Top Ten Books of 2014

Top Ten Books That I Have Read in 2014

This is the sort of list that makes me wish that I had kept some sort of record of what I read this year, but I guess that can be an early New Year’s Resolution. Books are in no particular order, prompt as always is from The Broke and the Bookish.

1. Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy #1) – Jeff Vandermeer

Vandermeer is an expert world-builder and this is front and centre in Annihilation. Although it is the first book of a trilogy, it could easily standalone. I could actually include the rest of the trilogy (Authority and Acceptance) here but it smacks of cheating.

2. Under the Skin – Michel Faber

You hear that the book has been made into a movie starring Scarlett Johansson and you make an assumption about what kind of book it is. You read the blurb of the book and find that you were wrong, but now you think you know what the book is about. You read the first chapter and realise that you were wrong but now, surely, you know where this will end. Not a chance. Some things are revealed, while others remain forever obscured.

3. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History – Elizabeth Kolbert

A fascinating, and often frightening, investigation of species extinction throughout time. Very readable as the science is interwoven with history and Kolbert’s own research.

4. The Long Mars (The Long Earth #3) – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

I love that this series has kept (mostly) the same characters and maintained their individual plot arcs. Combined with the jumps in the timeline which allow for events to occur at a roughly realistic pace, characters and the world around them change and grow.

5. Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution – Caroline Weber

The sometimes tired history of Marie Antoinette is given an interesting perspective by examining  the clothes that she wore, their meaning (both what she likely intended and how they were interpreted by others) and how Marie Antoinette used her wardrobe to exert control over her own life.

6. The Ambitions of Jane Franklin: Victorian Lady Adventurer – Alison Alexander

Books like this are the main reason I always (skim) read the book review section in newspapers, magazines and blogs. Jane Franklin was the wife of the second governor of Tasmania and yet I had never, ever heard of her. She was one of the most travelled women of the Western world in the Victorian era, and spent a year travelling through Egypt with only a Christian missionary for company (she neglected to mention to her husband and family that said missionary was young, handsome and apparently devoted to her).

7. A Blink of the Screen: Collected Short Fiction – Terry Pratchett

I will read anything that Terry Pratchett writes, but this is actually a very good collection of his short fiction, including stories written when he was young and ideas from his later novels which were later fleshed out or scrapped.

8. The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London – Judith Flanders

An amazingly wide ranging and detailed book which covers all aspects of Victorian London from the sewerage system to the cemeteries to the markets to transport, with reference to how these aspects appear in Dickens’ novels. Intersects perfectly with the companion book Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England, as well as Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life and Catharine Arnold’s Necropolis: London and its Dead and Bedlam: London and Madness

9. The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh – Evelyn Waugh

A spur of the moment free download as I had liked Brideshead RevisitedWaugh is a wonderful writer, but the subject matter genuinely surprised me, including a story set in a futuristic dystopia.

10. Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood

A fictional retelling of an actual 19th century Canadian murder case, I found that my enjoyment of this novel was aided by the wider reading I had been coincidentally doing on 19th century domestic life (see above) as well as Jenny Hartley’s Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women, which discusses the training as domestic servants and deportation of ‘fallen women’ from England to Australia in the 19th century.

And as a bonus, here is the result of a mini book buying spree which will hopefully contain some of next year’s favourite books. I would like to point out that not one of these books cost more than $10 and that several only cost $2.50, cheers to the op-shop!

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