IT’S TIME!! The one! The only! The best books I read this year!!
(can you tell I’m excited?!???!!?!)
Seriously, I LOVE doing this post every year- because it’s time to celebrate all my new favourites and share them with you lovely people!! So without further ado, here’s my top ten for 2022…
This Woven Kingdom– I’m actually in shock I haven’t been going on and on about this book since I read it! Because this was a beautifully crafted fantasy inspired by Iranian mythology. I was captivated by the romance and absolutely intrigued by the characters. A stunning start to a series!
Cytonic– I was hesitant to continue the series after Starsight, but this swept in and saved the series for me! Largely, this is down to the plot really taking off and getting more and more out of this world. And I’m super keen to continue now! I can’t wait to see where it takes me- hopefully to infinity and beyond! 😉
The Wild Silence– a stunning sequel to the Salt Path, it takes us away from the UK into even more ethereal landscapes of Iceland. Tying itself to time and history, it is clear Raynor has found her voice and has so much more to say.
Gilded– this retelling of rumplestiltskin was pure gold. Focusing on stories within stories and telling tall tales, I loved how this span something entirely new from a well-worn fairy tale. I loved every second of it and can’t wait for more!
Carrie Soto is Back– Reid is always a winner for me. I mean, I knew it was going to be the book for me- it’s set in the nostalgic 90s and it’s about TENNIS for goodness sake! But I still couldn’t get enough of this sports comeback story. The characterisation was raw and on point; the relationships make you want to pump your fist in the air. And of course, Reid has become a master at historical settings. I just want to cheer on everything she does at this point!
The No Show– Beth O’Leary’s best yet. She absolutely turned up with this layered romance! As much about the character’s individual journeys as a romance book, I was still swept up in the ***ADORABLE*** love story at the heart of this. I swear her books get better and better! This was a showstopper!
A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting– if you’re looking for an Austen-tatious regency romance, this is sure to get your petticoat in a twist! A delightful romp in regency London, this unconventional love story will have you clutching your bonnet and falling head over heels. With a schemer for a lead and a stiff gent as her foil, we know who we’re supposed to be rooting for… because a schemer’s not supposed to get her way, is she? 😉
An Unkindness of Magicians– the best kind of urban fantasy, this keeps one foot in the real world whilst taking us out of the ordinary. Set in an alternate version of New York, this striking novel was an awe-inspiring adventure, filled with heartache and dark intrigue. A brilliant concept, beautifully executed- I definitely suggest picking up this underrated standalone.
Dark Queens– it’s rare that I find a non-fiction history book that reads like the most thrilling fiction- but this was it. A powerful and timeless tale of murder, revenge and political intrigue, it’s a slice of forgotten history. Obscured through time and mythological retellings, this real story is impossible to forget. A vivid book I cannot stop thinking about and one that I would recommend to everyone!
The Sword of Kaigen– ahh this cut me to the quick! No read has made me more emotional this year. A memorable and sharp fantasy, I was swept up in this epic intergenerational tale. And while the magic system and the world building are both very cool- but it’s the characters and their relationships that burn brightest.
And that’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them as much as me??? Do you plan on giving any of them a go? Let me know in the comments!!
That’s right- it’s time for the best post of the year because these are the very best books I read!! And as usual, it’s a very different mix! This was the year of historical fiction and big surprises! Okay- let’s not waste any time and get to the good stuff!
Pumpkinhead– some books are just like getting a big, warm hug! This is the kind of story I know I’m going to return to again and again… and now that I have a copy of my own you can be sure that’s what I’m going to do every autumn 😉
Hunchback of Notre Dame– as good as I thought it would be! Far, far from the Disney version, this is a harsh and yet still stunning story. Set in 15th Century France, it is a moving tragedy of good, evil and those who fall in between.
Girl With Seven Names– I don’t know how I haven’t managed to talk about this on the blog before now. This was a phenomenal memoir about a North Korean defector. I was simply bowled over by her story- she’s such an inspirational, incredible woman!
Bring Up the Bodies– I finally read the Wolf Hall trilogy and it was genius! My favourite instalment was easily Bring Up the Bodies– where the threads of the story knit together… and where we can also see them beginning to fray apart.
Kindred– this was so much more than a sci fi about time-travelling- it’s about a woman’s journey through history and personal self-discovery. It’s a masterpiece. I can’t wait to read more by the author!
Salt Path– I listened to this on audiobook and that made the experience all the more evocative. Raynor’s voice brought her descriptions to life and made me feel like I was going on the walk with her. Such a surprising story of human endurance, this begins with an ugly situation, but winds up revealing the beauty that is all around us.
House of Hollow– I normally don’t like creepy stories, so this YA horror was a huge surprise. I have to admit, I was initially drawn in by THAT COVER- I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. And once I started reading, it was even worse. I fell under its atmospheric spell with every turn of the page; I was captivated by each and every character. I was taken far out of my comfort zone and blown away by what I found. This is not the kind of book that lets you forget about it either- it leaves you hungering for more and stuck ruminating on everything that happened. By far the best of its kind I’ve ever read.
Nightingale– this shattered my heart… and now I want everyone to have the same experience! Such a powerful WW2 story- I love how it captured the beauty of the human spirit and managed to stay true to the realities of the time period.
Code Name Verity– another WW2 book… and yet this is a book unlike any other. Soaring to unbelievable heights and shocking lows, I honestly didn’t expect to fall for it as much as I did.
