It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
But regardless of how much of a shitstorm the world in general has been, I have got a lot of reading done this year. I’m putting this down to the need for escapism. I’ve read a lot of fic, and a lot of ‘real’ books, and I’ve made an effort to branch out from my usual corner of fiction, and it’s been totally worth it.
So, here are my top nine reads of this year:
…and here’s what order I’ve ranked them:
9. The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon
The third installment to the Bone Season septology, I was quite lucky that I didn’t have much of a wait for this book (compared to some fans), but it would still have been worth the wait. The world Samantha Shannon has created is so easy to fall into, because it is flawlessly created and watertight. Paige and Warden are such complex characters, and as much as I think they deserve happiness… I’m already anxious for Book Four.
8. Ink by Alice Broadway
A wonderful concept realised in a unique book of stories within stories, Alice Broadway’s debut novel reads like a story you ought to already know, it’s both familiar and not. The world of wearing your life and your secrets on your skin for everyone to read is just the tip of the yikesberg in this complex and thrilling book. Very much looking forward to the sequel.
7. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
It’s impossible to talk about this book without spoiling it. It messed me up in the best possible way, and I am planning to read it again ASAP – the suspense kept me storming through in almost one go, because you get scared of missing something if you stop. A critically awesome third book from Lauren James.
6. Arrowood by Mick Finlay
I freaking *love* Sherlock Holmes, in all his (and her) incarnations, so a book where Holmes is regarded as a charlatan is right up my street. Arrowood, the title character in Mick Finlay’s novel, is a detective himself, but the sort the people who can’t afford Holmes go to. Arrowood is observant and clever, and regularly goes on mini-rants about how useless Holmes is. The case at hand in the novel is intriguing and fast-paced, and the setting of 1895 is gloriously researched and realised. A funny and gripping historical delight.
5. Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
This webcomic totally counts as a graphic novel. The issue I usually have with webcomics are their pacing – and you can tell that Alice Oseman is an accomplished storyteller by the way she structures and paces this comic. The ‘scene’ focus rather than trying to depict every minute of every day should be held up as an example. As a result, with thrice-monthly updates, the comic has stayed relevant and engaging. The story is gorgeous, diverse, and essential – a high-school love story with real heart and humour that everyone should read. Read for free here: https://tapas.io/series/Heartstopper
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My first solo-Gaiman, and I’m so glad it was. The Graveyard Book is so beautiful, scary, and mysterious, as well as being easy to read and ideal for younger readers. I adored Nobody Owens, the little boy raised by ghosts, but my heart really belonged to Silas, his shadowy guardian. I’ve since borrowed the graphic novel adaptations from the library.
3. La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
Probably my most anticipated read of the year, and honestly it was vying for the number two spot in this year for some time, but missed out for some reason I can’t put into words. A very British mythology comes to life in the first installment of the ‘equal’ to His Dark Materials, with the truly wonderful Malcolm Polstead and Alice Parslow taking baby Lyra on her first adventure. Pullman has lost none of his magic touch, and the book is like sinking into warm familiarity, welcomming you home to a world of childhood. My write-up for SHIFT Zine: http://www.shiftthezine.co.uk/?p=558
2. After the Fire by Will Hill
I read After the Fire whilst in hospital and recovering at home, this year. I didn’t know what to expect from this novel, aside from it was ‘a cult book’. But Moonbeam’s story is much more than that. A delicate and slow reveal of Moonbeam’s home, and the decisions she makes to tell several versions of the truth to different characters comes together to become a stunning story where the shocks are not necessarily from characters being evil, but from characters simply being people – albeit people shaped by their environments and manipulators. Very much looking forward to re-reading this.
Top Read of 2017: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve read Good Omens this year. I’m pretty much always reading it, now… like some sort of literary mobius strip. It’s always being read, off in the background of whatever else is going on. I bought Good Omens and then didn’t read it, probably because everyone was bullying me to read it (and nothing puts me off faster). I don’t know why I finally bit the bullet, but I did, and I have wanted to go back in time and kick myself ever since. I love all the characters (almost all, I think it’s hard to justify liking Hastur) so hard, especially Aziraphale and Crowley, and Adam is such a fantastic creation. The book is witty and funny, but also soaked with hope, and one of the most heart-wrenching endings I’ve had the good fortune to read. I’m bursting with excitement to see the TV adaptation, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have read the book at least a dozen more times before then.