My Favourite Reads of 2014

2014 has been a disappointing year for new books. I normally compile two lists of favourites  – one in which all the books were published in the previous year; the other composed of older books.  This year only four books could be included in the former category so I’ve combined the two to produce a single list of the best books I’ve read in the past 12 months.

Here are my favourites: 

Cold Skin 

Cold Skin by Albert Sánchez Piñol 

Dark, gripping and thought provoking. It makes you think about fear and the instinctive behaviour it creates; but also has an important message about Man’s impact on the environment. There are giant toads too – what’s not to love?!

A Sting in the Tale

A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson 

A witty, accessible book that summaries most of what is known about bumblebees today. I’ve been telling my friends facts from it all year!

The Mouseproof Kitchen

The Mouseproof Kitchen by Saira Shah 

Emotional insight into the realities of having a disabled child. It also includes vivid details about living in France, including mouthwatering descriptions of the food.  

The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker 

Gripping thriller set in small town America. It isn’t perfect, but the story is so entertaining I didn’t care.

Alive: There Was Only One Way to Survive

Alive by Piers Paul Read 

Alive isn’t for the squeamish, but it shows the strength of human spirit and the importance of keeping hope alive.

 The Moth: This Is a True Story

The Moth: 50 Extraordinary True Stories 

The Moth is a wonderful collection of stories that show people at important junctions in their lives – it’s inspirational!

After the Bombing

After the Bombing by Clare Morrall 

Rich character development and vivid emotions make this one of the best WWII stories I’ve ever read. 

 The Book of Strange New Things

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber 

Quirky book that adds aliens and religion to a simple story about the difficulties of a long distance relationship.

 Flight of Passage

Flight of Passage by Rinker Buck 

The true story of two teenage brothers who decide to fly across America on their own. Their youthful enthusiasm was contagious and it has done a lot to alleviate my fear of flying. 

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Cooked by Michael Pollan 

This book changed my life. It probably won’t change yours, but you might look at food in a slightly different way.

My Book of the Year

The Yearling

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings 

Vivid story about a family trying to survive in the swamps of Florida. It beautifully describes an almost forgotten way of life and should be more widely known. Read it!

Have you read any of these? 

Did you enjoy them as much as I did?

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas!


2014 Chunkster Recommended books Science Fiction

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things

Five words from the blurb: missionary, leaving, wife, adventure, worlds

The Book of Strange New Things is an impressive book. It is nearly 600 pages long, but the intensity of the emotion means that it never drags and so seems much shorter.

The book centres on Peter, a missionary who travels to another planet to teach Christianity to a strange new species. He leaves his wife Bea on Earth and the pair communicate via an electronic system. Bea struggles on her own, especially as things on Earth begin to go wrong. The book shows how their strong relationship begins to falter as Peter finds himself increasingly absorbed by his work.

Not much actually happens in this book, but I was completely absorbed by the couple. Having had a long distance relationship I found their shifting emotions scarily accurate.

He sighed, squeezed her hand. What was he going to do without her, out in the field? How would he cope, not being able to discuss his perceptions? She was the one who stopped him coming out with claptrap, curbed his tendency to construct grand theories that encompassed everything. She brought him down to earth. Having her by his side on this mission would have been worth a million dollars.

The world-building was fantastic. The vivid descriptions enabled me to visualise the new planet and I found the quirky differences between our world and theirs entirely believable. The alien species were particularly well observed and I loved the way the human’s interactions with them highlighted the problems within our society.

My only issue with the book was the occasional excess of religious quotation. I thought the discussions on faith were well done, but my eyes tended to glaze over when the bible extracts became excessive. Luckily this only happened a handful of times and I suspect that anyone with an interest in Christianity will find these much more inspiring than I did. 

