You know what I love? Books.
You know what I hate? Books.
Books! Love them, hate them! There is no better feeling than getting lost in some wild adventure, crying over the ending of a beloved tale or falling in love with a character so relatable, you genuinely think it’s you.
My ‘New Years Resolution’ for 2017 was to read one book every week. A 52 book goal, I’ve never attempted a challenge as long and consistent as this one, and surprise, I still failed. As of now I have read a total of 36 books. We’re coming to the close of the year and I’m 14 books out, and here lies my love/hate relationship with books. I adore them, I love everything about them, if I could I would take a stack of books on a dirty weekend to Berlin and read them filthy! But alas, I never have the time to read them. I have a floor to ceiling shelf of books I’ve been craving to read for a very long time, I have beautiful special editions of my favourite books that I’ve re-read over and over but it wasn’t until this year that I finally made a dent in the unread ones.
I’m chalking up my 36 books as a major achievement to me because last year I only read 2. And what do we do when we feel like we’ve achieved something, brag about it online to whoever will read it. So I thought I’d make a post to chronicle all the books I’ve read this year in hopes to inspire others to read more, and pass along my recommendations to anyone interested.
So without further ado, I give you the odd ranking of the books I’ve read this year:
36. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
35. Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
34. How To Stop Time by Matt Haig
33. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
32. The Last Days of New Paris by China Melville
31. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
30. The Matriarch by G.L Stein
29. Reason To Stay Alive by Matt Haig
28. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
27. Autumn by Ali Smith
26. The Tooth by Shirley Jackson
25. Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
24. On the Beach by Nevile Shute
23. Divine Comedy/Inferno by Dante Alighieri
22. Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh
21. Moonraker by Ian Fleming
20. Devil In A Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
19. Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce
18. Lightbox by KJ Orr
17. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
16. Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
15. DC Rebirth The Flash by Joshua Williamson
14. Beloved by Toni Morrison
13. A Man, A Cat and Two Women by Junichoro Tanzanaki
12. Love is Love by Various Authors (The Full list of contributors can be found here)
11. The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien
I’ve included a brief little insight into my top ten books of the year (No Spoilers):
10. Release by Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness is capable of evoking very powerful emotions, his YA novels are always a delight to read, especially when they treat their audience with respect. Release is novel that contains two stories taking place at the same time. One grounded in reality and the other, a supernatural story of mystery. Ness’ dialogue has always been a stand out in his work and here it has never been more refined or more believable. This is a powerful coming of age story which takes place over the worst day of a young mans life, he discovers so much more than he ever imagined possible, and this runs alongside a story of an underworld ghost queen who is trapped in the soul of a murdered girl for 24 hours….you read that right.
9. Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
I have a fondness for Japanese writers, which will be evident in this list as it includes 5 wonderful writers from Japan. This was one of the first books I read this year. A simple, almost no plot-like love story drawn out slowly over the course of it’s pages. It’s a tender story of a woman falling for a man 30+ years her age and how their history helps shape their relationship. Hiromi’s style of writing can be described as clean, there’s no fluff to her words, she writes what is happening, when it is happening, directly and cleanly, which adds a freshness to her words, and to that of a love story.
8. Exit West by Mohsin
When I first read Exit West, I found the way that the text was presented a little jarring, but the further I delved into this present day dystopia, the more I discovered how the language mirrored the subject matter. Tense and fraught, captivating and frustrating. An exciting and saddening look into a world so close to reality that it blur the lines between fiction and non-fiction.
7. The Painting of Porcupine City by Ben Monopoli
I may be slightly bias in my opinion of this book because Ben is a friend of mine, but this novel is stunning. It’s effortlessly written, filled with humour and well developed characters, and features one of the most bizarre and thrilling third acts I’ve ever read.
6. DC Rebirth Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott
I’ve included this graphic novel because it got one of the biggest emotional reactions out of me from everything I read. The collected edition includes over 360 pages of beautiful artwork and engaging storytelling. This is Wonder Woman at her core, front and centre, being a beacon of hope, a symbol of truth, filling the world around her with love. Greg Rucka created an arc of 25 issues that weaved every element of what makes Wonder Woman ‘Good’ into a story about love, strength and family. It is an astounding testament to what talented, caring, and loving individuals can accomplish when working with one of the most iconic fictional characters ever created.
5. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Following her death, this was one of those books that I needed to read again. Carrie advocated for mental health awareness, and with how candidly she spoke about it in Wishful Drinking, I needed her words more than ever. As a memoir, this is up there with the best, it’s funny, heartfelt and filled with the wonder that was Carrie Fisher.
4. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
I re-read this once a year, it may be cliche but I adore this book, mainstream as it may be, the poetry in it’s words feels so natural and so rapturous I cannot help but feel like I am Gatsby, but also everyone around Gatsby. I am Nick, I am Daisy, I am the Green Light. This is my 9th read of this classic and I’ve yet to tire of it.
3. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
This was the first book that I read this year and I’m glad I started the year with a book by one of my favourite authors. Sputnik Sweetheart is otherworldly, and filled with hauntingly poetic prose, a trait that Murakami captures effortlessly in every one of his books. A finely written unrequited love story, that subtly bends reality around it’s characters. Murakami has a wonderful ability to firmly ground the reader in a dream-like state through his words. Sputnik Sweetheart is, for me, is the quintessential Murakami book.
2. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is one of the few writers today that really knows how to capture the immersion of childhood fantasy. Gaiman’s ability to transport you back to your formative years, so easily fills your mind with wonder. This book was so imaginative and immersive that I caught myself recalling my memories of fighting off ‘monsters’ as a kid. Ocean reads like the stories your niece or nephew tells you of scary monster under the bed, there is a lightheartedness in Gaimans words that I found endearing, yet the more I think about this story, the more I find it dripping dolefully with dark undertones. It’s a magnificent read, and one that has stayed with me year long.
1. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Oh boy, this book! Break my heart and fuck a peach whilst you’re at it! Everyone has that one book that upon their first read, it lingers with them for months. You think of the characters, you think of their experiences, you relate and you wish it never ended. This was one of those books for me this year. Reading about Elio and his teenage awakening really struck me. There’s a fractiousness to the text which mirrors the emotional state of the main character beautifully, and draws you into the mind of this character. The last 50 or so pages or are heart wrenching, the finest definition of an emotional rollercoaster. The story breathes heavy with heartache, forlorn lust and love. And the movie ain’t half bad either.
And thus concludes my book journey for 2017. I’m going to attempt my 52 book goal again in 2018 and I’m hoping I’ll have a success story to post in a year’s time.
Let me know if you’ve read anything particularly good this year in the comments below, I’ll take on any and all recommendations.