I’m tweaking this topic a little (as I seem to pretty much every week these days) because as you guys know, I’ve been behind on my reading in the last couple of years, and have only really gotten back into reading at all in the second half of the year. And because of that, I’ve read a lot less new releases than I usually do in a year, because I’ve had a lot to catch up on, and still want to be chipping away at that neverending backlist TBR! So instead of the best books of 2017, this is my favourites read in the past year. Some are new, but a few are distinctly older!
I had never had any interest in reading Rebecca until seeing so many of the BookTubers I watch rave about it. I’m really glad I got the opportunity to experience it. It’s not an all-time favourite for me the way it is for some of the reviewers I saw talk about it, but it was much more vibrant than I expected and it definitely defied the stereotype of what a “classic” piece of literature is.
Ethel and Ernest is a book I’ve had kicking around on my shelves since my dad gave it to me a few years back. We both love Raymond Briggs – my parents read some of his other books to me when I was a kid – so I went into it already feeling a bit emotional. And, being the life story of Briggs’ parents from when they met, through the war, and into old age, the emotions only grew.
Americanah is a book I’ve had on my shelves since it was given to me by my lovely friend Martha a few years ago, but I’ve been intimidated to try it. I finally put on my big girl panties and gave it a try, and I’m really glad I did. It’s not perfect, but it’s very, very good, and very, very important. I’d recommend it, particularly to anyone who wants to get a better sense of what it’s like to be female and/or a black African immigrant – both important perspectives to explore, and beautifully done in this novel.
Having just become the mother to a daughter, Dear Ijeawele was a timely and fortifying read. I have a lot of concerns about raising my daughter in a world that will not always reflect her intelligence, value and strength to her. I’m scared I won’t be able to teach her the tools she needs to feel powerful and independent, and any advice I can get on how to help her become the wonderful person I see in her already is worth its weight in gold to me.
Another book that has been languishing on my shelf for far too long is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I didn’t know going into it what it was really about, and it pleasantly surprised me by being both lighter and more weighty than I expected. It now ranks amongst my favourite fictional accounts of WWII.
The Lie of the Land is only the second book by Amanda Craig that I’ve read, but I am very impressed by her talents and I’m saving her other novels (of which I already own four) to ration out when I need a really good read. I loved how this book had the plot of a thriller but the development and characters of a literary fiction novel – and a great one, at that. She managed to bridge both genres seamlessly, while also weaving in several important issues without overshadowing the plot or making it feel forced. Love.
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep is… nothing. It was wonderful. My only criticism isn’t of the book, but of how I read it – I wish more than anything that I’d read through it in one go rather than breaking in the middle. I messed myself up by doing so, and I know this book deserved better. My bad, totally my bad. But I’m looking forward to re-reading this one in the future!
I read Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops and its sequel quickly, but enjoyed both thoroughly. They’re light-hearted but clever entertainment, they can be read in a single sitting without breaking a sweat, and they will brighten any overcast day. Guaranteed.
Autumn was a surprise to me. I’ve never read any Ali Smith before, and I’ve never read a book like this before either. It felt like reading a novel written like poetry, and it was an incredible reading experience. I also found it quite confusing to get my head around, so I don’t know if it was totally awesome or just very different. I enjoyed her style, but also found it hard to follow. I liked how she developed her characters but didn’t enjoy getting to know the main one. I get why people love her, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to pick up another of her books as soon as I put this one down. For the complexity of the emotions it left me with alone, I am grateful to it for making me have to think so much about it!
And finally, my two favourites of the year so far:
I went into Last Night In Montreal with a bit of trepidation, after having been very impressed with my first Emily St. John Mandel book, Station Eleven. This being her debut, I was sure it would disappoint in comparison, and yet I couldn’t help but hope…. I’ve never been more pleasantly surprised. If anything, this book was even better than Station Eleven. Which is high praise indeed. It has thriller elements (similar to Amanda Craig’s book), but is also an incredible literary fiction piece, with great character development, beautiful passages of writing, and haunting imagery. Whatever you are looking for in your next read, I’m fairly sure you’ll find it here.
And last but definitely not least, The Hate U Give. What can I say about this book? It was complex. Hard-hitting. Full of love. Shot through with fear and violence. Rife with contradiction. Very real, very important, completely wonderful. It’s one of those young adult books that proves, once and for all, that YA can be brilliant, worthwhile and have something to say to any age of reader. If you only ever pick up one YA book, make it this one.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly link-up feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week TTT has a different topic, and everyone who links up has to create a link of ten items that fit that topic. To see past and upcoming topics, go here.