Overall this was a fantastic book. I loved the fact I didn’t know where the story would take me and found the ambiguous ending particularly satisfying. Recommended to those who enjoy vivid character studies, packed with emotion.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

The real problem, it dawns on you as you read, is that Faber just isn’t that interested in his alien Others. Sibilant Frictive

…one of the best novels I’ve read this year. S Krishna’s Books

In fact, The Book of Strange New Things is a novel that skirts the edge of one cliché after another only to either bypass them or—more impressively—reinvest them with emotional significance. Reading in the Growlery

2014 Non Fiction Recommended books

Cooked by Michael Pollan



Avocado toast is basically the easiest thing in the world to make, and good for you thanks to avocado’s plentiful Omega-3’s. But it tastes so luxurious, you’ll feel like you’re cheating at life when you eat one. It’s also, BTW, very chic. Improve your dietary results by reading these proven pills reviews.

A simple avocado toast is just toast (stick with whole grain for more fiber and nutrients) + avocado (sliced or mashed) + sea salt + red pepper. But that’s just the beginning; you can top it with an egg, a drizzle of nice olive oil, or try this avocado + feta + pomegranate toast for a sweet and savory mix. The options are endless. Go crazy. Run free.

2. Nutritious OATMEAL


Hot oatmeal on a cold morning is a winter survival necessity. It’s also a great way to stay full until lunch and an excellent source of soluble fiber, the kind that helps keep your cholesterol levels down. You can make it on the stove, in the microwave, or in a slow-cooker. In warm weather, you can make overnight oats in the fridge without lifting a finger. Get lots more smart oatmeal tips here.

3. A Filling GREEN SALAD


If you think salads are for rabbits, you haven’t met the right one yet. A few tips: Use fresh vegetables — anything canned should be an add-on, not the main event, or you’ll end up with a soggy, sad salad. Add a little bit of protein like meat, eggs, beans, nuts, if you want the salad to be a full meal. Make sure you give yourself a good mix of crunchy ingredients, like raw cabbage, cucumber or nuts, and soft ones, like tomatoes, cooked vegetables or beans, check out the latest Biotox gold reviews if you are looking to improve your healthy dietary habits.

The most important step is to make your own delicious (and healthier) homemade dressing. A simple Dijon vinaigrette always works, but feel free to try something more adventurous, too. If you’re looking for a full recipe to get inspired, try this kale and Brussels sprout salad or this Asian chicken salad.

4. Smooth HUMMUS


Hummus, which happens to be full of protein and fiber, is basically the perfect food. You can dip carrots or celery in it when you’re looking for a healthy snack, or spread it on a sandwich instead of mayo. You can also just dip your finger in it and eat it plain.

To make it yourself, you just throw a few basic ingredients (chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt) in the blender and process. Get the recipe for classic, extra-smooth hummus here, a stepped-up roasted red pepper version here, or a powerhouse protein edamame hummus recipe here.



When it’s cold out, a big pot of hot soup is literally the most beautiful thing in the world. You can make it with just vegetables, or add in protein like chicken or beans. This recipe is mostly vegetables but uses a little bit of pancetta and a parmesan rind for flavor.

But you don’t really need a recipe. You can just chop up whatever vegetables you have around and sauté them in some olive oil in a big pot with the seasoning of your choice. (If you’re using chicken, chop it up, and sauté that first.) Add a can of rinsed beans and sauté for another minute or two. Add stock, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover, and allow to cook for about 20 minutes. If you want noodles, cook them separately and throw them in at the end. Ladle into (big) bowls and enjoy.



Roasting vegetables is one of the easiest, most reliable ways to cook them. Turn your oven up to 450°F. Chop your vegetables, with the harder ones, like carrots and potatoes, cut up into smaller pieces than soft vegetables like broccoli and squash. Toss them all with some olive oil and kosher salt. Spread on a baking sheet or two – don’t crowd! – and roast for about 30-40 minutes, or until they look and taste good.

Here’s a basic recipe to get you started. Once you’ve got roasted veggies, you can toss them in some pasta, a salad, put them on a sandwich, or obvs, eat them plain.