It’s been such a long time since I blogged about books I’ve been reading that I decided a condensed list was the way to go, especially as I’ve been sucked into reading a few series one after the other. The Song of Fire and Ice series (otherwise known as Game of Thrones) was perfect for when I was suffering with morning sickness, long and page turny. I’m not sure my analysis of them will add anything to the internet though so basically this post is about the books I especially enjoyed this year – the full list of what I’ve been reading is over on my Goodreads account if you’re curious though.
Doomed by Chuck Palahunick. If you haven’t read a Chuck Palahunick before, they are always incredibly dark, filthy and fascinating and unlike anything else. This was no exception although I didn’t realise until I was a little way in that this was a follow up to an earlier novel Damned so it didn’t quite grab me as other novels of his have in the past as I think I was missing some backstory. The novel follows Madison, daughter of a super ethical and trendy celebrity power couple, who has been damned to hell and then in this novel escapes and has to walk the earth for a year as a form of purgatory. The crazy plotlines and vivid (and sometimes gross) imaginative details are what I love about Palahunick and these are present in abundance. I want to track down Damned now as well.
How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis. I first read about this on Janet’s blog and knew I had to read it – as someone who spent a good portion of my teenage years absorbed in various novels and books and passionately identifying with strong female heroines. I thoroughly enjoyed this book for this reason – although I strongly disagreed with the some of the analyses of the books and heroines discussed. But that is almost the point, you want to have a long chat with the author and debate and argue these very personal responses that happen when you emotionally connect with a book.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan. I always have a bit of a mixed response to McEwan novels – they are obviously in many cases brilliant. But I sometimes think he is a bit cold in the way he deals with his characters which makes it very hard to love his books (no emotional responses here). I found this novel made a virtue of this cool analytical approach to emotion though in that it focuses on a woman that has to be cool and analytical to do her job. It follows a family court judge who has to make a decision about whether a religious teenager with a terrible illness should be allowed to refuse treatment or live. I found the complex moral problems fascinating and couldn’t put it down – and it is definitely now my favourite McEwan.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. This was one of those books that I bought because I’d heard lots of people raving about it, but without knowing what it was actually about. The plot was not what I as expecting at all as the protagonist is a little girl brought up for the first five years of her life with a twin sister who is a chimpanzee. The repercussions of this experiment run by her psychologist father are what the book examines and I enjoyed it immensely and am now raving about it in my turn.
Ross Poldark and Demelza Poldark by Winston Graham. My Mum was hugely into the 1970s TV version of Poldark and as soon as I was old enough to watch the videos I became a big fan of the original version, as well as the books. I hadn’t read them for ages though so the new TV adaption was the perfect excuse. The novels are brilliantly page turny and really bring the late 18th century world of Cornwall to life, and are of course thoroughly and completely romantic. Ross Poldark is still one of the most completely attractive yet also flawed male characters I can think of from any book. They were just as good as I remembered on re-reading!
Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This is an account of Strayed’s epic walk along the Pacific Crest Trail after her beloved Mother’s death. It is an inspiring memoir of a woman finding herself and independence by challenging herself to the dramatic feat of physical and mental endurance of hiking this long distance trail alone. It is so good to read such a brilliant and honest account of a strong woman doing something extraordinary.
A Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. I’m currently fascinated by all things Scandinavian, mainly because they seem to place such value on things that I consider most important in life. A good work/life balance, a generous welfare state, a focus on happiness rather than on making lots of money – basically I want to move there! Denmark also happens to consistently come high (if not top) in almost all the league tables of the happiest places to live on earth. When the author’s husband has the opportunity of his dream job at Lego, this causes the couple to relocate to rural Denmark for a year – and a sort of diary of this year is the subject of this book. Russell explores the different things that adds to Denmark’s happiness ratings, she is a journalist so this is a very easy and entertaining read, it is genuinely funny and really does give so much to think about in terms of the sort of things we should be focusing on in life. Guaranteed to induce lots of wails of ‘I want to move to Denmark’.
Mr Penumbra’s 24 Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I bought this when it was on offer on Kindle as the title intrigued me. It’s quite an unusual novel, taking in arcane secret societies, Google HQ and the modern world of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, as well as the very unusual bookshop of the title. It appealed to the bibliophile in me and is well worth a read if you fancy something a little bit different and easy to read. I think I particularly enjoyed it as we visited San Francisco last year and this book does capture something about the weird changes and conflicts that are happening in the traditionally non-conformist city due to the huge influx of tech workers and the big corporations of Google et al.