My favourite books of 2014

In 2014, I’ve read 140 books (so far!). Yeah, I know. I may have a problem. I promise I did other stuff too – I wrote two novels, graduated, got a new dog….anyway. Many of the books I read were wonderful, but here are my absolute faves, the ones you should really try and read. Beg, borrow and steal these books.

This is a list of my favourite books of those published in 2014, not of all the ones I’ve read. (A lot of these would still be on it, but there would be a few additions, which I’ve included at the end. I’ve read a lot of excellent books this year.)

10. What if? by Randall Munroe


I have been a die hard fan of xkcd since I was 16- I’m a scientist, so it’s one of my favourite things. This book is a printed version of a blog that I love, where stupid questions like ‘What would happen if everyone in the world gathered in one place?‘ are answered with scientific calculations, and then the ridicule they deserve (‘There would be a lot of traffic when they all tried to get home‘.)

It’s very, very clever, and the illustrations with the typical xkcd sense of humour really make it a joy to read. I love it.

9. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters


I looooove Sarah Waters. She’s a study in how to be a good writer- how to write realistic, flawed females who you still adore with all your heart, how to make heart-stopping plot twists that somehow you don’t see coming despite the foreshadowing (because you’re reading at the speed of light….), how to write historical fiction that still feels achingly modern. She’s my favourite author, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

8. The Sandman Overture by Neil Gaiman


I live and die by Gaiman’s writing, and he’s at his peak when he writes the Sandman. Vivid immortals, locations which change second by second, and contemporary and relevant plotlines despite the fantasy genre. His new Sandman comics are no different. I’m eagerly awaiting the rest of this series!

7. More than This by Patrick Ness


I only discovered Patrick Ness when I signed with Walker, because I was checking out the other authors they publish. I immediately kicked myself for not reading his books sooner. His writing is sparse and delicious, with a great use of space and emptiness. In particular this book is almost a work of art. It’s one of those amazing books where there’s somehow a cliffhanger at the end of every single chapter, so your heartbeat rises and rises and rises, until you can’t possibly imagine how it could be resolved by the end. With an incredibly diverse group of characters, this is a book to treasure.

6. Everything leads to you by Nina LaCour


Not only does this book have one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen (I kept stopping reading just to look at it again), it’s beautiful inside as well. It’s a lovely, angst free, happily-ever-after fluffy love story and it felt fresh and new and like coming home all at once. This is the kind of book that you reread, just because it makes you feel happy and content all over. I wish there was a film of this book, because I would watch it over and over.

I just love this book so much, it has everything: secret letters and long lost families and romance and celebrities….I can’t wait until it comes out in paperback, because I can think of at least 3 people I need to buy it for.

5. Solitaire by Alice Oseman


I’m putting this mid-way through my list instead of higher up because I’m scared I’ve got a biased perspective on this book, because Alice is one of my closest friends. (You probably all know this already, cause she’s chronicintrovert on tumblr. We do a lot of writing challenges together.)

But this book is something special. We’ve been talking about it a lot recently, because we think it scares adults a bit. It’s so real and true and terrifyingly accurate. It discusses mental health and depression and it is definitely not a love story. Read it.

4. We were liars, by e. lockhart 


I don’t even know how to describe this book. With one of the most breathtaking, unexpected, I-need-to-reread-this-immediately plot twists of all time, I think this book changed my perspective on what YA is and can be forever. I have been a huge fan of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks for a couple of years now (which is finally out in the UK! Whooo!) and this book has made me a firm and unwavering Lockhart fan for life.

3. Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith


This book! THIS BOOK, GUYS!! It’s a diverse action adventure, with a unique love triangle, an amazing plotline (GIANT GRASSHOPPERS.) and the best horny teenager protag ever. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and I loved it.

2. A hero at the end of the world by Erin Claiborne


Imagine that at the last minute, Ron killed Voldemort instead of Harry. Imagine Ron went onto huge fame and success as a celebrity/auror, and a bitter Harry started working in a coffee shop. Imagine Draco comes along and talks Harry into joining the Death Eaters, and they fall in love and spend a lot of time giving each other ‘soulmate gazes’ along the way. If that sounds like the best fanfiction ever, then it’s no surprise. This is the first book from a new press which publishes original novels by popular fanfiction writers. And it’s one of my new favourite things.

The story and characters are all totally original (and incredible), but there are callbacks and references to popular fan culture throughout which bring the story to life. Azkaban becomes Mount Unpleasant (amazing), the characters have degrees in things like Equestrian psychology, there are references to the Freezing Cold War, and it just bursts with life.

This book has so much charm and character I was beaming the whole time I was reading it. To top of this joy of joys of pastiche storytelling, the characters are some of the best I’ve read in a long time. They jump off the page, and I ship them so hard, guys. So hard. I was desperate for them to kiss.

1. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson


Okay, okay. The book for this isn’t out until next year, but the webcomic finished this year, so it totally counts. (IT DOES.) You can read this for free online, so get on that and do it straight away. No, sooner.

This is a graphic novel, about a shapeshifting girl who forces an Evil Villain to let her be his sidekick. He is a grouchy, one-armed villain with a tragic backstory, and she slowly melts his heart and makes him kind-of happy again. With great diversity, and the strongest of strong female leads (with the best hair), this is a wonder to read. I followed it every week, and I’ve got my preorder on hold for my hardback copy asap.

Read it!

So those are my favourite books of the year! What are yours?

Bonus extra: books I love published before 2014


Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

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