Where the Crawdads Sing– this was nothing short of beautiful. This book has *everything* I could ever want in a story- a moving story, twists, mystery, love, coming-of-age. All of which flow seamlessly into each other, sweeping you up in the current of a melodically written narrative. Truly, I cannot applaud it enough.
So, have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? And what was your favourite book(s) of 2021? Let me know in the comments!
Oh my goodness, I can safely say that even if 2020 was not an amazing year, I read some pretty phenomenal books! Which is why I decided to expand the list to twenty for a change! Yes, that’s right- the reason I’m not doing 2 posts this year is because there were just TOO MANY INCREDIBLE BOOKS TO TALK ABOUT! This was one of the hardest years to narrow down and rank because SO MANY OF THESE WERE OUT OF THIS WORLD! And even though I increased the number to 20, I still had too many books to talk about!! But since it’s my blog and I make the rules, here’s a few honorary mentions before we get started:
Yeah there’s a couple there that easily could’ve been in the top twenty in a normal year… which should give you an idea how good this list is going to get! ***As usual all pics link to reviews*** Now let’s kick off because there are so many great books to talk about!
Sorcery of Thorns– I had loads of fun with this. The romance was adorable and the characters cute- but what I enjoyed the most was the magical library setting!
Winter Rose– I read my first two Patricia McKillip books this year and enjoyed both of them. While Atrix Wolf may have been technically better, this is the one that really snared me. I can’t explain it- I just have a weakness for creepy, enchanted forests… and this was done so exquisitely well.
Uprooted– this Russian-inspired Beauty and the Beast somehow managed to feel really fresh and different. The world was vivid, the protagonist striking and the romance especially tantalising. And one can only stand back and admire Novik’s writing style.
Enchantment of Ravens– it may surprise people that this is higher on the list than Sorcery of Thorns, but the heart wants what it wants! This is not a perfect book and yet I liked it so much more than I thought I would. I loved how Rogerson explored the idea of immortality here and found she made craft something special. I’ve been under this book’s spell for months and can’t shake the enchantment!
Winterwood– as I’ve said many times, I have a real weakness for witchy woods. This had an intensely dark and mysterious atmosphere- I couldn’t help but be captivated by it. I will admit that I could see a lot of the paths that this would take, yet that didn’t make them any less enticing and exciting. I couldn’t look away from this haunting tale. I gobbled it up faster than two lost children coming across a gingerbread house 😉
Labyrinth of the Spirits– this was not my favourite of the series, but it absolutely did the story justice. Taking us back through the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, along for stories of war and beyond, this tied everything together. Zafon clearly showed us he had the string to guide us through this labyrinthine saga all along.
Lair of Dreams– I’m rather excited to give this series a mention, because it is surely a definitely part of my reading year. And for once I’m not cheating and plonking the whole series on the list, just going with my favourite! (Although, honestly, if you get into book 1, why would you stop there?!) Starting out as a straightforward (but pos-i-tutely fab-u-lous) ghost story, this is the kind of series that expands in scope. What I loved most about this quartet was how the intriguing powers intertwined with characters and backstories. I also loved how all the family relationships, friendships and romances were to die for. Plus, let me tell you, I listened to the audiobook version, which was insanely long, and yet I was entertained for hours on end!
This is How You Lose the Time War– a hate-to-love story in space about two people on opposite sides of a time war falling in love?! Yes please! However, what ultimately makes this so vivid in my mind is how wonderfully written it is! By both authors!
The Huntress– this memorable historical fiction crosses deftly into thriller territory. Chasing a Nazi called the Huntress, this is a story of how the hunted become the hunters. With multiple timelines seamlessly interweaving, this story had so much scope. Everything about this story held power to me. I have definitely found a new amazing author to follow.
Art of War- (not to be mistaken for the war of art 😉). I learnt so much from this! No, I’m not planning on going to war any time soon 😉 I just found the advice more universal than I was expecting!
Nevermoor– this perhaps deserves to be even higher on the list, because it’s one of the best MGs I’ve ever read! In a lot of ways it deconstructs the typical tropes of the category, whilst bringing all the whimsy and delight you’d expect. It’s really a wonderful take and I know I’d have loved it even more if I was a kid!
With the Fire on High– there’s no two ways about it: this was a delicious read. A masterful contemporary with colourful prose, this brought heart and soul to the table. The plot revolving around culinary ambitions and the realistic characters were paired perfectly on this plate. I especially appreciated how this gave light to stories we don’t typically see in YA.
The Afterlife of Holly Chase– this was more than just an enjoyable YA retelling of Christmas Carol. It had a depth I wasn’t expecting, taking the classic in a unique direction. Exploring every facet of redemption and what leads someone to become a Scrooge in the first place, this packed an emotional punch I wasn’t expecting. This got to the heart of the original and thought beyond it. That’s a bold and brilliant move. I also listened to this on audio and loved every second of it.
Alias Grace– no one is more pleasantly surprised than me that I loved this so much. I’ve always admired Atwood’s writing, but haven’t clicked with her stories… but this was different. It’s one of the books that made me the most obsessive this year. Not only is it masterfully written, it’s so addictive and layered and conjures incredible pictures to my mind even now.
Inheritance– I can’t stop thinking about this thrilling genealogical memoir. Set up like something of a detective story, I found myself turning the pages at an alarming rate, wanting to know what was going to happen! Beyond being utterly compulsive, I liked the depth of themes. It begins by tussling with the question WHO AM I and ends by getting to the root of WHO ARE WE? It doesn’t give you any firm solutions either- leaving you thinking. It’s truly an experience if you want to be intellectually stimulated and challenged.
