So, with 2014 almost consigned to the history books, it’s that time again where everyone looks back over what happened in the last twelve months. We can’t pretend as a whole that it was a busy year, but all that matters to me is simply what books I’ll take from it and into the future. So, here I am, reading old reviews and dusting off my tournament bracket software to work out which ten books were the best of 2014. Some got cut from the list quite quickly, and shockingly there are no Agatha Christie books listed this year, which isn’t because I read bad ones, but because I read too many other interesting books and she probably doesn’t need the publicity.

So here we are, in no particular order, my ten favourite books from the last year.

spoiled1. Spoiled Brats by Simon Rich

I discovered Simon Rich a few years ago and have since adored everything he’s done. This collection of short stories deals with those who are spoiled and, in particular, the “gimme gimme gimme” attitude of the Millennials. They include a tale told from the point of view of a hamster, a fictionalised version of Rich meeting his great-great-grandfather, a girl taking a year out to study on Saturn and some ghosts who haven’t understood that they’re dead.

They’re smart little stories, all quite quick but without a word wasted. At only thirty years old, Rich is an insane talent and is definitely one to watch. If you find anything by him, you’ve struck gold, but Spoiled Brats might be his best work yet.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

TheSilkworm2. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott are back and I couldn’t be happier. Even though everyone knows that Galbraith is none other than J K Rowling herself, this only adds to the joy. So different are these books from Harry Potter that they almost deserve another name, as it seems unfair to acknowledge that one woman can be so damn talented and spread her literary wings so wide.

In the first story, the world of fashion and fame came under the spotlight, but this time round there’s been a murder in the world of publishing, when eccentric author Owen Quine is found trussed up and dead in the exact same manner as a character in his latest book. All of his friends and family fall under suspicion when it turns out that the book contains gross caricatures of everyone he knows, meaning that everyone has a good motive for killing him.

The characters are so much fun and are definitely people I’d want to spend time with. As far as I know, there are plans to continue the series and I hope these come to fruition. Let’s just hope as well that next time we get to see even more of Robin, and Strike can get a bit of happiness.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

gospel-of-loki[1]3. The Gospel Of Loki by Joanne M Harris

I love Greek and Egyptian mythology, but my knowledge of the Norse myths was strongly lacking. However, that was corrected with The Gospel of Loki, which takes those myths and retells them from the point of view of the trickster god himself. Having little prior knowledge, I don’t know how much Loki has twisted, but given what I know about other mythologies, I’d imagine that this is pretty spot on to the originals – the more wicked gods are usually treated less kindly, so this redresses the balance and shows what “really” happened.

Each chapter tells a different myth, and while there is an overall story, the chapters read like short stories in themselves, although it’s probably best to read them all to get the full picture. It’s smart, funny and just a bit mad, like all the best books should be.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

a void4. A Void by Georges Perec

I haven’t chosen this one for the plot as much as for the construction. Originally written in French, this novel has been written without a single use of the letter ‘E’, and yet still tells a compelling and interesting story. Anton Vowl is a curious insomniac who starts noticing that something is missing in his life, and yet when he goes to explore it, he himself goes missing. His friends come together to rummage through his belongings and tell each other stories to work out where Vowl has gone and what it is that he thought was missing.

Writing a novel without the use of the most common letter seems insane, but it’s done here and done brilliantly. You get caught up in the story and forget that there aren’t any E’s, although when you suddenly realise again (usually due to some kind of flowery wordplay trickery), it just makes it even more astounding. The novel even inspired me to write my whole review in the same manner, although I’ve obviously not done that here again. Once is enough.

Frankly, while the story is good, it wouldn’t be in my top ten if not for the gimmick, but I like a good gimmick, so I’m happy to say it was one of the smartest books I read this year.

You can read my full E-less review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

atomic cover5. The Atomic Blood-Stained Bus by Michael J Ritchie

I think I can be excused for putting my own book on this list, although it’s going to come across as arrogant however I attempt to justify it, so I won’t bother trying. If you haven’t already read it (and shame on you, after all I’ve done for you!), this is the story of insane cannibal Garfield, bored journalist Gwen and ex-god Algernon and their separate quests for happiness and meaning, helped and hindered by the last three witches of Britain. When Gwen’s interest in missing persons causes her to go looking for a man called David, she finds herself on the trail of Garfield’s transport, the titular bus, which could potentially spell misery for everyone involved.

Ever since I was young, I wanted to get published, and this year I did it. It has been so thrilling to see my book for sale, and to hear from other people who have read it and enjoyed it. While my friends naturally probably feel obliged to tell me they like it, I’ve also had people I don’t know reporting back to me, so that’s really nice. It’s said to be original and funny, somewhat Douglas-Adams-y but I’ll absolutely leave those sorts of descriptions up to other people. But, if you like that sort of thing, you might like this. Buy it, celebrate with me, give me money, and later when I’m super famous, you can say that you were one of the first ones to read it.

