Best books of 2014

2014 was a good reading year. Fifty books read, forty-one reviewed, a few abandoned halfway through. This was a great year for horror books, and being my favorite category it will also be the longest.

BEST HORROR (I will include Gothic here as well.)

The Shining – Stephen King
This is the best horror book of the year. I’ve waited a long time to read it, don’t ask me why – maybe it was not the time, maybe some other book got in the way, but when the sequel, Doctor Sleep, came out, I knew the time had come so I read them both. The Shining was by far the best of the two. I still think about that fire hose with shivers down my spine.

Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice
I’ve read a few books from “The Vampire Chronicle”, back when I didn’t know this was a series, but “Interview with the Vampire” stands out. Not only did it make me love vampire stories even more, but it made me want to read the entire series, in order this time. And with the recent addition of a new book, Prince Lestat, it looks like my journey through the land of vampires won’t stop anytime soon.

The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions – a gem for fans of haunted houses stories. I don’t know why I didn’t review this one but I remember reading it and being lost in the story, just like the main character got lost in that old London house. And the creepy part is that I could see this being an entirely plausible thing.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley is another book I had my eyes for a long time thinking “one day…”. That day came when I got a copy of The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. Both of them amazing books, the former for its story, the latter for the details about the writers and poets that were connected with Mary Shelley. I’d love to read them both again at some point.

House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill
Hailed as “Britain’s answer to Stephen King”, I must admit this time the description wasn’t just a catchy trick. Nevill’s book brought me not only hours of delightful reading but some interesting twists and good horror scenes as well. Plus, reading about stuffed kittens all dressed up and taking tea is really creepy, believe me.

The Rats by James Herbert
This was Herbert’s first novel and it packs a good story with some disgusting scenes, so if you’re squeamish I’d say don’t go there. But if you love a fast-paced story and are not afraid of the dark (and rats), by all means, go in. Don’t forget your flashlight, though.

Shadow on the Sun by Richard Matheson – horror in the Wild West. Short and to the point, this is one story I enjoyed a lot and I expect it won’t be the last Matheson book I try.


On Writing by Stephen King is a second (or maybe third?) read for me and a great book I can see myself reading again. There’s a lot of detail about King’s life, how he came to write, how he printed his first newspaper, his childhood, the accident that nearly killed him, and how all this made him into the writer he is today. It feels more like a biography than a writing book but as I am fascinated by details about writers’ lives, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Plus, in case I haven’t mentioned this a hundred times already, King’s storytelling is the reason why horror is my favorite genre and he is my favorite writer.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg is a lovely, inspirational book, with emphasis on how-to and many great tips and some interesting writing exercises. This book has a lot of heart and offers plenty of encouragement for writers. I’ve read this during NaNoWriMo last November and it got me through some rough patches. Perfect for when you feel like you could use a pep talk.


The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker is the absolute winner in this category. I loved both main characters and followed their story with a curiosity that never lost its pace. Beautiful writing, well-told story, great setting. I really can’t ask for more.


This year I’ve read a few books that are part of a series. Robert McCammon’s “Speaks the Nightbird” and “The Queen of Bedlam”, the first two books in the Matthew Corbett series, were the ones I enjoyed the most. This historical fiction was amazing – great characters, good story and plenty of mystery. I’m very excited to read the rest of the books in this series.


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke, Volume I, Volume II and Volume III

From my review:

“It took me a while to get immersed into the nineteen century England, and the story was slow going at first. The omniscient narrator adds a lot of detail, and a somewhat annoying amount of lengthy fictitious footnotes which I read because I did not want to miss any detail that may come up in the story later on (I do like the explanations but preferred they were somehow integrated into the story itself). One can feel immersed in the time period, the language does a very good job of conveying the atmosphere, down to the Dickensian cast of characters very aptly named….”

Glaciers – Alexis M. Smith

From my review:

“At just under 180 pages, the book is nicely paced and the writing easy to read. Its melancholy tone and beautiful writing convey a sense of fragility that is both compelling and profoundly marked by sadness. It’s almost as if we know something dramatic is going to happen while at the same time we can’t hope but wish that Isabel finds the happiness she deserves.”

The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter

This is part of the review I wrote. While I may seem dissatisfied with the writing, it certainly was memorable.

“The writing is rich and intricate, perhaps a bit too much, like the lilies cloying the atmosphere with their perfume in The Bloody Chamber – at times I felt like being in a dense jungle without a machete to make my way through. While I can appreciate the opulence of the language, there were moments when I wished for a cleaner, less intricate way of telling the story.”