Wild Swans– this is more than just an intergenerational memoir- this story covers so much of China’s history and gets into the truth about what happened under the Mao regime. This does more than take you on an emotional journey- it is a true education. Everyone should read it.
Big Magic– an inspiration and a must-read for any creative, there’s something so delightful about this book. Elizabeth Gilbert has a way of bringing joy to her non fic. If you like to procrastinate, this will surely prod you in the right direction. And if you need it, this will give you the spark to keep going.
Ten Thousand Doors of January– I haven’t been able to shut up all year- and for good reason. This took me beyond this world- into countless others. A layered fantasy, it opens the door to something new.
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue– the more I think about it the more I just love this book. On the surface, it’s about a girl cursed in exchange for immortality. Yet it’s so much more than that simple description. It is quite simply one of the most unique and compelling books I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of story that stays with you.
Once and Future Witches– this was undoubtedly my most magical reading experience of the year. I LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK. Interlacing history and fantasy and myth in a remarkable way, this book utterly bewitched me. I couldn’t stop reading: for the characters, for the beautiful writing, for the story. Harrow must know something about how to command the ways and the words herself, because I am absolutely spellbound by her work. There’s more than a pinch of genius here.
So, have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? And what was your favourite book(s) of 2020? Let me know in the comments!
I’m so excited for this post, cos it’s been *ages* since I talked about my top ten favourite fantasy, and I’ve been wanting to do a follow up for years! Now I’m finally doing it and *bonus* I’ve added in some sci fi this time round (yes, I could have done a separate post, but I don’t have such a long list for it). I feel like this will be a bit like my favourite classics and romance lists- I’ll just keep adding to it more and more 😊 Without further ado, let’s talk about some of my *new and shiny and glorious* faves:
Bear and the Nightingale– I mean, you all knew I was going to include this, didn’t you? This sumptuous Russian fairy tale retelling stole my heart from the second I stepped into Arden’s world. Atmospheric and so-darn-beautiful, I will never cease to be amazed by how magnificent this book is.
Strange the Dreamer– well, duh, Laini Taylor had to be on this list! Her writing is exquisite, her worlds sensationally unique and her romances to die for!
Circe– this is by far and away one of the most exquisite books I’ve ever read. And on top of that, it’s a perfect retelling of the Odyssey. I. am. in. awe.
Hazel Wood– another book I have endless admiration for. For me, what makes this so special is how it balances the gothic and fairy tale elements just so. As a lover of both genres, this book bowled me over, transporting me far away into the Hinterland.
Neverwhere– bringing me closer to home, Neverwhere tells the story of a hidden London, steeping the streets in mythological imaginings. A truly magnificent work.
Charmed Life– I know there are probably a lot of other Diana Wynne Jones’ books with more renown, however, this one for me brings me such joy. Perhaps I’m being a little sentimental, it’s just this one hits all the right emotional notes.
Poison– I had to triple and quadruple check that this wasn’t on my last list- because I ADORE THIS WONDERFULLY WEIRD BOOK. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it may make you feel like you’ve hopped down the rabbithole in terms of plot, yet it’s undeniably a unique read.
Heir Series– I read this fairly recently and it still manages to make me oddly nostalgic- because the characters and relationships and stories have a way of clinging to your soul. Yes, Chima Williams is another author making a repeat appearance on this list- that’s just because she’s another author who never fails to knock it out of the park.
The Book of the Ancestor Series– I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the kind of series that reminds me why I got into fantasy in the first place. There’s so much to love about this- from the world to the sense of sisterhood to the romance. I just adore this series and can’t wait to read more from the author!
Red Rising– well, when I mentioned sci fi faves, I bet you all guessed this would be on here. Many of you will already know my love for this *prime* series, so I’ll be quick in saying for the millionth time: this is gorydamn good! I mean, it’s Romans in space- need I say more?!
Shade’s Children– I’m never quite sure what genre this is- but it doesn’t matter, cos I will always love this twisty standalone.
The Martian– who’d have thought that a book about a guy stranded on Mars would be so much fun? That’s because Mark Watney rocks. Funniest protagonist I’ve ever read- and he makes this race-against-time sci fi so spectacular.
And that’s all for now! I have a few more I’d like to add, but I like to give it some space after I read books before declaring them *favourites*. Are any of these your favourites? Do you have any favourite fantasy books you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments!
Wahey we made it to part 4!! As I said in the first week, I’m going to pause this series after this post, though I’d like to continue it someday. For now though, I’m working with a more “realistic” (*ahem* mostly) theme to round off these favourite classics:
Canterbury Tales– I was endlessly surprised to find how realistic the characters in this were- not least because this was written OVER 600 YEARS AGO! And yet the fundamentals of human nature haven’t changed. What is also incredible is how complex and layered each of the stories are, how they tales interplay with their role in the prologue and how this all builds up the character study even more.
Great Expectations– ahh the king of realism- Dickens. And this happens to be my favourite I’ve read so far. A part of this comes down to how much I adore the story- and yet I find that somewhat imperfect- not intentionally so (I just prefer Dicken’s original ending where *spoiler alert* he doesn’t end up with Estella, it made more sense from a narrative standpoint). But mostly, because I cannot get over that image of Miss Havisham, sitting in her wedding dress. It’s both tragic and horrifying.
