Best Reads of 2014

Best Books 2014 Collage

I used to write a book blog. And I loved it. Then after Sweet Pea was born two and a half years ago my ability to read, review and generally absorb books declined sharply! In all that time though my passion for books and reading has never declined and one of my new year’s resolutions (dare I say that word??!!) is to engage more not only with reading, but also documenting and sharing my reading experiences.

So, in a small step in that direction, today I’m talking about my favourite reads from the past year…

My Story – Julia Gillard – If I’m being totally honest (and I am!) I haven’t quite finished this book yet so I might be jumping the gun a little by adding it to this post but I feel that this book, if not exactly the most riveting and engaging at all times, was definitely my most anticipated read of the year. As I wrote about in this post I feel this is a book that needed to be written and needs to be read by the Australian community and I have particularly enjoyed the first section of the book where Ms Gillard writes about her personal and professional experiences of being Prime Minister. This is a book that I want my daughter to read in years to come for the message it sends about not only being a strong and determined woman but about being a strong and determined person.

All The Birds Singing – Evie Wyld  – This is an extremely powerful, and at times harrowing, novel about a woman, Jake, running a sheep farm single handedly in a small and isolated community. The books perspective travels back and forth from the present to the past helping the reader to build up a picture of how Jake has come to be living where, and how, she is. Wyld’s writing is almost poetic so if you enjoy lyrical writing with beautiful descriptions of place and character this is definitely for you.

Us – David Nicholls – I think this book would come in as my number one read for the year. It took a little while to get into but once I did I found everything about it almost perfection. This is another book that travels from the present back to the past to build a story – this time of the relationship between the main character, Douglas and his wife, Connie after Connie has (unexpectedly to Douglas) asked for a divorce. This book flows easily between comedy, drama and sadness and the ending was perfect I thought.

My Salinger Year – Joanna Rakoff – A memoir about a young woman’s first job in New York in the 1990’s working for the literary agent who represents J.D. Salinger was a funny and insightful look into not only the publishing industry at that time but also the personal journey of the author herself. Don’t worry if you are not a Salinger fan (I’m not much to the shock of some die hard fans!) as you definitely don’t need to be to enjoy this one.

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell – I’m a bit late to the Rainbow Rowell fan parade but I am definitely on board now. For those of you who haven’t heard of this writer I am guessing she could be compared to a bit of a Judy Blume for her her generation?? She writes beautiful, sensitive, painful and topical novels for young readers which I think are just as applicable to adults (case in point – I’m almost 40 but I think her books are just as relevant to me now). Eleanor and Park is a gorgeous book that centres on the developing relationship between the two title characters but which also covers bigger issues of race, class, domestic violence and poverty in the American community. Read it now if you haven’t already.

Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey – This book was published a few years ago now so I am late to the party again. The book is set in the 1960’s in a rural Western Australian community and while it is ostensibly about the relationships occurring in the town told from the perspective of the main character, 13 year old Charlie Bucktin, it is another book delving into much bigger issues of prejudices in small communities and how they can impact more broadly. This novel is so beautifully put together and told – you truly feel like you are in this Australian town in the 1960’s and living the experiences with the characters.

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters  – I am a huge Sarah Waters fan – she is one of the few writers of whom I will automatically buy their new book without knowing a thing about it – which is pretty much what I did with this one! Set in post WW1 London the book centres around an upper middle class daughter and her mother who are forced to take borders into their home to make ends meet. Waters has an incredible skill for making you think a story is going in one direction and then suddenly you are going down a completely different path – unsettling at times but it makes for exciting reading!

Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham – This book has divided a lot of reviewers, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the best book I have read I did love it for it’s raw honesty and the message it has for young women about valuing yourself.

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr – I wrote about this book here as part of our Paris in July event. It is a book that has stayed with me since reading it and I have recommended it to anyone who has asked for a wonderful book to read.

Big LIttle Lies – Liane Moriarty – I must admit I usually try and avoid these best sellers – I can find them a bit lacking in depth and the characters often feel wooden and/or stereotypical – and while there was certainly a little bit of that in this book the roaring plot and fast pace more than makes up for that! This would be the perfect beach/holiday read I think…

How about you? What were your favourite reads from 2014? Please share – I need more to add to my list!




11 Comments on Best Reads of 2014

  1. Naomi Bulger
    December 11, 2014 at 3:32 pm (3 years ago)

    What a bumper list, thank you! With the youngest turning one, I’m just beginning to emerge from the sleep deprivation fog and turning to books again. So many good recommendations here!

    • KAB18
      December 11, 2014 at 3:42 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh Naomi I remember emerging from that all too well! Hope you can find a book to sustain you through the tired moments!

  2. Catherine
    December 11, 2014 at 3:34 pm (3 years ago)

    I’ve been looking at two of these in bookshops and been undecided – My Story and Not That Kind of Girl. I’m in need to some strong female morale boosting!! I might go pick one up and put it under the tree for me :)

  3. KAB18
    December 11, 2014 at 3:43 pm (3 years ago)

    I think it will depend on what kind of reading mood you are Catherine – Not That Kind of Girl is a lot funnier and in some ways less heavy than the GIllard memoir so I might start there??

  4. Emma Potter
    December 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm (3 years ago)

    The only one I have read is the Lena Dunham book and I’m like you, it was okay, good for her and all that but lord the girl is self-obsessed to the point of making me want to bang my head against a brick wall repeatedly…hahaha, my husband kept saying “put it down”…”put the book down and walk away Emma”..ha ha xxx

  5. Karen
    December 11, 2014 at 7:14 pm (3 years ago)

    Good bunch here! I’ve read My Salinger Year and Not That Kind of Girl and enjoyed both of them. I enjoyed Dunham’s book as I am a Girls fan and loved the way it was written, even if others didn’t like it. I wasn’t a huge Salinger fan as I have only read Catcher but wanted to read the rest after reading the book. Funnily enough, just as it says in the book about Salinger being overprotective about copyright and the electronic media/adaptations, I tried to download Franny and Zooey but his stuff is not available, even after his death! x

  6. Deb Baker
    December 11, 2014 at 9:35 pm (3 years ago)

    That’s a great book list Karen. There are quite a few books there that I have not read but are now on my holiday reading list. Thank you. x

  7. Ing Reils
    December 12, 2014 at 8:53 am (3 years ago)

    Thanks for this list Karen – I’ve added some of them to my ever increasing list. I am currently reading “Us” and am loving it. Jasper Jones was a great one too. I am looking forward to reading Julia Gillard’s book to see how she handled that misogynistic world ! Loved Kirsty Chambers books – very funny, real, aussie chick.

  8. pia
    December 12, 2014 at 10:04 am (3 years ago)

    Great post Karen! There are some books here that I’ve been meaning to read – and with my littlest not far from turning 1 I too feel (hope!) there’ll be more time for reading x

  9. Deb @ inner compass designs
    January 17, 2015 at 9:50 am (3 years ago)

    Great list. I want to read all the light we cannot see. I tried “us” three times and gave up. I might try again as I do accept some books just take a while to kick into gear for me. Thanks.


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