I thought I’d set myself a challenge by writing a little about my top ten favourite reads. It’s harder than it looks… I’ve limited it to books I gave a five-star rating to on my Goodreads account, so the list will only include books I’ve read since January 2013. I’ve also chosen only one book per author. This left me with 28 books! I’ve had to be ruthless, but these are my choices, in date read order (as there’s no way I can order these. I’ve tried!)…
1. The book thief- Marcus Zusack
Ha- I can’t believe I’ve cheated already! I technically read this book in December 2012, but as it’s one of my favourite books EVER, it had to make the list. It was one of the first ‘Young Adult’ (YA) books I read since being a proper adult, and it is possibly one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Narrated by death, the story follows Liesel, in Germany in WWII. It had the potential to be the most depressing story I’d ever read, but it wasn’t. I’m not saying it didn’t make me cry; it did, a lot, on several occasions. The overwhelming theme for me wasn’t hate, but love. It’s utterly devastating and it still haunts me.
2. Going postal- Terry Pratchett (Discworld #33)
In January 2013, my new book group handed me this book. I clearly remember my Dad and sister religiously reading Terry Pratchett when I was a child. I’m going to be a bit controversial here… I never really understood the hype. I read the Carpet People and, frankly, it was just a bit too weird. So to be honest, I was a bit apprehensive. How wrong was I. I loved the satire, the black comedy, the snappy one-liners, all surrounding the less than stellar Moist, who is given a second chance at the Post Office. I mean- “If he’d been a hero, he would have taken the opportunity to say, “That’s what I call sorted!” Since he wasn’t a hero, he threw up.” Hilarious. You just have to get your head around the fact that the ‘world’ consists of a large disc resting on the backs of four huge elephants, who are on the back on an enormous turtle… I implore you, suspend reality for a few hours and try one.
3. Dark places- Gillian Flynn
I was one of the first on the waiting list for Gone girl during the hype. It was everywhere. Yes, it was a fantastic read: pacy and thrilling. But, to be honest, I prefer her older books.
In March 2013 I read Dark places and I was completely, utterly blown away. Before Gillian Flynn, I’d never really seen the point of thrillers, seeing them as easy-reads without any real substance. Dark places is not this by any means. It follows the story of Libby Day, who was seven when her older brother massacred her family while she hid in the cupboard. Picking up 20 years later, Libby has to delve into her family’s past to uncover the truth. It’s a dark, deeply unpleasant, brutal psychological thriller that keeps you guessing until the last page. And I loved every second of it. Remember the feeling you used to get when you watched horror films as a child? It’s like that. Not for readers of a sensitive nature, by any means.
4. Life after life- Kate Atkinson (Tod Family #1)
Kate Atkinson is one of my absolute favourite authors. I was introduced to her Jackson Brodie series by my Mum a few years ago and I immediately fell in love with her writing style. I loved the humour, wonderful characters and the complex stories- where you accept you won’t have a bloody clue what’s going on until almost the end. I was first on the list for her new book in May 2013- Life after Life– and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve never read anything quite like it. The story revolves around Ursula Todd with the tag line: ‘What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?’ It was such an interesting concept and I loved getting ‘lost’ in another Atkinson novel. I’m not going to say any more, as I hate spoilers. I was really pleased when it won the Costa Novel Award in 2013. I also loved her second novel in the series, A God in ruins, which focuses on Ursula’s brother, Teddy. Fingers crossed there will be a third.
5. Dark fire- C. J. Sansom (Matthew Shardlake #2)
The Shardlake series was something a friend had enthused about for years. I finally gave in and started reading them in 2013, getting to book two in July. Set in the reign of Henry VIII, Matthew Shardlake, a hunch-back lawyer, finds himself in the centre of mysteries during key historical moments. In Dark fire he is tasked to help his friend’s niece who has been arrested for murder, and also assist Thomas Cromwell (who has fallen out of favour since pairing Henry with Anne of Cleves) to search for dark fire, an ancient weapon of mass destruction. After struggling and failing to finish Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, I found the Shardlake series refreshing. They are easy to read, but packed full of enough historical description to give them the sense of realism that I love, without feeling bogged down. I’ve got two more to read and I really can’t wait!
6. The shock of the fall- Nathan Filer
When this book first came out, there was a bit of a ‘trend’ in books surrounding mental health. To be honest, I thought it would be too depressing. But then it went and won the Costa book of the year, 2013… damn. The blurb was definitely intriguing: ‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’ The story centres around Matthew and his struggle with schizophrenia. There are no words to describe how much I loved this book. It’s a completely eye opening account; believable and sensitively handled, and the ‘mystery’ isn’t resolved until the bitter end. The older I get, the more I can appreciate that sometimes books need to be ‘real’ and make you uncomfortable. If you liked this, read Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive. Brilliant.
Stay tuned for part two…