Catcher in the Rye– this one will surprise people straight off the bat, because it is such a Love-it or Hate-it book. I for one won’t pretend that I liked Holden Caulfield- in fact I spent a good deal of time disliking him- and yet… there was something so compelling about him. I could not deny the realistic tenor to his character. Nor could I say that I didn’t grow sympathetic to him over the course of the book. That change struck me and took me by surprise- it felt like getting to know an actual person. Yes he may be whiny and difficult on the surface- however strip away the layers and there is so much more to him. So feel free to love him or hate him, but you can’t deny that this book captures something very real.
To Kill a Mockingbird– I genuinely do not have any words for this book. The realistic characters, the finest fictional father figure of all time, the story, the beautiful writing, the message- ah it makes me speechless. If you do not know why it is on this list, then quite simply you haven’t read it.
King Lear– okay, yes I’m following with a shall-we-say less good fictional father? (yes, I will admit I didn’t know what book to put next). But on the positive side this play made me cry… wait a second… JK- what I mean is this is a deeply moving play (not that I’m a masochist who seeks out stories that will make me cry… okay I totally do that- whatever 😉 )
Brother’s Karamazov– speaking of dysfunctional families (gosh I ought to make a “favourite dysfunctional families” list) In all seriousness, this book is magnificent- not least because this has some MAGNIFICENT characterisation. I have to say that I love the intellectual tussles between Ivan and Alyosha (#teamAlyosha… which is weird because I should rightly pick Ivan… whatever I’ll psychoanalyse that comment later 😉 ). Incidentally, anyone that knows me might be surprised to have found no Dostoevsky’s my favourites so far- never fear, this part has three- pahahaha!
Hamlet– but if what you’re looking for is philosophical questions, why not get to the crux of the existential issue. To be or not to be– damn I get shivers from that speech every time. There’s a reason it’s quoted a million times. And sure, Hamlet might procrastinate for half the play about whether to avenge his father, but all his romps through faux madness and his eventual spurts of violence are so worth it… err… sort of. Stay in school kids.
Waiting for Godot– well since we’re on the subject of existential despair, we may as well go in for a penny in for a pound. And okay, this slightly surreal play is kind of the opposite of the realism theme I’ve been leaning towards here. Despite the strangeness of the play, however, it’s very clear that the themes it plays with- the passage between life and death- are very tangible issues. Some could say the most real of all. And of course, I could give any number of reasons for this being on the list- but what I will say is that what makes this play special is how it makes you feel alive with laughter one minute, and then, all of a sudden the warmth fades away, and you are left with nothing but a chill.
Notes from the Underground– I actually studied this for a “Novel and the Collapse of Humanism” course (I know, cheery stuff). Here Dostoevsky explores the paradoxical nature of man- both alien and atypical of his society. It is a work of pure genius- exhibiting the internal chaos of humankind- as we struggle to find our place in the world (and if you’re in any doubt as to how seriously cool this book is, this 19th century book smashes through the fourth wall, like a Deadpool comic)
The Idiot– and yet it is The Idiot which probably takes the spot as my favourite Dostoevsky. I’ve mentioned time and again how I love the hero, Prince Myshkin (#relationshipgoals), because he is one of the most saintly characters ever written… and that’s his greatest failing. Which leads me onto my rather bizarre favourite thing about this book- it kind of fizzles out at the end- yes, it’s unintentional, but that’s what I like about it- it’s a failed book about failure.
Jude the Obscure– okay, let’s be honest, if we’re going to talk “doomed from the start”, Jude really takes the biscuit. I’m not saying that this is a dark book, I’m saying THIS IS THE MOST DEPRESSING THING I HAVE EVER READ IN MY LIFE. I really don’t blame people for not liking this one to be fair- nonetheless, for me, this is one of the most memorable books I have ever read. I can never shake the images it has planted in my brain. So I guess all that’s left to say is: hey Jude, don’t be afraid… watch out for women who try to trap you in marriage, just sayin’
Richard III– okay to leave off on a more positive note- let’s talk about someone who actually deserved to get their comeuppance. Cos let’s face it, from the opening speech, we can be certain Richard’s the baddie. And I know, I know, some historians and novelists have tried to rewrite the character in a more sympathetic light BUT there’s no following Shakespeare. He is “determined to prove a villain”- and what a villain he is! Too bad he couldn’t get hold of a horse.
Yay I’m on a roll with these posts! (or I might have just done them all in a batch and scheduled them… but whatever) For those of you who are new here (hi!) or missed my last few posts (where were you?! JK 😉 ) I’m currently sharing my lovey-dovey feelings about my favourite classics. I went into how I was doing this in (probably too much) detail in the first week, so I’m not going to bore you with it- suffice to say this is part three of four and each week has a vaguish theme. This week it’s EPIC! (I mean the theme, not the post- though if you think my posts are epic, have a prize banana, I salute you 😉 ) Well sort of epics, some of these are just bunched into this group because they address BIG IDEAS.
The Count of Monte Cristo– boy this book has scope! From the ship docking in the opening chapter to the ever expansive horizons the protagonist treads, the reader is taken on quite the journey. On the surface, it is a wonderful adventure story- however simmering under the surface is a classic tale of revenge- one which holds many lessons.
Theogony– if we are talking scope, no story has more than the Theogony. We are talking the literal origins of the universe, from a Greek perspective of course (it’s upto you whether you take that literally 😉 ) And my goodness, Hesiod might have been one of the world’s most adept misogynists, but dude sure can spin a story. No matter how often I read this, I’m always entertained by these myths. Oh and Works and Days is great too 🙂
Aeneid– I own the most atrocious translation of this- and yet this still struck me as one of the most powerful stories ever told- which says everything. If the majesty of such a story could shine through a translation (so bad it made me laugh out loud) then you can imagine just how good it is. One thing I love about it is how it manages to splice the basic narrative structure of both the Iliad and the Odyssey together, combining the two into one incredible tale. It may be technically unfinished- nonetheless it is one of the most tightly woven stories I have ever read.
