all but I did love this one. The story of a man who has secrets in his past & the woman who loves him & is drawn into danger when he disappears. I read the last half in one sitting, I just couldn’t put it down.

One of Ours – Willa Cather. Another author I read when I was young is Willa Cather. I rediscovered her this year & look forward to reading more of her books & the Selected Letters in 2015. I loved the story of Claude Wheeler, his life on the family farm in Nebraska & his search for something to give his life meaning. The Great War gives him his opportunity to make a difference.

Four Sisters – Helen Rappaport. I couldn’t have a Top 10 list without a couple of history books. The story of the daughters of the last Tsar was beautifully told by Helen Rappaport with such sensitivity. I especially enjoyed reading about the Grand Duchesses work as nurses in the Great War & the discovery of previously unknown letters from Anastasia to a friend when the family were in exile. A tragic story well told.

A Lifelong Passion – ed Andrei Maylunas & Sergei Mironenko. Leading on from Four Sisters, this is the story of the last Romanovs told through their letters, diaries & memoirs. Fascinating to read the story in their own words & to read the many familiar extracts & quotes in context.

Moby-Dick or, the Whale – Herman Melville. My last book of the year was one of the best. I listened to it on audio & the wonderful performance by William Hootkins made this one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.

There it is, my Top 10. I’m looking forward to reading other lists from my favourite bloggers or just leave a list in the Comments.

21 thoughts on “Top 10 Books of 2014

  1. I logged on to wish you a happy New Year, and it is a lovely bonus to find that Invisible was one of your favourite reads of 2014. Thank you! Oh, and Trollope is one of my very favourite writers – Willa Cather, too.


  2. The Far Country is one of my favorite of Nevil Shute's books, though A Town Like Alice will always come first. But I'd like to know more about Carl & Jennifer's story! I missed your posts on Kate Parry Frye, and I will look for both these books. Happy New Year – it's still the Eve here.


  3. Good morning Lyn and happy New Year!

    I am currently knee deep in Alexander McCall Smith thanks to you. During these lovely slow days I am reading the Isabel Dalhousie series, next week — if not before — will be Scotland Street.


  4. Happy New Year Lory. what a great list. I've read My Brother Michael & Barchester Towers. My Life in Middlemarch was very close to belong in my Top 10 & I definitely need to read Thirkell this year, I have all the Virago reprints on my tbr shelves.


  5. Lisa, I also love ATLA although it's many years since I read it. I'm looking forward to more Nevil Shute this year. I hope you'll enjoy Kate, I know the biography is available as an ebook only but the diary may be hard copy only. Happy New Year!


  6. Happy New Year, Rose! AMS is perfect comfort reading, isn't he? There's a new Isabel out this year & I'm looking forward to it. We've had lovely mild weather here for the last week but the next two days look horrible – high 30s & windy. Perfect for staying inside & reading!


  7. Fascinating list! I also read and enjoyed the Shute in 2014 and The English Air is one of my all time favourite DES novels. I hope to finish up Trollope's Barsetshire series in 2015 but, once that is complete, I can't wait to jump into the Palliser novels.


  8. I haven't read a single book on your list but oh, I do enjoy Shute's writing; The Pied Piper is my favourite. Always a fun stroll through book blogs at this time of year…and a dangerous one too when it comes to shelf space!
    Thoroughly enjoying Home Front now that its back…oh, but Joe at the dentist, the poor fellow. I winced through that scene, I must say!


  9. I was up at 6am, did some housework, went for a walk, picked some tomatoes for dinner before they cooked on the vine, picked up my dry cleaning, posted a birthday card for Monday & now all the blinds are down & I'm settling in until the cool change. My usual summer routine! If only I could persuade L & P that it's cooler in here than under the house or wherever they go…


  10. Happy New Year Vicki. I think you'd enjoy Mary Gaunt if you can find a copy. I know it's available from Project Gutenberg if you have an ereader. Surprisingly two of my books were set in Australia, I probably should read more Australian books… but I'm an Anglophile at heart.


  11. Happy New Year CL! Kirkham's Find is great. Try the first 50pp & see if you can stop reading. I especially liked the two strands of the story, Phoebe's desire for an independent life & the young men's struggles in the outback.


  12. At least Isobel gave Ralph the flick – thank goodness! What a selfish man. I hope she does become an ambulance driver, it'll be the making of her, as they say. Poor Joe indeed, I could barely listen to that bit. To think we take toothbrushes for granted. I do like NS & think PP will be my next Shute off the tbr shelves.


  13. What a thought provoking and wonderful list, Lyn. I, too, have D.E. Stevenson on my Best Of list for last year, though a couple of different titles. But I must say that THE ENGLISH AIR should have been on the list and I guess I just got distracted.

    What a great idea to have MOBY DICK on audio – I think I'll give it a try. I've attempted to read the actual novel a couple of times but just couldn't manage it.

    I can never get over the idea that Nicholas should have saved his wife and children. Somehow. For me, he's always seemed a bit of a disasterous whimp.

    Will definitely take a look at Christine Poulson's book. High praise indeed.

    And the Nevil Shute book too. LOVE that cover. '…Shute is D.E. Stevenson for boys.' 🙂

    This year for sure: TROLLOPE!!


  14. I read lots of DES last year but TEA was the one that stood out for me.I don't think I'd have finished MD without the narrator to get me over the many technical tangents. I'm so glad that I've read it though. I think history was against the Romanovs but Nicholas wasn't the right Tsar for the times. I'm not sure what he could have done to save the family although George V should take some of the blame for reneging on his offer to take them in. Christine Poulson is a terrific writer, I think you'd enjoy Invisible.I want to read more Shute this year & it's the 200th anniversary of Trollope's birth so he's definitely on the agenda. I've started John Caldigate & I've proposed Miss Mackenzie for my 19th century bookgroup.


  15. The wrong Tsar for the times is right. Yes, the English King should have taken them in – they were family after all. I can't imagine what he must have felt after the murders. Regardless, the Tsar should have figured out a way to, at least, get his children out of Russia. Can't help it – that's how I feel. They had all been out of the country some time before and should never have returned to Russia. Talk about mis-reading what was really going on. Oh, no point talking about it I know. But it just makes me so angry.

    I have PHINEAS FINN and CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? here – a friend sent me the hardcovers. I'm also thinking of getting some Trollope on audio.

    Good reading times ahead. 🙂


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