Our Five Best Books 2014

One of the perks of rolling into autumn is the excuse it gives us to curl up into the sofa; snug in a blanket with a steaming mug of hot chocolate to hand, and delve into a good book. We’ve always loved great storytelling, and the quiet moments of escape a brilliant novel can provide. To that end we’ve been reading all summer to find the top five picks for you. From an unlikely art heist to a frantic and terrifying murder mystery, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed these five books and hope you will too.

I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

From the moment you turn the first page you know this cinematic whirlwind of a book was made to be a movie. So it’s no surprise that its scribe is behind such screenplays as ‘Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior’ and ‘Vertical Limit’. It’s also no shocker that it’s headed for the big screen.

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‘Pilgrim’ is a former secret agent, a master of espionage who is drawn back into the game to try and avert a major terrorist threat. As he sets off on an epic Global chase to track down the terrorist, Pilgrim finds himself entangled in a murder mystery that he feels compelled to solve. Hayes does a marvellous job of weaving these two story threads deftly and neatly, keeping the narrative clear for the reader. Given his status as an elusive spy, Pilgrim is a rich and empathetic character and you root for him all the way. ‘I Am Pilgrim’ definitely has franchise potential so we hope Hayes is planning a sequel! (Order it here)

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The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

You can’t really go wrong with Donna Tartt so we knew ‘The Goldfinch’ was a relatively safe bet. Theodore Decker is a young kid in Manhattan whose life is turned upside down when he loses his mother in a terrorist attached on an art gallery. Struggling to deal with his loss, Theo is sent to live with the family of his schoolfriend Andy; a family that is plagued with their own issues.

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‘The Goldfinch’ explores Theo’s journey through adolescence and into his twenties as he contends with the aftermath of that fateful day, and challenges the concepts of family, love, morality and self. It’s a long book and we felt that the last section lacked some of the pace and depth of the previous pages, nevertheless Tartt has created some truly memorable characters in the shape of Boris and Hobie, and a book that for the most part is hard to put down. (Order it here)

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats –  Jan-Philipp Sendker

This book falls into the category of a modern day fairytale – for those who don’t mind the odd nod to magic, in a similar way to another favourite; Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

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Unlike most romance novels, it’s not soppy or predictable – it’s well-structured and well-written. Julia Win, a young lawyer from New York begins the search for her missing father, Tin Win who had disappeared without a trace. The trail leads to Kalaw (Burma) after Julia finds an old letter of his from 1940. Arriving in Kalaw, Julia meets many of the characters that featured in Tin Win’s childhood who begin to tell her his story, and Julia starts to learn that there is a whole side to Tin Win’s life that he had never shared with her.

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It was originally published in 2002 as Das Herzenhören in Jan-Philipp Sendker’s native Germany and quickly went on to become a national bestseller.  On the whole, it’s a story of two kindred spirits who are still drawn to each other despite decades apart. The narrative describing the exotic unfamiliarities of Southeast Asia provides a wonderful backdrop to the compelling story. Great read. (Order it here)

The Girl with all the Gifts – M. R. Carey

Whilst tales of survival in zombie strewn cities have quite literally been ‘done to death’ – this fantastically original and surprisingly poignant novel portrays post-apocalyptic Britain in a way never seen before.

It’s told largely from the viewpoint of the main protagonist, Melanie, a 10 year old girl with a genius level IQ. We first encounter Melanie locked in a cell in a military controlled research facility with other similar children, harbouring a serious girl-crush on the facility’s psychologist-cum-primary teacher, Miss Justineau.

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On the surface she has all the traits of a normal little girl, but we soon learn the research has a much more sinister motive. The country has been overrun by ‘hungries’, people infected by the Orphicordyceps virus some 20 years previously and who lurk at every corner of the urban sprawls of Britain. We learn how a small group of children like Melanie are infected but still retain human emotions and rational thought. Their partial immunity makes them the only hope for scientists to find a cure.

Despite this backdrop this is not a horror tale – it is one of internal struggles, lost childhoods, and a compelling examination of what it means to be “human”. Simply put – it’s the ultimate zombie novel for people who hate zombie novels. A must-read. (Order it here)

The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

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This book won the Man Booker Prize in 2013, although at over 800 pages it is intimidating to pick up. Once you do, you will be smitted by tales of the wild west coast of New Zealand during the goldrush in the 1860s. The captivating prose of each chapter draws you in immediately, as you try to keep up with twisting tales of various characters who all have histories embedded in revenge, deceit and fraud.

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We love books that focus on character development and this one lets you get to know each of them intimately and discover how they are connected to every other gold-digger who has arrived on new shores with the desperate hope of striking it rich.  At its heart, it is a murder mystery so the plot continues to thicken and you suddenly forget that you are lost in an epic tome that initially looked like it would take a year to read. A great holiday read for anyone who wants to get stuck into a long but satisfying whodunnit.  (Order it here)

Cinnamon pastries optional.

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Joelle and Jodie Large

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