War and Peace– I honestly never expected to love this as much as I did. For years, I saw it as little more than a challenge- but when I finally read it WOW– it blew me away. I was instantly wrapped up in the characters, the philosophical discussions, and the beauty of the imagery that crossed the boundary a translation often erects. Of course, it took a lot of commitment, yet ever since I read it, I’ve been itching to give it a reread (it did completely kill the adaptation for me though, cos nothing could live upto that level of epicness).
Grapes of Wrath– speaking of language, this book has some of finest writing I have ever seen. I don’t care what you think of Steinbeck’s philosophy, no one can argue that the writing here is anything less than profoundly stunning. There are few books that have blown me away as much on sheer imagery alone and this is one of them.
The Great Gatsby– and yet another beautifully written book. Here, my taste for lyrical, flowery prose shines through unashamedly again. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the Romantics and Fitzgerald drew heavily on their seductive style. Ergo, I adore this book. And if that wasn’t enough, I find the study of human nature in this book so compelling- especially because the characters are so ridiculously unlikeable. (Yes, I love to hate characters sometimes)
East of Eden– I actually love this for very different reasons to Grapes of Wrath. Yes, it has a lot of the same skill in terms of writing and yes, it likewise has a magnificent scope. However, what I love about this is the family drama and mirroring of the Kane and Abel story at the heart of the book. It is such a fascinating exploration of humanity, I cannot help but find this one of the most compelling family epics in existence.
The Chosen– moving from a story about brotherly and fatherly love, to one about friendship. This story is a gorgeous modern day allegory about two friends who grow from being enemies on the baseball court to best friends. What I loved most about this was how it tackled Jewish philosophy and struck at the heart of the universal question of baseless hatred.
Daniel Deronda– I know that normally people are especially fond of Middlemarch by Eliot- and that’s cool, whatever floats your boat. Yet while I’ve read it twice and have been struck by the characters both times, the provincial life setting prevented me from fully forming an emotional connection. This book on the other hand… I do not expect everyone to be as in love with this as I am, yet I was fundamentally blown away not only about how it had mature philosophical debates and drew realistic Jewish characters (in a non-Holocaust book! without being anti-Semitic!), but also how it managed to show that people are not simply their group identity, they are textured and complex (I know *shocker*)
Heart of Darkness– this book is a puzzle- and yet I enjoy cracking it. Layer upon layer of meaning is coated onto this slightly bizarre, tightly woven book. I do not know that I will ever get to the bottom of it- all I know is that there is something which compels me to read and reread it.
Fahrenheit 451– well I had a burning desire to put this on the list 😉 (gosh- apologies for that appalling joke, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself 😉 ) Seriously though, this is one of the most illuminating, powerful books I’ve ever read. The imagery from beginning to end is burned into my brain. With a grand vision, this book illustrates the true horrors of collectivism.
1984– while I often envisage Fahrenheit 451 as depicting Nazism, 1984 strikes me as the cold knife of communism. Twice in my life I have read this book and twice I have put it down with no intention of picking it up again. Not because I dislike it, but because this book shakes me to my core. The imagery is terrifyingly realistic, the messages echo across time and the book paves the way for every dystopia that follows. There is nothing quite like it.
Well hello again- and welcome back to my second week of ALL-TIME FAVOURITE CLASSICS. I went into a bit more detail last week about how I’m doing this, so in case you missed it, you can read that here. Anyhoo, in the interest of saving time I’m not going to go into all that again- just know this is the second in a two part series, and each week will have a loose theme. Speaking of which, this week’s theme is gothicy, supernaturaly, childhoody stuff… yes they don’t all go together, they just go together more than the others did (I’m not wedded to this theme idea guys)
Confessions of a Justified Sinner– this takes me back so much. As you may (or may not know) I went to uni in Scotland, so was lucky enough to study a lot of Scottish literature. This happens to be one of the most striking, underrated gothic stories I have ever read. I really don’t want to spoil anything- only give you a taste- there’s murder, there’s madness, there’s mystery and there’s potentially even devils… (it also makes me laugh, which I often forget and catches me by surprise every time)
Picture of Dorian Gray– I have loved this book ever since I first read it. Then I read it again and again and again. It never gets old. This book has a little taste of everything- romance, tragedy, wit, moral questions, an intense plot… and all of that packed into a short space. This is actually something I’d recommend to virtually everyone, because I see something in it for every sort of person.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde– this is just a great story. Sure, I know there’s a lot of depth to it, yet what gets me every time I read this one is how dramatic the story is– which is great if you have to read it loads for uni 😉 No matter how many times I read it, I was never bored.
Turn of the Screw– I’m really not into creepy books, yet I’m glad I had to read this at uni. I love books that pit madness against the supernatural- so you’re never quite sure how reliable the narrator is and there’s a surprise at every turn. Admittedly, I’m easily scared and had to turn on *ALL THE LIGHTS* half way through, just so I could get to the end.
