‘Tis the time of year when ten best lists start to appear in publications far and wide. So in the spirit of the season , and in no particular order, here are a list of ten books reviewed by me on this site which I think stood out the most.
Highly subjective, you’ll find everything from fantasy and detective stories to literary fiction here. As ten best list goes, its probably not going to contain titles most of you are familiar with or even authors you’ve heard of. While most likely it will be ignored or lost amongst the noice emanating from more prominent publications I live in hope that it will encourage perhaps one person to read something from beyond their comfort zone.
A Matter of Malice by Thomas King see the return of ex-police officer, now commercial photographer, Trumps DreadfulWater. A reality show blows into town and reopens old wounds and turns up new bodies. King has his reluctant detective digging at old scars in his attempt to solve the case. As often happens some of the scars turn out to be Trumps’, and while he solves the case, in the process he finds he can’t run away from his own past. King is a great writer and this series is brilliant.
The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson is a beautiful fantasy story about the power of friendship and the gift of maps and the desire to seek sanctuary. As Muslim Spain falls to the Inquisition a young courtesan and her magical map making friend seek to find a way to the fabulous home of the Bird King. Here they feel they will be safe from the horrors of the world. Beautifully told this is a great piece of art.
God’s Rough Drafts by Rob Scott is that rarest of birds a new twist on the dystopian Young Adult novel. Just when you thought the genre was mined to death Scott has created one that will make you reassess it. A great read, with wonderful characters and really nasty villains. What more could you ask for?
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay. Any year with a new book from Kay is a good year. This is up to his usual excellent standards. Political intrigue, war, romance and history have never been brought to life with such excellence. Kay’s books are like tapestries in their intricacy and brilliance and stay on your read over and over again lists for ever.
Red Birds by Mohammad Hanif. A satire on war, American military and aid workers which takes place in a refugee camp in the middle of some unknown country/desert. Hanif’s sharp pen and insights make this book a pointed commentary well worth reading.
Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith. In the pages of this book Smith takes us on a journey through a difficult year; 2016. Difficult personally as her oldest friend Sam Shepard is succumbing to the ravages of ALS and another old friend died on the way to her New Years Eve concert. Surreal and fantastic, the borders between reality and imaginary slip away to create an impression of great turmoil. Another literary masterpiece from Smith.
The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth – Book of Dust Vol.2 by Phillip Pullman. Lyra Silvertongue is now a young woman, but her battles are far from over. In spite of setbacks, The Magisterium is still determined to bring humankind under their complete control and Lyra is still seen as one of the biggest obstacles towards achieving that end. A gripping tale of adventure and personal growth as we follow Lyra and Pan as they journey across continents by train and boat. The latest instalment in his new great series of books.
Blanket Toss Under The Midnight Sun by Paul Seessequasis. A beautiful history of Indigenous life in North America in photos and stories from the late 19th century through to the 1970s. From the far North to Montana, Alberta and Ontario the camera captures the people and their environment beautifully. These aren’t Edward Curtis staged photos of people wearing the “Indian clothes” he carted about to make them ‘authentic’. These are the men and women who created strong vital communities in spite of North American government’s attempts to grind them out of existence. A great book and a must read for anyone who cares about a complete history of North America.
The Quarter by Naguib Mahfouz. A new edition of one of the master storytellers great collections of short stories. Centred on one district in Cairo the stories bring an era and a life to light in the way few authors are able to. A great introduction to one of the world’s great authors and one of his great books.
The Baghdad Clock by Shahad al-Rawi. A wonderful, frightening and heartbreaking story of life in Iraq during the height of the US sanctions. After the first US invasion, but before the 2nd, the US imposed such crippling sanctions on Iraq that people were starving to death. We follow the lead character from childhood to escape as she watches everyone disappear fromher neighbourhood as they leave in search of a better life. A book of intense sorrow and some hope it can’t help but move you and make us question our policies of blockade and who they truly harm.
So there you have it, a completely subjective list of ten books from 2019 I think will improve the quality of your life. Enjoy.