The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye – A.S. Byatt

From my review:

“Byatt’s prose is anything but simple and in this last story its construction is intricate, layered, there are vivid descriptions of colors and smells, of sensuality, and it pulls the reader right in from the first sentence. It is also the kind of prose that you have to work for to fully appreciate, but the reward is well worth it.”

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

From my review:

“I was shocked to discover how much I liked the writing, for in admitting such a thing I would have to admit I liked at least an aspect of the book. I hated the very idea the book was based on, because for me it’s just a story of abuse, of a life torn out of its way. On the one hand I admire the way the words slide down the page so magically until they remind me of what they are saying and then a shudder of repulsion replaces that admiration. Is it possible to love the writing and hate the story? Perhaps this is after all, the ultimate allure of Lolita, this combination of style and story that can leave the reader fascinated and somehow feeling dirty at the same time.”

What wonderful books have you read in 2014?
Please leave a link with your comment so I may come and visit (and add to that never-ending TBR pile!).

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17 Responses to Best books of 2014

  1. Vishy says:

    Wonderful favourites list, Delia! I love the categories you have created, especially ‘Books About Writing’ and ‘Amazing Writing’. Nice to see many wonderful familiar names in your list – ‘The Shining’, ‘Interview with the Vampire’, ‘Frankenstein’, ‘On Writing’, ‘The Bloody Chamber’ (Your description of ‘The Bloody Chamber’ still makes me smile :)) Nice to see ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr.N’orrell’ and ‘Lolita’ on your list. I want to read Richard Matheson’s ‘Shadow on the Sun’ – I have wanted to read that, ever since I read your review.

    I hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2015 and have many more new additions to your favourites list! Happy reading!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      I enjoyed all of them, even The Bloody Chamber. Angela Carter’s short stories are definitely in a league of their own. I know I complained a lot about the writing but I did enjoy it. 🙂

      I hope you get to read “Shadow on the Sun”, it’s a really good story. I look forward to reading more western this year, it’s a genre that deserves more attention.
      Thanks for the good wishes, I hope you have an amazing reading year as well.

      • Vishy says:

        I just went and read that line again – “I can appreciate the opulence of the language, there were moments when I wished…” 🙂 That is so beautifully written!

        I also loved your description of Byatt’s prose in ‘The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye’. It is a book I hope to read this year 🙂

        I hope you get to read a lot of westerns this year. Happy reading!

  2. TB Markinson says:

    A wonderful list. I’ve only read four: Shining, On Writing, Interview, and Frankenstein. Hope you find more gems this year. Happy New Year!

  3. Brian Joseph says:

    You really read some great books this year.

    Some that I have not read I now want to read based upon your commentary.

    Happy reading in 2015!

    • Delia says:

      It was a good reading year, Brian. Hopefully 2015 will be at least as good.
      That’s what friends are for, to recommend great books and build up that TBR pile. 🙂
      Happy reading to you, too!

  4. Priya says:

    It does seem like you had a great year in horror. I can’t imagine how I missed your Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell reviews. I’m off to read them now!

  5. Caroline says:

    I missed your list. How strange. Well, there are afew of my favorites on it. I think I should review the fantasy and dark fanatsy I read more often.
    I love Anne Rice and Stephen King’s book on writing. I’ve read tons of books on writing last year. There are some gems out there but a lot of c*** as well.
    I liked Still Writing by Dani Shapiro.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Caroline,
      Well, it happens. I’m glad you found it now. 🙂
      I would love it if you could review the fantasy and dark fantasy more often. I’ve decided to read more fantasy this year and I’m looking for great books, especially stand alone novels.
      I don’t know why I waited so long to read “Interview with the Vampire” but I’m glad I did. It’s now one of my favorites.
      King’s book is excellent but I think one has to be a bit familiar with his work in order to appreciate it more.
      I agree there are quite a few books on writing out there and I’m always undecided as to which one I should choose so for this reason I feel recommendations are the best. I may have seen Shapiro’s book, I will look into it. Thanks for mentioning this book.

      • Caroline says:

        Did you read Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour?
        I really liked Interview with the Vampire but TWH blew me away.
        It’s amazing.
        I should write more about the books on writing as it’s really hit and miss. Shapiro is such a generous soul.

        • Delia says:

          I did, and loved it! But I do like “Interview with the Vampire” more. Nothing beats vampires in my book.
          You definitely should write more about the books on writing. 🙂

  6. Carole says:

    Great list. I especially like Writing Down the Bones and found it very helpful.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Carole,
      I’m glad you liked Writing Down the Bones. The one I’m reading now, The Artist’s Way, is quite similar in many aspects but there are a lot more details.
      Thanks for returning the visit.

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