I know this is late for a ‘Best of 2015’ post, but 2015 was the busiest year of my life, and I’m still playing catch-up. Hence I didn’t read as much as I’d have liked in 2015. I probably only got through about 30-odd books.
Still – here are a few of my favourites, in no particular order:
Sumptuous writing, wonderful story filled with characters who felt solidly real, in spite of the fantasy events. A burned-out, tough post-war world, with people to match and an intriguing story. Made me want to do so, so much better in my own writing.
A wonderful concept, revisiting and updating the tradition of hostage children in a vision of the future that certainly isn’t a dystopia (possibly a utopia, as long as you aren’t one of the aforementioned children). But it’s the characters, the riveting plot and crisp writing that make this so much more. The best AI in fiction (in spite of the competition) and lots of goats are the icing on the cake.
This is on a lot of ‘best’ lists for excellent reasons. It was difficult to read, because I constantly felt so ignorant. There’s such a huge gulf between my experience of growing up and life and Ta-Nenshi Coates’s. While ideas around privilege are familiar to me, this brought it home and made me more aware of just how profound the issues are.
Almost from the first page I loved this one. There was a line that said something like “I never felt as old as I did when the children were young.” And I just thought ‘oh, thank goodness, it’s not just me’. And the rest of the book continued in that vein, with so much of it feeling so utterly true. I love how her children’s infancy really does pass in a haze of ridiculous exhaustion and a narrowing of her world as well as with a lot of love (in both her lives, but with different emphasis in each). In many ways, the two lives felt true as well – expressing the internal contradictions of family life. These last four years have been the hardest and the best of my life at different times, and this book did what all the best fiction does – made me feel that I’m not alone in that.
I only bought this poetry book because a friend of mine (who is a good friend of Eva’s) raved about it so much. And she was right. Stunning use of language, beautiful imagery. It’s rare that a poem will make me cry, yet I did several times, reading this slim book.
Other books I really loved included Dance of the Banished by Marsha Skrypuch and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan – both of which cast a fascinating light on periods of history I do not know enough about.
In 2016, I’m really looking forward to reading Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley – have loved this one since I first heard her explain the concept in 2012, and read a fabulous earlier draft. Can’t wait to get my hands on the final thing at her book launch.
Have also pre-ordered The Words in my Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd, who I met at The Literary Consultancy‘s conference in 2014, where we were both shortlisted for the Pen Factor Competition. From what she told me about the book, and the piece she read, it was clear she would win (I was right), and that I would love the book.