Elf's Diary Entry #3 - Top Books of 2014


One new years resolution for me this year, inspired by Richard Herring, is to blog every day. I love writing, yet am very shy about my abilities. I am hoping that the task of writing in a public forum, (rather than in the usual secret confines of my journal), will not only enhance my writing abilities and vocabulary, but will encourage me to stop hoarding so many ideas in my head, and simply share them with everyone else!

So, last year, 2014, I read approximately 150 books. Yes, you read that right. 150 books. I devour books like Haribo and they nourish my mind and soul like my mum's cooking. There is nothing more fulfilling, intimate and satisfying than sitting up with a novel and simply reading it all the way through. Reading about another world not only stretches time but makes one feel immortal - you have the opportunity to time travel from your universe to someone elses. It's like being a part of a secret society that anyone can be apart of yet is still wrapped up in layers of engimatic mystique. For me, true love is being able to be in the company of someone else, and both be reading novels, the same, different, whatever, but being happy in eachothers calm silence as we travel to seperate places in our heads. When I am reading, it does not matter that it is 4am in the morning in my chilly room in Zone 2, for in my mind it is Week 6 at the Overlook Hotel and I am with Jack Torrance as he slowly becomes manipulated by evil spirits, or with Patti Smith at the Chelsea Hotel in the seventies as she develops the confidence to sing. Reading is the most selfish unselfish thing you can do.

Thus, here are my top books of 2014 that I'd recommend you read... they are not all Pulitzer Prize winners.. but they all struck a chord in one way or another...

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I devoured this book in one sitting in Normandy in September (yes, that sentence is as pretentious as it sounds) and I recommend this novel to everyone - in particular those who feel limited or doubting about their own future and own intellectual abilities - it definitely is food for thought. My friend Sam Dodgin selected it for our book club and I had no idea what to expect. Written in the sixties and winner of the Nebula Award, Flowers for Algernon is a fantastic science fiction novel following the short period of time that a young man, Charlie Gordon, develops into a genius after a groundbreaking medical operation. The novel is written in a series of first person diary entries, making it very easy to digest and the unique format in which is written makes it highly addictive and difficult to put down. The novel touches upon many moral and ethical issues to do with human behaviour, intelligence, free will, science and our relationshps with one another and caused our book club to have a great debate. If you've never been interested in Science Fiction before I would HIGHLY recommend you let this be your first taste of the genre....

Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau

Again, I read this in one sitting in Normandy in September, (now it's time to pioint out the weather was great, there was tons of beer, I was in the middle of nowhere and I had no Wi-fi), I discovered the book at the back of an old decrepid bookcase. It was an old green, dour penguin paperback and it seemed incredibly mysterious.

This novel is very much a cult book and in my opinion is where the annoying school game 'The Game' came from (Oh dear I lost the Game). It was published in 1929 and is about the perverse and consuming relationship of orphaned siblings Elisabeth and Paul and their isolated and abnormal relationshp with themselves and the outside world as they move from teenagers to young adults.

It's shocking and tragic, but there is something so enigmatic about the way in which Cocteau describes these siblings that you very much want to join them. It feels like you are reading a slow-moving horror.

If you've seen the film Dreamers starring Eva Green or read 'The Holy Innocents' by Gilbert Adair chances are you'll enjoy Les Enfants Terribles.

The Wrong Knickers by Bryony Gordon

For anyone (in particular city dwellers and young art graduates) who feels like they are f*cking-up/ have f*cked-up or are going to f*ck up their lives, relationships and careers, this is the best literary pain relief for you. I read it in November when I hit a real low confidence wise, and it was very fortifying. Fun and brutually honest, Bryony comically reflects on her (sometimes incredibly uncomfortable) experiences in her twenties as a journalist. Her blunt no-holds-barred style is refreshing and I respect her greatly for being honest about so many areas of ones life that we often feel ashamed to talk about - mainly, the mistakes we make - and I'm talking BIG mistakes. It's easy to read and you can consume it comfortably in a weeks worth of tube rides. This novel left me feeling more confident about my own abilities as a young woman. It felt like all the advise your mother would never feel comfortable telling you, but your blunt chain-smoking Aunt would. Grab a copy when you're hungover and feeling like an absolute fool. It's the book equivalent of berocca.