Tag Archives: best book of the year

Review of the Year (part 3- best non-fiction)

For the non-fiction I can’t have the same criteria as for the fiction, seeing as nothing scored 5/5. So instead contenders must rate 4/5 or more

The Contenders

The Lucifer Effect- Phillip Zimbardo

The QI Book of the Dead

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree- Nick Hornby

This too is difficult, especially as each book is on a completely different topic. The Complete Polysylabbic Spree got the highest score so technically it should win, and it was certainly the most enjoyable. However the winner is….

The Lucifer Effect- Phillip Zimbardo.

This one wins because it was informative on a tough subject without dragging things out or becoming boring. It is written on a subject I am very interested in and in a way that’s easy to understand and engage with. Also because I really feel it’s an important book to read.

(from Amazon)

In The Lucifer Effect, the award-winning and internationally respected psychologist, Philip Zimbardo, examines how the human mind has the capacity to be infinitely caring or selfish, kind or cruel, creative or destructive. He challenges our conceptions of who we think we are, what we believe we will never do – and how and why almost any of us could be initiated into the ranks of evil doers. At the same time he describes the safeguards we can put in place to prevent ourselves from corrupting – or being corrupted by – others, and what sets some people apart as heroes and heroines, able to resist powerful pressures to go along with the group, and to refuse to be team players when personal integrity is at stake. Using the first in-depth analysis of his classic Stanford Prison Experiment, and his personal experiences as an expert witness for one of the Abu Ghraib prison guards, Zimbardo’s stimulating and provocative book raises fundamental questions about the nature of good and evil, and how each one of us needs to be vigilant to prevent becoming trapped in the ‘Lucifer Effect’, no matter what kind of character or morality we believe ourselves to have. The Lucifer Effect won the William James Book Award in 2008.


Oh how long have I been reading this book? Seems like I have been reading it for months! It has taken a long time but not because it’s uninteresting or badly written. In fact of the psychology books I’ve read aimed at none psychologists this is probably the best written. It doesn’t use too much specialised language and, unlike the others I’ve read, when it does it seems to be explained well. I’m probably not the best person to say that as I have a psychology degree but I was trying to think of how people who know little about psychology would view it. Despite a good writing style I can’t really say that it was easy to read. The subject matter was quite disturbing, in parts things which happened during the Stanford Prison Experiment and at Abu Ghraib were described in such detail that it actually made me feel a bit ill, there were pictures from Abu Ghraib that I’ve never seen before, and were nasty. The thought that anybody, any normal person, could do those sort of things is disturbing because it’s one of those things you never imagine you could do, but maybe that’s wrong. I’m glad to be aware of it though, it’s like a guard against it.

Certainly not an easy book to read, but an important one I think, and very interesting, I definitely recommend it.


I also want to make a special mention for The Polysylabbic Spree because it added so many books to my wishlist and got me reading Hornby.

Part 1

Part 2- best fiction

Part 4- disappointing fiction

Part 5- disappointing non-fiction

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Filed under general, non-fiction review

Review of the Year (part 2- Best fiction of the year)

This year I’ve decided to make my criteria for books which I can nominate as my favourite reads of the year a little stricter. Last year the books had to have been given a score of 4.5/5 or above but this year it has to be a score of 5/5.  There are still quite a lot of contenders so I think I must have overall enjoyed my reading more this year.

The Contenders

Pop Co.- Scarlett Thomas

The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Steven Chbosky

The Elegance of the Hedgehog- Muriel Barbery

Room- Emma Donoghue

Kafka on the Shore- Haruki Murakami

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- J.K Rowling

This is hard. I’ve loved all these books but for completely different reasons, so to compare them is not easy. I’m going to straight off strike out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because it was a re-read.

The Winner is……

Pop. Co- Scarlett Thomas.

This wins because it was the one which stuck with me for the longest time, and it was the book I spent most of my year saying had been my favourite book of the year, even after I had given other books a 5/5 rating. Plus it made me think about things that other books hadn’t- both to do with the main subject and not. Because this book won I will reproduce the entire review here

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Alice Butler has been receiving some odd messages – all anonymous, all written in code. Are they from someone at PopCo, the profit-hungry corporation she works for? Or from Alice’s long lost father? Or has someone else been on her trail? The solution, she is sure, will involve the code-breaking skills she learned from her grandparents and the key she’s been wearing round her neck since she was ten. “PopCo” is a grown-up adventure of family secrets, puzzles, big business and the power of numbers.


Wow. Just wow. I love, love, loved this book. It’s probably the best I’ve read so far this year. From the synopsis I had been unsure, and in fact almost bought it a few times before finding something I thought sounded better to read . In the end I mainly bought it because I had really enjoyed the End of Mr Y which is by the same author.

This is really a book which made me think, about corporations, and things we ignore but encounter every day. It talked of how corporations trick people, and how tose in marketing seem to be worth more than those who actually make products- and that’s just one issue it talks about. It doesn’t feel preachy though, it really does just make you think about things in a different way. It made me interested in alternative medicine, and veganism- and they weren’t even key themes!

It wasn’t perfect though. Some of the stuff about codes and maths really went over my head. Although I don’t think it was completely necessary to understand that it would have added something to my enjoyment. There was also a couple of adult scenes which I didn’t think were needed (I didn’t mind them being there though) which might put some people off, but there weren’t as many, or as graphic as in The End of Mr. Y.


I would also like to give a special mention to The Elegance of the Hedgehog because I went from finding it difficult to absolutely loving it and wanting everyone else to read it.

Part 1

Part 3- best non-fiction

Part 4- disappointing fiction

Part 5- disappointing non-fiction


Filed under Fiction review, general