I would like to say that when counting the total amount of books I read in any given year I include ones I have already read and my list of recommendations doesn’t necessarily include these books. Maybe I’ll expand this some day, but for now I’m keeping this list to mostly books I read for the first time.
Out of the 24 books I read in 2007 I have three worth recommending:
The God of Small Things by Ahrundrhati Roy
One of the best written novels I have ever read. Ever. Not too sure on the plot, but the words, yes I can recommend them.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Exotic and intense. One of those novels that lingers – I find myself thinking about the characters at random times and in random places. Any time I buy a sweet potato, for example. Very much worth the reading.
Miss Smilla’s Feelings for Snow by Peter Hoeg
Curious and powerful. A mystery which kept my guessing until the final page.
In 2008 I only managed to read a grand total of 38 books and out of those I found a respectable 10 titles I would suggest to others:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Hands-down my favorite novel of all time. I can not recommend it enough. Read it. Read it now. After reading The Book Thief I closed the back cover, wiped the tears from my cheeks and promptly started again on page one. I would give it 15 stars out of 5 if I could, and now feel I need to re-evaluate my scale. This is, indeed, a tightrope to the sun – but do not look too closely; the glare stings.
A Quiet Belief in Angels by R. J. Ellory
Painful and shocking. I feel I would need to read it again just to get all of my facts right. A lead character you feel deeply for and an outcome so unpredictable it leaves aftershocks.
The Visible World by Mark Slouka
I do not know how to summarise this book. I loved it and hope to read it again soon. A quote, if you’ll allow it: “My mother knew a man during the war. Theirs was a love story, and like any good love story, it left blood on the floor and wreckage in its wake”(3).
Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale
I fell into this novel as into the deep end of a swimming pool and found myself nearly drowning. Heartbreaking and too real.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
I am probably the last person on Earth to have finally read this book. It was wonderful.
When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris
Traditional David Sedaris, by which I mean completely hilarious and yet remarkably familiar and cutting. What else can I say about this book? I love it and I love David Sedaris.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
A fantastic and well written story. I fell in love with the lead character by the end of the first page as I think anyone would. A young girl not yet comfortable with being a teenager who has grown up unloved by her father and convinced that she accidentally killed her mother at the age of 4 who runs away and moves into a house full of bee-keepers. Read it, you won’t regret it. I haven’t seen the film but I can’t imagine it is any better than the book.
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I don’t have much to say about this because, while I enjoyed reading the book and would recommend it, I think it could have been done a lot better. About halfway through I lost patience with the story. The subject matter is intriguing the love story is quite unique, however what it lacks is depth of feeling and strength of purpose. But really, what do I know? The film wasn’t much better.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Read this. Don’t go see the film, READ THE BOOK. Trust me, it is infinitely better. When you’re reading it have tissues ready, I’m only saying…
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this book as it was the first time I’d read anything by McCarthy, and I think my ignorance contributed to how much I enjoyed the novel. I don’t want to say much more lest I ruin it for you.
(For information: That’s four titles in a row that have since been made into films.)
I am quite proud to say that in 2009 I finally completed my personal goal and have read an average of a book a week! Out of the many, many books I managed to squeeze in this year I can heartily recommend the following 18:
No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
Imagine waking after an ill-advised and under-aged night of excess, prepared to grovel and apologise to your parents to within an inch of your life, and finding your entire family is missing. Imagine thinking they left you behind. Imagine everyone you meet wondering if you know more than you say you do. Imagine living your life always wondering why. Imagine seeing this book at the airport and reading it while on holiday; it was perfectly adequate.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Original, striking and completely heartbreaking. A murdered girl looks down from Heaven and watches her family and friends grieve, grow and live without her. Unforgettable.
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller
I related to this novel on a very private and personal level so I’m afraid I don’t really know where to begin with my recommendation. You may enjoy it, you may not.
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida
First – best name for a novel, ever. Second – a twisting tale which is in no way predictable and inherent upon the setting perhaps more than anything else. I have never wanted to travel to the northern most reaches of the globe more in my life. Fantastic.
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
I can’t say enough good things about this novel. I would suggest that they start teaching it as a textbook in all high schools but, if I am not mistaken, they’ve actually started this already. Nowhere else will you find a book with such insight into the deeply troubled minds of modern American teenagers. It is also amazing how this novel does not translate very well – for instance I’ve had a few friends here read it and they couldn’t identify with it much at all. The moral? In order to really, properly connect Picoult’s characters you need to have been there (or nearly so) yourself, and UK high schools are a long way behind American ones along the road to complete ruin.
How Much of Us There Was by Michael Kimball
Light on Snow by Anita Shrieve
Simple and endearing. Refreshing, even. Plus, it snows A LOT in this novel and I am quite partial to snow, so I vote YES and ask you to read and enjoy.
Addition by Toni Jordan
Completely unpredictable and therefore enjoyable on many levels. Very funny and heart-warming. Plus, it makes you, as the reader, feel completely normal which is quite rare in my case!
A fantastic idea fantastically done. I laughed and cried and wanted to read it again immediately.
Startlingly human and impossible to forget. A young girl must return home after promising God, at the age of 16, that she would never go back. A sad tale which follows no discernable timeline yet weaves a palpable background story of a family in ruins.
Run by Ann Patchett
Two young African American boys adopted into the white family of the Mayor of Boston. A mother who dies tragically leaving behind only a effigy; an exact likeness in the form of a statue of The Virgin Mary. A woman named Tennessee, a girl named Kenya and a car accident on a treacherously snowy night. You have all the pieces of the puzzle now, but the outcome will be nothing like you imagine. Poignant and moving, Patchett’s novel is impossible to put down from page one.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuro Ishiguro
Ishiguro portrays a chilling alternate world which lacks just enough detail to make it utterly believable. From the first page you are drawn inescapably onwards. Her characters are heartbreakingly human in the midst of a society which treats them inhumanly – a situation not fully grasped until the final pages and therefore compelling. This is a story of sheltered childhood and the importance of maintaining an idea of normal.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman*
Neil Gaiman is the ultimate story-teller. These are the Hero Stories for the new generation, and how enjoyable. He is the master of Show Don’t Tell and the detail of each character and encounter completely floors me. As an aspiring writer I look on his books with nothing less than an all-consuming awe.
*Yes, this was the year of Neil Gaiman and, yes, I do suggest you have your own because, let me tell you, it is a thing of beauty.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens+
I have to admit that it surprised me. A Charles Dickens book with less than 100 pages? Are you serious? He used up that many pages in Bleak House just describing the FOG. All joking aside I am glad I’ve read it, and now believe that everyone should. You know the story – now get to know the book.
+Anyone who knows me very well at all can tell you this is surprising for two reasons: 1) I read a book by Charles Dickens and, 2) I am recommending it to others.
So, the overall moral of the story is that out of the 115 books I’ve read over the last three years I would recommend the titles listed above to anyone who may ask.
As I have previously stated I have a running list of books I’d like to read which, at any given time, can be up to 60 or 70 books long. This does not mean I am not open to suggestion. Although I buy most of my books from charity shops (for £0.50) so if what you are suggesting is a brand new book then chances are it will be a while before I get around to reading it.
As for the first few books of 2010? It is going to be a wild ride:
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (1100 pages!!)
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Redemption Falls by Joseph O’Conner