Last year, I joined the Goodreads reading challenge, and challenged myself to read 50 books. I managed to read 56, which felt like an achievement. This year, my goal is 60, and, halfway through the year, I’m already at 42. I thought I’d share my thoughts, so here are the 10 books I enjoyed the most this year. In no particular order, and spoiler-free:
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
After the success of Harry Potter, The Casual Vacancy didn’t seem to go down too well. I picked up a lovely hardcover edition in a charity shop last year, but kept putting it off. I really enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling, and so finally this year I decided to pick this book up. I loved it. I can see why some people didn’t like it – the brutal realism, the horrific events that are all too real, was a bit hard to swallow after the world of Harry Potter. But Rowling, in my humble opinion, is a fantastic writer, and she has a way with words that draws you deep into the story. 4/5 stars.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This was a recommendation, and it seemed fascinating, but I took ages to pick it up after I’d bought it. More fool me, is all I can say. What a story! I’ve never read anything by Atwood before, but after reading this, I’m definitely keen to explore her other work. A deeply troubling, yet wonderful, story. 4/5 stars.
The Quick by Lauren Owen
Set in Victorian London, this dark debut grabbed my attention from the first page. Owen is clearly a very talented young writer, and her passion shines through the pages. My edition is also beautiful, which is another point in its favour. Thrilling, mysterious, fantastical.. everything I like in a novel. 4/5 stars.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Another recommendation, I bought this towards the end of last year, but didn’t get round to it until this year. Another debut by yet another talented young writer (which gives me hope!), The Bone Season is the first of seven books, the second of which is due to be released in October this year. Described as a “supernatural dystopian novel”, Shannon’s beautiful writing grabbed me immediately. 4/5 stars.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Wow, wow, wow. I loved this book. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. Set in Iceland in in the 19th century, Burial Rites follows Agnes Magnusdottir, suspected murderer, and the last woman to be executed in the country. Bleak, dark, yet strangely uplifting, this novel was fantastic. “Blindur er bóklaus maður” translates to “a man is blind without a book”, and I couldn’t agree more. 4/5 stars.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
I picked this up in the supermarket, intrigued by the description on the inside front cover. Inspired by true events, The Invention of Wings follows the lives of Hetty, known as “Handful”, a 19th century slave in Charleston, and Sarah Grimke, the daughter of the wealthy household. From Sarah’s 11th birthday, when she refuses Hetty as her own slave, through the years, to the very end. A fascinating, beautiful, yet sometimes brutal story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about these two women, so different and yet so very similar. 5/5 stars.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
I’d heard a lot about Waters, and not all of it good. Fingersmith was the first book of hers that I read, and undoubtedly the best. Twists and turns, mystery and deceit, a fascinating story based in Victorian England. 3/5 stars.
Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
A Christmas present, this was one of the first books I read this year. I love this series. The first book, called Rivers of London, grabbed my attention, as a British Criminology/Policing student, and lover of all things magical. I’ve seen it described as Harry Potter meeting the Metropolitan Police, and think this is pretty apt. A series that I can easily get lost in, and very much enjoy. 4/5 stars.
The Misbegotten by Katherine Webb
Another book I picked up in the supermarket, intrigued by the blurb. Set in the beautiful city of Bath in the early 1800’s, this dark, mysterious novel is deeply disturbing, fast-paced and fantastic. 4/5 stars.
Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
I love Joe Abercrombie. If you love fantasy, but with a touch of realism, you’ll love him too. The First Law Trilogy, which I read last year, is fantastic, and Red Country, the last of the standalone novels set in the same world, is definitely at the same brilliant standard. Hailed as a “fantasy Western”, Red Country comprises brutal battles, fascinating characters, and a fair few twists along the way – plus the return of a much-loved character from the First Law. 5/5 stars.
Other recommendations: Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue, Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, The One by J.K. Accinni, The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, and Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth. Here’s a link to my Goodreads, in case you’re interested!
What have you read this year that you feel is worth a mention? I’m always looking for recommendations!