Frankenstein– I know a lot of people aren’t keen on the writing style for this but OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE IT. It’s no surprise since it is rumoured to have been edited by Percy Bysshe Shelley himself and naturally I am a huge fan of the Romantic poets (especially the later set). The language is succulent and exquisite- it’s exactly the kind of lyrical prose I enjoy most. On top of that, the story is engaging, I was invested in the romance (I know, me and no one else) and I frankly love the moral questions it deals with. Incidentally, that leads me onto…
The Golem– the myth of the Golem is the said inspiration for Frankenstein’s monster- yet they are very different stories. Where the drive for creation in Shelley’s story is hubris, the myth focuses on love and fear. Bashevis Singer perfectly adopts those elements in one of the most beautiful and heartfelt books I have ever read. It’s short and poetic, tying history to legend. I adored this book and it led me straight into the arms of one of my mother’s favourite writers.
Dr Faustus– not only do I love the language in this play, I love the ideas at the heart of it. The puzzle of Faustus’ pride and the question of ambition have been something that’s fascinated me for half my life. I love the tussle here with literal devils, as Marlowe plays out the inevitable rise and fall of hubris.
Macbeth– since we’re talking of hubris, what better play than Macbeth? I read recently someone saying they didn’t like it cos Macbeth’s an unpleasant human… well duh. The point is that it captures the fallible human nature in us all- the part which strives and the part which falls short. I love this play, partly because it captures that struggle in us all and partly because it’s got plenty of sheer entertainment.
Lorna Doone– speaking of entertainment, I love this book. I know it’s not a technically perfect book and I doubt it’ll blow people’s minds given how obvious some of the plot points are- but back when I encountered this the first time, I’d never read anything like it and thoroughly enjoyed the story (incidentally, the BBC adaptation is no masterpiece either, but it sure is fun!)
Armadale– this is also a lot of fun. Like most of Collin’s work, it does have a slightly mysterious, dark feel, though it’s not supposed to be his best. It is, however, one of those books which has stayed with me for one reason or another- it could be the adventurous, exciting spirit, it could be the complex plot, or it could very well be that it has a villain beyond compare!
Peter Pan– if you want to talk about staying power, this book is pretty unforgettable. At this point, the character and story have slipped into common parlance, so I really have no need to explain the appeal of a boy who never grows up and who can fly! I will say that I happily admit to suffering from just a teensy bit of Peter Pan syndrome- and I make no apologies for that 😉
Alice in Wonderland– ahh one of the wackiest books in history- I adore it! As nonsensical and eccentric as can be, it’s also highly imaginative and oddly relatable. I think I’d have to be “mad, mad, mad as march hares” not to love it!
Well hello! After my post the other day, where I showed off my bookshelves, and just generally talking a lot about books I love a lot recently, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favourite classics. Now of course, I quickly realised that there was no way I could do this in a single post, so decided to turn this into a mini-series. I’ve arbitrarily decided these posts will go out on Tuesdays for four weeks (basically because I wrote four posts before deciding to put a lid on it) so that’s what you’re getting… for now 😉
Obviously, this list is not the “best” classics- just books that hit me on a deeply personal level. Nor is it a “finished” article: a) because I’ll be adding to it as I read more and b) because there were books that are hovering just outside the list and I’m always careful about saying whether a book is something I love vs a favourite. To my mind, it takes a significant amount of time and emotional connection for a book to be established as a favourite.
In the interest of keeping this list to a reasonable length, I also won’t be including: fantasy, sci fi, non-epic poetry, literary fiction or basically any other genre fiction. This is not a comment on whether they are/could be classics- only that I would prefer to talk about them in other lists- in fact I have a favourite fantasy list which I *definitely* plan on adding to with new favourites at some point cos they’ve been mounting up.
Lastly, before we get into this week’s selection, I’ve split these vaguely based on theme and don’t be alarmed by the fact there’s an uneven number each week (even after everything I’ve just said, I didn’t want to be stuck with silly, self-imposed rules)
Okay, rather long winded preamble- let’s get started with my rather romantic first set of favourites:
Emma– what could I actually say about Emma that hasn’t already been said? There’s a reason why this has been dubbed the perfect novel: the character growth, the plot structure, the romance, the friendship and the lessons that are so subtly woven into the story. I could go on, but the reason why this hits a personal note for me is that this was the book that made me appreciate Austen’s humour (though it was not the first Austen I read) and it’s because of this that I came to love all her work. I also happen to think Mr Knightley is the most appealing of all Austen’s love interests- sorry Mr Darcy fans 😉
Little Women– oh gosh, this book gives me the warm fuzzies whenever I think about it. There’s so much to love about it- the romance, the heartbreaking ups and downs of the story, the characters- however one of the biggest elements which always strikes me with this story *has to be* the family dynamic- the March sisters really capture that feeling of sisterhood.
I Capture the Castle– speaking of families and relationships, this one is slightly more dysfunction. Still, this quirky coming of age story is set in a crumbling castle and will always have a place in my heart (and inspires me to one day live in my own derelict castle… even though I hate the cold… whatever it’s a nice dream 😉 )
Rebecca– so, spoiler alert, next week I’ll be doing more gothic-y themed books and this book could certainly compete there. However one of the best things about this book is the romance- no not the romance between the unnamed protagonist and her new husband- but the ongoing romance with his dearly departed wife. I don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t read it, but this book illustrates what it feels like to be a third wheel… even though the third person in the relationship is in fact already dead.
