My Year in Books
My one and only New Year’s resolution for 2018 was to read more. To be honest it wasn’t going to be that difficult to beat the number of books I read last year. Social media has destroyed my concentration and I wanted to get that back. That feeling of being lost in another world for hours at a time instead of being cross at what someone had said in 140 characters. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere about modern life.
At a quick count through my amazon orders I bought around 60 books this year. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed about 40of them. Some I waded through and hated, some I waded through and just wondered why I’d bothered. One book I out-and-out hated. And a few remain unread simply because I haven’t had time to read them yet.
My top five favourite books this year
The Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
This was the first of several books I read by North this year, and by far my favourite of hers. It follows the lives of Harry August, whom, each time he dies, is born again to the same mother with the knowledge of all his lives lived before. It ranges back and forth in time but held together by a central premise that involves the end of the world. My boss recommended this to me and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a fairly long book, set over 800 years, but it didn’t feel it. If you liked Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, you will love this
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
This third novel from the author of When God Was A Rabbit is told in a similarly time-hopping way, and with the same warmth and love. The story of a mother who loved her son, a son who loved his wife and a best friend who loved them all. This short novel is a beautiful observation of relationships, friendship, love and grief. I cried real fat tears over this story, it broke my heart but then found a way to fix it again.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I first heard of Eleanor on Simon Mayo’s late lamented Drive Time Book Club* (a moment of silence here please). After reading the sample chapter on the website I wasn’t convinced so didn’t bother to seek it out to read properly. I kept seeing it, and it’s rave reviews everywhere though so thought I’d better give it a second chance. I’m so glad I did. Once I got past Eleanor’s awkward character traits and found her rhythm I really wanted to know her story, and what happened next. Eleanor leads a simple, carefully timetabled life until one simple act of kindness changes everything. When a book is everywhere it’s easy to think it’s over-hyped, but this thoroughly deserved its Costa First Novel Book Award, and I hope Honeyman has more in the pipeline.If the hype around this book put you off, give it a go now.
The Map of Us by Jules Preston
I’ve told as many people as will listen about this book. I bought it as an Amazon recommendation at 99p, and it was worth it. The story begins with Violet’s constrained life and her resultant imagined world of the moors and follows through to the story of Tilly, her granddaughter.
It’s charming, quirky, and fresh and it stayed with me for a long time after reading it. The style of writing renders an ordinary love story extraordinary - you ‘know’ the characters in few words and it has a touch of other-worldliness about it.
The Man I think I Know, by Mike Gayle
Mike Gayle is a man with a large back catalogue, but this was the first of his books I’d read. This story of an unlikely friendship between two men with a shared past who come together after some years is uplifting, funny, thought-provoking and moving. It makes you laugh one minute then tugs on your heart strings the next. James DeWitt had the world at his feet and his future in front of him until The Incident changed everything he took for granted. Danny Allen thinks he has wasted his life past the point of no return, until one day they bump into each other in unexpected circumstances, and form a friendship that will save them both. I absolutely loved this book and it’s another novel that I have raved about to so many people. It left me with such a good feeling when I finished it and I thought about it for a long time afterwards. The voices of the two men ring true throughout the whole novel and the incidental characters are wonderful.
The book everyone else loved but I didn’t
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
I wanted to love this book, because the world and his dog seemed to. But I just didn’t. The premise of the story is so similar to other books I’ve enjoyed - Life after Life, The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and The 15 Lives of Harry August yet I just didn’t warm to it. I did persevere and read it all the way through which is unusual for me. For some time now I’ve believed that life is too short to read books that you aren’t enjoying, but because everyone else was saying how great it was, I kept plugging away at it. I never got to that elusive point where I thought “ah, this is what everyone has been talking about”.
I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t love it, I still don’t know what all the fuss was about.
The book I wish I hadn’t read
Cows by Dawn O’Porter
This was the book that finally nailed my “don’t finish it if you’re not enjoying it” rule and I know exactly why I didn’t like this one. Aside from the fact the female characters were mainly unsympathetic and awful, the entire premise of the novel (which I won’t discuss in case you still want to read it) was just so outlandish I simply found it too difficult to believe. That’s it. I kept reading it just in case it improved. It didn't
Books I abandoned
The Party, by Lisa Hall, much better to read The Party by Elizabeth Day. Meet Me at the Museum (too slow); The Songs of Us (annoying); Ivy & Abe (can’t remember!); The Confession of Stella Moon (just couldn’t get into it) and quite a few others now long deleted from my kindle. Most of those claiming to be “this year’s twistier-turnier-you-won’t-see-it-coming” thrillers which were for the most part poorly written and you could see the twist coming like an HGV on the motorway.
What’s on my to-be-read pile?
More of a kindle list than a pile, I’m currently reading Good Samaritans by Will Carver and next up will be one of the following - Dear Mrs Bird (AJ Pearce), Call of the Curlew (Elizabeth Brooks), The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde (Eve Chase) or Dead Gone (Luca Veste). Because I must not buy any more books until I’ve read these.
There were so many books I could have included in my top 5, so my highly recommended “best of the rest” would include Ragdoll and Hangman by Daniel Cole; Snap and Blacklands by Belinda Bauer; anything ever by Kate Atkinson, including Transcription from this year; ditto Liane Moriarty, JoJo Moyes and Lisa Jewell and finally another Amazon recommendation, The Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin
I’d love to know what your best/worst books of the year have been. What book did everyone love that you didn’t? What books would you recommend to everyone?
Let me know!