You can read my full non-review here, or download a copy of the book here.

jpod6. jPod by Douglas Coupland

If you’ve been reading all year, then you know that I’ve been re-reading and reviewing all of Douglas Coupland’s books. Well, I’m not quite done either – there are just four more to go – but I had to put one of his books on here and it was a tough decision, but I’ve gone for jPod, although assume that Girlfriend in a Coma or Microserfs were just as welcome at this spot.

Set in a video game design company in the mid-noughties, this book follows the story of Ethan Jarlewski, his family and co-workers as they struggle to keep sane in a world that’s going mad. At work, they sabotage their own game by inserting gory easter eggs, and waste time writing love letters to Ronald McDonald or auctioning themselves on eBay, and at home, Ethan must deal with an affably sinister Chinese gangster and the fact that his mother has just accidentally killed a man.

Coupland is always so on the ball that it’s spooky. He captures the minutia of whatever moment he’s writing about and makes it so relatable it’s almost creepy. He is great with words and seems to love post-modernism – he’s not afraid to mess around with format and style, and it makes him terribly refreshing.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

Monsters of Men7. Monsters Of Men by Patrick Ness

The first in this series, The Knife of Never Letting Go, featured in my top ten last year, and the third in the trilogy is back here again. I’d add the central novel too, but that’s overkill. In the final installment of the Chaos Walking series, Todd and Viola find that everything is at stake and they might have accidentally found themselves on opposite sides of the battle. With time rapidly running out and new arrivals landing to find the mayhem in progress, they have to do what they can to save as many people as possible.

The series is brilliantly written, very fast-paced and structured so that just when you think none of it can get any worse, it does. Like most YA fantasy fiction, it deals with morality and the endless shades of grey that replace the black-and-white/good-and-evil that many people still believe exists. I’m not a big fan of YA usually, but this series is something pretty magical.

You can read my full review here, or buy the trilogy here.

look whos back8. Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

While this story is good, this book is only really on this list for the sheer cheek of it. Vermes caused a huge stir in his native Germany when he released this book, and it’s not difficult to see why: this is the story of Hitler’s second rise to power.

Taking place in modern Germany, Hitler awakens to find that Eva and the Nazis are gone and the world is very different to the one he left. He doesn’t understand why no one is saluting him or treating him with the respect he is used to, eventually discovering that he has somehow time travelled to the future. When some TV executives think he’s a brilliant inpersonator who just won’t drop his act for even a second, Hitler gets a shot on a chat show. And from there, history begins to repeat itself.

What’s particularly shocking about this book is simply that Hitler is shown as a human rather than a monster. Hitler remains in our minds, and in reality, one of the most twisted people in history, but here he is almost sympathetic. It’s a dazzling piece of fiction and one that only serves to highlight that some things never change, that people will always love a good orator, and that we should all be grateful that Hitler didn’t have Internet access first time round…

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

humans9. The Humans by Matt Haig

A lot of books, films and TV shows seem to deal with humans travelling to alien planets to explore, but the only time you ever see it the other way around (generally) is when aliens have come to invade us. In this book, a single alien is sent down to stop humans from finding out about a particularly complex mathematical problem that they aren’t ready for, only to find humans stranger than anything he’s ever encountered.

It’s a great twist to see how the things we think of as normal – marriage, orgasms, coffee, peanut butter – are deemed strange and freaky to someone from another planet and society. It’s also deeply moving as the alien begins to love our ways, yet all the while pointing out how ridiculous we are, and the terrible things we had to do as a species to achieve civilisation. Nonetheless, it’s a book of great hope and optimism and if you didn’t love the human race before, you probably will when you’ve read this.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

martian10. The Martian by Andy Weir

And now we come to the tenth book and, if I’m honest, probably the best book I read all year, which came as a surprise to even myself but my memories and my tournament brackets never lie. This is the story of Mark Watney who, after being accidentally abandoned by his crewmates, becomes the only person on Mars. Trapped and with no way of communicating with Earth, he must now try to survive until the next mission arrives – in four years time.

I have rarely seen such a good and seamless blend of comedy and hard science fiction as this. Weir is a talent who clearly does his research and enjoys it. There are a lot of passages of very heavy science, most of which I only had the most basic understanding of, but it’s still a quick read that doesn’t disappoint. Mark is a brilliant protagonist and his struggle is one that most of us can never comprehend. It’s a brilliant and somewhat terrifying look at the realities of space travel, and I loved it.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

2015 promises a new wave of literary love for me, as I continue my way through Christie’s backlog (just twenty-five to go) and finish up my Douglas Coupland re-reads. I was planning to read The Hunger Games last year but that never happened, so it’s now lined up for study this year, and I’m also going to re-read Harry Potter again for the first time in ages. Meanwhile, there remain a whole stack of books on my shelves to explore, and with any luck, news of my second novel will also be available some time over the coming year. Speaking of, I’m going to end this now and get on with finishing the thing.

All that remains for me to say is happy new year to all my readers and may 2015 be exciting, prosperous and everything you wish for.

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