This year, like last year, I am writing a top ten of my favourite books from the year. Yes, they are in order. No, they aren’t all five star books. They are books that have stayed with me, books that I have forced into peoples hands or bought as gifts. They are my favourite books from the year of 2012. Why am I doing it early and not waiting until New Years eve? Well, because it’s unlikely I’ll blog much over the Christmas period as all my time will be spent with my wife and children (and reading). Also, writing it now gives me time to converse with people about my choices.
10. Jack Glass by Adam Roberts
The thing I loved most about Jack Glass is the balance of imagination and literary prose. Adam Roberts is a master of combining the beauty of language with the quirky of Sci-Fi. Jack Glass is a superb central character, he’s more of an anti-hero and despite his dark and violent actions, he is an intriguing character to root for.
“What I would give to step inside this man’s mind and explore. Roberts makes writing Sci-fi seem easy. He uses the traditional Sci-fi tropes but adds a freshness to them. For an established fan, I’m probably preaching to the converted, but, as a newcomer to his work I feel as if I’ve stumbled onto greatness.”
9. Archipelago by Monique Roffey
The impact that this novel had on me was vast, as it dealt with the intricacies of depression and loss with a tenderness, but also a raw honesty. Roffey sets the novel within an environment of beautiful islands and ferocious seas which highlight the relationships within the ensemble. Archipelago can be dark at times, but Roffey adds plenty of light as a contrast to the upsetting moments.
“The relationship between father and daughter is the centrepiece of the book and we watch with a little awkwardness as Gavin and Ocean grow closer through the adversity of what came before the boat trip. Their existence is endearing and a thing of beauty. Ocean is utterly charming as she questions her father’s actions and the goings on of the world, she displays a wonderful innocence that only magnifies the pain she feels.”
8. Care of Wooden Floors by Will WIles
Now here is a gem that often crops up in my mind, particularly when I think of pianos… and cats… and wooden floors. This debut novel shone for me because of my interest in farcical comedy and also the beauty of words. Will is a terrifically talented writer and one can expect big things from him. Will also created one of my favourite characters this year in Oskar who is so ridiculously anal, uptight and OCD that you can’t help but love him.
“This is an impossible character in an impossible situation and it makes for perfect, albeit guilty, entertainment. It’s the literary equivalent of watching somebody fall on their arse and get paid £250 for their displeasure. As mentioned before it is a very dark book and the humour won’t appeal to everyone, much like any form of farce comedy. Will Wiles has created a wonderful debut novel that is intelligently written, horrifically funny and ponders the minute imperfections of life.”
7. Adamtine by Hannah Berry
I had to put a graphic novel in this list and although I passionately care about Jerusalem by Guy Delisle, I had to go with, Adamtine – one that set me on edge from cover to cover. Everything from the art to the concept behind the story is superb. I’ve read plenty of spooky books, but this one really had me glancing over my shoulder.
“Berry plays with traditional horror tropes such as surrounding the panels and the cast in darkness and using only sporadic colour. Also, her actual use of the traditional comic panel is inspired as sometimes to get the full story you have to explore what is around you. An example of this is when we’re told that the suspected killer is standing in a nearby waiting room and we see that between the panels he lingers with his face pressed to clouded glass. Her art is lovely and has a solid Western feel that brims with a noir feeling.”
6. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
I first heard about this book on one of my favourite podcasts, Literary Disco. This was then backed up by certain people on Twitter… so I had to read it. I’m so glad I did. Train Dreams is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long time and each word carries weight and impact. Although only a novella, it holds enough emotion and character development to stay with you for weeks after. This book is one of the reasons I enjoy the community around literature, if it wasn’t for word of mouth, I never would have read it.
“The most appealing aspect of Train Dreams is the dreamlike quality of the tale. Oftentimes Johnson steps into the realms of magical realism with expert use. There are moments later in the novella where the situation becomes gripping through its surrealism and wonder. Without these instances Train Dreams would be a lesser book, though still a work of art.”
5. Railsea by China Mièville
Mièvilles imagination blows my mind. He stands with Adam Roberts as a member of the literary circles who should be more known for the words rather than the subjects. Though there is nothing wrong with genre books, only the snobs who don’t see great writing and story telling in their depths. Railsea is an homage to Moby Dick with the Mièville shine added. I was hooked from the opening sentence and will recommend this to anyone who wants to read a proper adventure story with literary charm.
“Whenever I finish a book and feel sad that it ended, I know that I’ve experienced something special. From the opening moments meeting Sham on the moletrain to the intelligent and philosophical ending, I never wanted to put the book down.”
4. The Fault in our Stars by John Green
What can I say? I’m eclectic… and a sucker for a spot of YA. This book moved me to actual tears – both from sadness and laughter. John Green has such a talent for relationships that it’s hard not to get sucked into this story of Cancer survivors. Told with a sentimentality and tenderness, Green offers a different view to Cancer and the battles we wage with it. There’s plenty of wry humour, too. It’s a great all round book to give someone who is unsure of YA books. (This book is also responsible for the most popular search term on my blog – “That’s the thing about pain…it demands to be felt.”)
“It is wonderful to find a novel that is brave enough to deal with the anger of disease and the unfair finality of death, but to find it in a book for teens is all the more special. This isn’t a patronising novel that sugar coats anything under a saccharine layer. It is a refreshing book that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure, it will make you think about life and, of course, death. So we poke the bruise and reaffirm our feelings, we know that we’re alive.”
3. Diving Belles by Lucy Wood
A collection of short stories that focus on Cornish myth and legend… I never thought something like this would be in my top ten, but Diving Belles is such a magical collection of fiction it deserves to be read by all. Lucy Wood has created a book full of the mystery and wonder that is usually found in fairytales and our imagination. Her writing is stellar and each story shines as well as the ones around it.
“Diving Belles is a collection of stories that anyone who has ever imagined wonderful things existing in our world, must read. I was utterly captivated from page one and didn’t want it to end. To top it off this is Lucy’s debut and I can imagine only brilliant things to come with her second outing – a full novel.”
2. Explorer by James Smythe
I was going to include The Testimony on this list as well, but decided that I would go for The Explorer as it has stayed with me deeper than James’ other work. I’m kind of cheating with this one, as only the eBook comes out in 2012, whereas the tree book isn’t out until 2013. I couldn’t not add one of my new favourite authors, though. The Explorer is a darkly twisted Sci-Fi novel that bends space and time, as well as the readers brain. Cormac is a fantastic central character and one that lurks in the back of my mind, still.
“Even if you don’t want to look into the novel as a piece about how we live and think, the story is not only entertaining but captivating. In the later stages of the book the plot twists and turns – sometimes back on itself – and through its complexities there actually is a romping good space travel yarn.”
1. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
How could I not put The Snow Child in the number one spot? I have been captivated by this novel since reading it in the first few days of January. Eowyn’s fairytale like story of loss and love is one that I will remember forever. I have bought several copies as gifts for friends and family, I recommend it to everyone I meet and I couldn’t think of anything else that would take my Book of the Year place.
The story of a couple at a loss from the missing child in their relationship is treated with delicacy, but also with a heap of magical realism thrown in. Set in the beautiful, but harrowing wilds of Alaska, it is a book that both chills your core and warms your soul. I could gush about this book for days on end.
“There really isn’t a low point in the novel. It’s never going to be a book that barrels along at a breakneck pace, it’s a brooding piece of fiction that uses each page to set a scene, depict a moment and above all tell a lovely story. There isn’t a wasted word.”
I can’t end without tipping my hat to several other novels I have read this year. Though they didn’t make the top ten, they still have a place in my memory and leave me excited to think about them: