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My top reads of 2014

So it's another end-of-year review! I thought I'd round up some of my favourite reads from the past year (though not necessarily released in 2014).

Like many, I'm wanting to read more in 2015 so do let me know if you have any recommendations.

In no particular order...

The Humans - Matt Haig

The Humans is a witty, charming exploration of the human race via an alien sent to earth to disrupt our intellectual advance. Don't steer clear if you're thinking you're not a sci-fi fan, it's not like that at all. It's, as the title suggests, a very human story, and very funny.

While "in no particular order" stands, this was absolutely my book of the year. I'm looking forward to reading Matt's new non-fiction book on mental health in 2015, Reasons To Stay Alive. Read his blogpost of that same name here.

This is the story of the CEO, Creative Director and founder of Nasty Gal, a fashion brand (no longer just online) now worth over $100 million. 

It's part life bible and part business book, with an infectious sense of determination and creativity. Sophia started from nothing, she taught herself, and she worked damn hard to get to where she is today.

I devoured this book over one weekend and was so impressed and energised by Sophia's story and attitude.

Interspersing anecdotal experiences with neurological knowledge, this book gives an informative, accessible and humorous look into how the brain works.

If you have an interest in mental health, this might be one for you. I've read many books about how we work, and how we can help ourselves, but never from this perspective.

Ruby also recently wrote an article, articulating her feelings while in the midst of her depression. It's brilliantly honest and quite heartbreaking and you should read it here.

The Drowning Of Arthur Braxton - Caroline Smailes

I wasn't sure about this book to start with. From the perspective of an awkward teenage boy (amongst others), it felt a bit young for me perhaps, but I soon went with it and I was so glad I did.

Described as an urban fairytale, this has something of the Angela Carter about it. With the mythical and the everyday sitting side by side, it's unusual and dark but also just magical, and you can't quite forget it.

Divergent - Veronia Roth

This might be more for the young adult market, but having unexpectedly loved The Hunger Games I chose Divergent as my summer holiday read. I ended up a bit addicted and read the whole trilogy in the space of a week.

I actually preferred this to The Hunger Games, and while these are easy reads I was absolutely gripped by these pretty intense stories.

Not That Kind Of Girl - Lena Dunham

Lena is such a superstar (a #GirlBoss if you will) that it's refreshing to read her memoirs as you would hope they'd be - humble and completely honest, not shying away from any awkwardness or difficult real life situations.

I find it odd that these memoirs are constantly referred to as essays. While not unique in format (both #GirlBoss and Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? followed a similar structure), the style is just a new way to write an autobiography surely - structured by theme rather than a chronological account of life events, which is perfect for this relatively early stage of life.

Anyhow, it doesn't make much odds, just a personal gripe, but yes - this is quite a beautiful read.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Alborn

Reading this not long after my wonderful grandad passed it took on a different resonance than it might have had. This is a really poignant story of one man looking back on his life, and the encounters that shaped him through the perspective of others - taking him by surprise and making him think.

Despite a posthumous perspective, this is no Christmas Carol story: for our protagonist it's too late to make any changes. But for the reader it's not and I suppose that's why it stays with you.

Artful - Ali Smith

Ali Smith always provides challenging, satisfying reads and this is no exception. As much a reflection on our relationship with literature and art as it is on love and grief, the book flits between genres, between fiction and non-fiction, giving you a story grounded in so much more than you first expect.

The Accidental is still my absolute favourite novel of hers, but I always look forward to reading whatever she releases next - and am planning on starting How To Be Both soon.

This wasn't a book I would have chosen for myself, and yet it was one of my absolute favourites. It's a gorgeous, epic, Canadian story that I don't feel I can adequately describe.

It was such a satisfying read, seeing it all come together, but also these little beautiful moments. There was one chapter where I had to just go back and read it again almost straight away, it felt like such perfect writing.

No One Belongs Here More Than You - Miranda July

These brilliant short stories seem to focus on the strange things we do for/when in love, and how far we will go for it.

They're strangely charming despite being quite intense and at times a bit grim: these little twisted snapshots of humanity and how weird and wonderful we can be.

Do point me in the direction of your book round-up if you have one, or else please let me know any book recommendations either from the past year or beyond!

And if you're a theatre fan, here are my 2014 theatre highlights.

Happy New Year!