Wuthering Heights – speaking of more gothic-type books, this certainly has that feel some of the time. Yet it also is one of the most intense romances I’ve ever read. Now, I will admit that there are some faults on a structural level- however the heart of this book is one of the most sublime, passionate affairs I’ve ever read. And yes, Heathcliff and Cathy are horrible people- that’s half the point- their sole redeeming quality is there love for each other (well, it’s also their doom, so there’s that)
Jane Eyre– we can’t speak of one Bronte sister without mentioning another, and this book is wonderful in a different way. Of course, the main characters are flawed, but they’re not totally unlikeable; there are elements of destructive love, but it’s not the end of the world (mostly); and I can safely say the structure is tidier. And, above all, the romance still captures my imagination (that and the mad woman in the attic)
Tess of the D’Urbervilles– however if you’re looking for something slightly more on the tragic side- look no further. It’s such a sob-worthy story, from beginning to end. Poor Tess can’t catch a break. This is the book that made me fall in love with Hardy’s bleak, fatalistic outlook and visualistic world. Yes, I admit it, I’m somewhat pessimistic and this appeals to my dark side.
Romeo and Juliet– speaking of star crossed lovers- where would we be without the ultimate ill-fated duo? (still referring to Tristan and Isolde no doubt, but I digress) I have two reasons for adoring this play: 1) the language and 2) the play with genre (yes I’m a dork)- it’s a fairly straightforward ploy of tricking the viewer into thinking it’s a comedy and then *BAM* Mercutio gets it and we’re into tragic territory. Simple, yet genius.
Persuasion– a slightly more romantic Austen, I read this one last in my Austen journey, and it’s always competing in my mind with Emma for the position of favourite Austen (incidentally most Austen books could have ended up on this list). Unrequited or long lost love really gets to me, so I found myself crying when they kept being frustrated in their romance (yes, I know it’s not a sad book, only the heightened romantic feel gets to me, cos I’m a sap)
Midsummer Night’s Dream– this was my first ever Shakespeare play and can always put me in a good mood. Lighthearted and fun, there’s a spirit of mischief in the air. One of my absolute favourite things about it though, is how Helena’s story in particular captures that feeling of being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. It’s still just as poignant as ever.
Importance of Being Earnest– and let’s round this off with the play that is the most fun of all! Why do I love it? Because this is Wilde at his wittiest and honestly this can still make me laugh, no matter how many times I hear the jokes (I also highly recommend the 1952 movie version)
Hope you enjoyed that- I loved making it. Have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments! And I’ll have another one of these next week…
I’m absolutely giddy for today’s post! Because today, on the day of love, I’m going to tell you the story of how I fell head over heels with Pratchett books. Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the giant orange monkey you see now. In fact, once upon a time when I was a wee uni student, two of my closest friends (hi if you’re reading!) were astounded to find that I was a barely familiar with the Discworld. Sure, I’d heard of Pratchett (who hasn’t?)- I even had vague but pleasant memories of The Wee Free Men from when I was younger- yet I’d never launched fully immersed myself in the wackiness of Pratchett’s universe. That, of course, was a mistake 😉
“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it”
Because I knew, the second I started reading Mort that I was reading something special. And, incidentally, so did the rest of my train carriage, where I sat for four hours, smothering laughter through my hand. I instantly fell in love with the humour. I mean, even years on, I still find myself randomly cracking up over the Great A’Tuin- a giant turtle hurtling through space with four elephants resting on its back which support the Discworld… Seriously, I just finished that sentence and I’m laughing again! Really the jokes and wit *never* gets old.
“Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”
“Apes had it worked out. No ape would philosophize, “The mountain is, and is not.” They would think, “The banana is. I will eat the banana. There is no banana. I want another banana.”
“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this”
Soon I’d leapt into the rest of the series- in fact the Death series ran away with me- I couldn’t stop with that one. I absolutely loved the quirks and eccentricities of the entire world- not least of the characters! I still chuckle over the fact that Death enjoys a good curry- that is so quintessentially English and I love it!! (chicken tikka masala is the national dish after all). Plus, oh my goodness, the stories are so unconventional! If you’re looking for a different Christmas story, you won’t get anything better than the Hogfather.
“Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom”
And actually that leads me onto the pure genius of the ideas. Not only is Hogfather a lovingly satirical take on the way we all act around Christmas, but it also gets right into the heart of the love of stories. Actually, this is a running theme with Pratchett- and is especially noticeable in the witch’s plots, such as the play with fairy tales in Witches Abroad and the *double double toil and trouble* Shakespearean mischief of Lords and Ladies. It’s this complexity and depth which makes the series *so awesome*.
“HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.”
As you know, I absolutely *love* satire, and this is such witty and intelligent fare. And on such varied topics as well! Sometimes it’s simply about some good fantasy tropes like dragons in Guards, Guards. Sometimes it’s on a much larger scale, like questions around war, in Jingo. And sometimes books like Going Postal are just about that weird British obsession with the post office dammit- incidentally this is one of my favourites and the only one I’ve reviewed.
“What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.”
And yet there’s more to it than all that. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love time and again with so many bonkers, wacky and fun characters from the series! If they were simply flat archetypes for satirical fodder, they wouldn’t be half as endearing as they are. But no! They are so much deeper than that. Death, the anthropomorphic personification of death, doesn’t just exist as a vehicle for the plot- NO!– he actually comes to learn about and sympathise with humanity. Vimes, the slightly world weary copper, who manages to upstage everyone with his unbending sense of right and wrong. Granny “I can’t be having with that kind of thing” Weatherwax, who takes common sense to a whole new level. Vetinari is the kind of despotic politician I can admire (thank you Sir P for giving me the opportunity to utter such odd sentences). Then there’s other favourites like the Death of Rats, Susan and Moist. And lastly, but certainly not least…
The Librarian- who inspired me to create this blog! For those of you who don’t know, the Librarian is one of my favourite Discworld characters. My monkey owes its existence to the great big monkey in the sky… or something (*ahem* that sounded more poetic in my head…) Say hello to my little friend!
