Books :: 2014

The German Boy- Patricia Wastvedt
Starting the year with a re-read again. Harrowing and beautiful - it was as wonderful a read the second time round as the first.

Glass Castle - Jeanette Walls
Nearly unbelievable account of a girl's wild childhood with two artistic and slightly crazy parents. I could relate to the mother 'why waste time cooking a meal which'll be gone in seconds when you could be working on a painting which will last for years?', until you realise her children are actually starving from neglect!

The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson
Loved it!

How To Be a Woman - Caitlin Moran
I can't stand that she's only a month older than me and so successful. But she is a wonder. Every page of the book felt like hanging out my mum, my best friends and myself. Hilarious and thought-provoking.

Room - Emma Donoghue
Joh! I don't like the reference to The Lovely Bones on the cover because I hated that book but I loved this one. If you'd told me I'd love a book about a young woman and her son imprisoned by a sex offender I would never have believed you but ... this book is so unexpected. I read it in a weekend, one of my books of the year for sure.

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Chilling, racy, compelling, dark trash. I loved it. (And subsequently really enjoyed the movie too!)

C-Word - Lisa Lynch
Introduced to this by a friend who'd just spent a year fighting breast cancer, she said it was the closest she came to seeing her experience relayed by someone else. I read it to try and gain more insight into that.
I almost wish I'd read it earlier in my friend's journey for it certainly was insightful, but I just couldn't warm to the author unfortunately.

The Slap - Christos Tsiolkas
I really didn't enjoy this much, but yet I read it to the end. It was exactly like watching a crappy movie which you just know is a waste of time and brain cells, but the couch is too comfy to actually get up off your fat ass. Left me feeling a little intellectually tainted.
Shockingly I've seen reviews praising it wildly. Yuk.

Sunset Park - Paul Auster
Love Paul Auster, loved Sunset Park.

Jamilia - Chingiz Aitmatov
What an amazing and original little book. Short, translated from Kazakhstan or some such language, a story unlike one I ever usually read. A gem.

Where'd you go, Bernadette - Maria Semple
Do not be put off by that somewhat kooky cover! This book, which looks like a standard rom com, is in fact a deep, delicious, strange and disturbing read.
You know that theme of a woman who loses herself in her daily life? It's that but written like it's never been written before.

Here & Now - Paul Auster & JM Coetzee
You know I'm a Paul Auster fan right? I really will read anything by him, even letters he wrote to JM Coetzee of whom I'm not a fan at all.
But these are great.

Persuasion - Jane Austen
How many years has it been since I last read a Jane Austen? Too many.
The language is thick, the story always too long, the characters motives unclear. but still: literature y'all.

I am Malala - Malala Yousafzai
Wow. I honestly didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did. The book is so accessible, compelling writing which kept me hooked throughout. The history was fascinating, that which I didn't know and those parts I remembered. The Pakistan earthquake in 2005 - I remembered the devastation but had no inkling of the political impact until I read this book. And Malala? I can't wait to track the future of this incredible young person.

Sex and Stravinsky - Barbara Trapido
Candy. Sweet, cloying, sticks in your teeth for ages afterwards.

This is How - MJ Hyland
Terrifying. I love to hate books which draw you into the lead character's downward spiral, make you standby as s/he screws up over and over again until they're dug so deep they can't get out. Books like this leave me feeling tense and disturbed, and in this case exhilarated.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell
Might just be my read of the year! There is such sadness here, such terrible sadness, but written with such a light touch and an engaging story-line that it breaks over you easily and subtly. A gorgeous book.

Mr Rosenblum's List - Natasha Solomons
I enjoyed it, then I didn't. I put it down and then picked it up again - quite unheard of for me - and I'm really glad I did.

Half Broke Horses - Jeanette Walls
Another by Jeanette Walls, not quite as compelling as Glass Castle but still a fascinating read. This one tells the story of her grandmother's life in a semi-autobiographical style - an amazing life indeed!

The Wednesday Sisters - Meg White Clayton
I thought this one was another light read. At first I didn't even introduce it to book club as I thought it too light and frivolous, but it stayed with me and eventually I put it in and others have been reading it and enjoying it. About a group of women just too young to be standard 1950's wives, but just too young to be liberated hippies, wifing and mothering like their mama's taught them, but in a world changing by the second.

Homestead - Rosina Lippi
I loved this little book. A small Swiss village before and during WW2 - about many generations of women there and how their lives were changed by the war. A quiet book, but a lovely one.

The Stone Diaries - Carol Shields
Another great one about multiple generations of women and the quirks, pain and wonder that they pass down to each other.

Endings & Beginnings - Redi Thlabi
Oooo, another strong contender for book of the year! Redi is a joy to listen to on the radio - measured, fair-minded, just the right amount of controversial.
Her book not only gave such insight into her as a person, but gave me so much context for South Africa and where we are today through the stories of the past. A difficult but completely rewarding read.

Birdseye - Maire Fisher
A local novel, set in a fictional part of Cape Town more than loosely based on the area where we live now. 
I love books which tackle difficult material in a completely accessible way. Narrated by a child is always a win too and this was a lovely book.

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
This will be a movie soon I'm sure. The main character - an oddball of note - was one of the loveliest characters I met all year. My heart broke and soared for him at the same time. Delicious.

e - Matt Beaumont
A re-read. My sister-in-law who is in advertising laughed so hard when reading this book that she dropped it in the bath! Luckily it survived to be read again.
All written in email format, about a vicious advertising agency in London, this book is hilarious.


Good Morning, Mr Mandela - Zelda la Grange
Zelda was Madiba's PA during his Presidency and beyond, and it's the beyond years which are the most fascinating. A lovely perspective on the man and his life, his incredible service to the world and his personal foibles.
I didn't finish the book. I stopped just as he really started getting ill and incapacitated. It is too soon for me to revisit that sad time.

The Sound of Wild Snail Eating - Elisabeth Tova Bailey
This book was given to my friend while she fought breast cancer last year and it's a completely fascinating read.
A very ill woman befriends a snail which lives in a terrarium next to her bed. The snail's companionship inspires her to learn all about mollusks, and write a little book of insight and delightful information about this lowly and incredibly important creatures.

The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell
How to end the year with a bang!
I haven't finished this yet, and doubt I will before midnight tomorrow (I lost the whole of yesterday to Serial), but I'm halfway in and LOVING it. Mitchell never disappoints and this novel is completely satisfying. The man's turn of phrase is impeccable, and his cast of characters sublime.

Fewer books than last year, but considering how busy I've been (and that weird dearth of reading while I was on crutches at the beginning of the year), I don't think I've done too badly - 29!

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