Book Reviews · Lifestyle

Top Books of 2014

I am a major bookworm. I always have a big pile of books on my bedside cabinet, and am forever guilty of buying 3 new books when I’m still in the middle of the current one.

I’ve read some good books and some not so good books over the course of 2014 – here is a run down of my favourites!

***Disclaimer*** The following is just a mash up of my opinions on these particular books – I am no expert, nor do I wish to cause offence to anyone who may not agree with me! All interpretation is personal 🙂 Happy reading!

My favourite books of 2014: The Goldfinch, The Secret History, The Shock of the Fall, No and Me, The Fault in our Stars, Eat and Run, Lean In, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.
My favourite books of 2014: The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, The Secret History, The Goldfinch, The Shock of the Fall, No and Me, The Fault in our Stars, Eat and Run, Lean In.

1) The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul – Deborah Rodriguez (RRP £7.99, Waterstones)

I wouldn’t normally go for a book like this, which I guess you could technically classify as ‘chick lit’ – however; this book is set in a part of the world that I am very unfamiliar with, and that I want to know more about. The book tracks 5 women of various backgrounds whose central connection is a coffee shop in Kabul city. The author lived in Kabul herself and this gives the book a genuine feel – cultural references run throughout the story and, while the book is easy to read; you can never fully relate to the struggles and issues faced by the women in this story. Deborah Rodriguez also wrote ‘Kabul Beauty School‘ which I think will probably be on my list of books to read for 2015!

2) The Secret History – Donna Tartt (RRP £8.99, Waterstones)

This was the first book I read with my book group; and I must say they started me off with a good one! The novel follows an elite group of classics students at a university in Vermont. Narrated by Richard Papen, an outsider who finds himself drawn into the group; the novel tracks their questionable moral behaviour which leads to a shocking conclusion.

I won’t go into details of the plot too much as I don’t want to spoil it. However, what I will say is that the writing is excellent and Tartt does a great job at pulling you in to the story; making you as an outsider feel like you are being given access to a thrilling, secret and exclusive world of the Greek Classics students. It is dark and clever, and will make you question your own morals as well as the story unfolds and you find yourself attached to the characters.

Read it. You won’t regret it.

3) The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt (RRP £8.99, Waterstones)

Once I had finished The Secret History, I immediately went out and bought The Goldfinch. This is Tartt’s second novel and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014. The novel tracks the life of the protagonist, Theo Decker, who having survived a disaster at age 13 clings to a small painting, The Goldfinch, which draws him into a world of crime and deceit.

The Goldfinch is a somewhat thicker tome than The Secret History; but I think it is my favourite of the two. It very quickly draws you in to Theo’s world and the dangerous circles he becomes involved in. It may be long but it is definitely worth the read!

4) The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer (RRP £7.99, Waterstones)

I really loved this book. Written by a qualified mental health nurse, this book follows the descent of the protagonist into mental illness following a tragic accident during his youth. It is simple and open, easy and quick to read, and a little bit heartbreaking.

5) No and Me – Delphine de Vigan (RRP £6.29, Amazon)

A friend gave me this book about 3 years ago, and it sat in my little (well, alright, large) pile of books until this summer. The story is about a young French girl who befriends a homeless girl as part of a school project. After the project is complete, Lou persuades No to come and live with her and her family.

6) The Fault in our Stars – John Green (RRP £7.99, Waterstones)

I guess this one needs little introduction – this book went viral earlier this year and has since spawned a pretty popular film, too. I can’t say I really rated the film that much, but I did enjoy the book – I think I even shed a tear. It’s easy reading and pulls at the heartstrings. It’s a sad and horrible truth that people both young and old the world over are battling cancer; and though the characters may be fictitious it’s awful to think that someone so young could succumb to this awful disease.

7) Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness – Scott Jurek (RRP £8.99, Waterstones)

As you will have heard if you’ve read my blog previously, I am a fan of a bit of running. I bought this book for James for Christmas last year and once he had finished with it I had a sneaky read.

Scott Jurek, for those who do not know, is an American ultramarathon runner; and has won almost all of the elite ultrarunning races around. I have run marathons in the past, and that is tiring enough, so I find it difficult to comprehend how someone can run (and win) a race such as the Western States 100. If you read it, be careful – you might come away vegan (as happened to one of the guys at our running club) or seriously considering running an ultra…..hhmmmm maybe later eh 😉

8) Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandberg (RRP  £8.99, Amazon)

I am very much enjoying the third wave of feminism that is going on at the moment. Sheryl Sandberg is COO of Facebook and presented an extremely popular TED talk in 2010 on ‘Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders’. If you have watched this, you will already be familiar with her messages. Lean In is full of mind boggling statistics regarding equality in the workplace, women’s opinion of themselves and their own abilities to lead, and lead change. I found this book inspiring and extremely relevant to the stage I am currently at in my career. Definitely worth a read for both men and women alike. Pick up a copy…..and remember to sit at the table.

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Next time I’ll be reviewing my top books to read in 2015 – if you have any suggestions, please do let me know!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Steph x

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