“If you try to to take my bananas from me, I will reclaim them from your cold dead hands.”
And so we’re coming to the end of my journey so far… And the fact that I can say “so far” is something else that I’m happy about. Because, as I mentioned a couple of weeks back, I’m not done yet- and that only makes me more excited!! I have heard so many wonderful things about books I haven’t got to- not least the Shepherd’s Crown– and I’ve got to say I can’t wait!
So have you read Pratchett? Are you inspired to pick any up now? Let me know in the comments!
Books are like people. They’re temperamental, diverse and it’s the little things that make them special. Sometimes we love them inexplicably, warts and all. So today I decided to dedicate a list to the books that I love ALL THE MORE *because* of their imperfections. Here are my top ten perfectly imperfect books:
1.– The Idiot– so years ago when I reviewed this book I talked a little about how this book is technically a failed book about failure. I mean, it doesn’t have a satisfactory conclusion, it swerves off topic on multiple occasions and the plot is a little all over the place. BUT if you asked me which books have had the most impact on me, this would be on that list. Sure, this book may have some pretty random tangents- but man, the philosophy espoused here is endlessly deep. So yes, this book may not be as polished as some of Dostoevsky’s other work, but it’s perfect in its own way.
2.– Emma– okay this one’s cheating a little- cos I think this one’s practically perfect in every way. In fact, I recall a professor of mine describing it as such. And it’s true, because the moral of self-improvement, the biting humour, the character development and the structure of the novel are all perfectly balanced (I could literally go on forever- but if you want more details my review’s here). However, interestingly enough, what makes this so successful as a novel is how imperfect Emma is as a character- and for me that’s what makes it so great.
3.– The Hobbit– as you all know I *adore* this book. It was my gateway to fantasy and *arghh* it’s just so complex and amazing! BUT it does rightly get some criticism for being episodic. My response to that is this only adds to the story, since every episode moves the plot along, whilst containing its own unique message. The other criticism it gets is “it’s just a children’s book”- to which I say “eff off” or in more adult terms “if you haven’t learnt by now that there’s more to children’s books than meet the eye then you still have a lot of growing up to do” (see I can be mature 😉 ) Incidentally I should have known the movie franchise was doomed when Jackson said that.
4.– Ovid’s Erotic Poems– OH GAWD I LOVE THESE- okay now I’ve got that out my system… These can be read in multiple ways- read it too literally and you might end up hating Ovid as a person- but if you get the subtext it’s one of the most hilarious books ever written. However, like most books that can be read in multiple directions, it’s easily either going to be one of the best things you ever read or the worst. Plus you may end up concentrating so hard on it that you develop a tension headache 😉
5.– Carry On– as a parody of Harry Potter, it obviously has to bear a lot of similarities with the original in order to work, but as is so often the case with satire, the humour is often missed by critics and I’ve seen this labelled “unoriginal” umpteen times. To that I would say, people need to do a better exploration of what satire is– but then getting undue criticism is also kinda a part of the genre too- so it’s a catch 22. Regardless, to me this is top notch stuff, plus it’s got Baz and Simon- nuff said 😉
6.– Poison– no one’s heard of this book, so I can say what I like about it- though *oh my goodness*, everyone’s missing out. This is one of the most impactful, clever books I’ve ever read and it will always be a favourite. But it’s weird- super weird- so I’m always reluctant to recommend it cos there’s a fifty percent chance people’ll love it, and a fifty percent chance they’ll say “what did I just read?”
7.– The Aeneid– alright I’m stumped… I can’t actually think of any imperfections… Seriously… this is a tough cookie. The reason it’s on the list is that it was technically unfinished- but plebs like me will never be able to pick out its flaws, so I doubt it matters unless you’re a serious scholar. I guess I could say that my edition wasn’t perfect though (protip: never translation read of ancient poetry into English that’s been made to rhyme- unfortunately for me my lecturer insisted on it ).
8.– Wuthering Heights– this one *had to* go on the list, because from a purely technical sense, this has some structural flaws, with an odd and maybe even out of place frame around the narrative and some pretty detestable characters BUT it also has some of the finest emotional moments in literature. No book has ever, or will ever, make you feel as wildly passionate as this. And it’s why, although I gave both books 5*, this one edges it out over Jane Eyre for me (which incidentally is a pretty flawless book). And speaking of emotions…
9.– Jude the Obscure– ah Hardy- if you want to experience true pain, this is where you go. No one does tragedy like Hardy. So what’s its fatal flaw? Well, some people would say the way it deals with mental health… or doesn’t deal with it. You see, as I’ve mentioned before, there are two kinds of mental health in books- the would-be educational kind and the ones that present it as is. Personally my preference is for the latter, because if I want to be educated about mental health, which I frequently do, I go to psychology papers, not literature (not to mention that the “educational” kinds frequently fail). As for this being one of the darkest books in existence so be it. The world is frequently dark, twisted and bleak. Better that than preaching to me “suicide is bad” or “depression isn’t anyone’s fault”- yeah no shit Sherlock.
10.– We Were Liars– first of all *no spoilers* but this book was perfection for me BECAUSE of the style, where ironically a lot of people don’t like this BECAUSE of said style. So I guess that’s the moral of the story here- what makes something perfect for one person may not work for someone else…
So what do you think about perfectly imperfect books? Do you have any books that you love in spite of their flaws? Let me know in the comments!