Each week, I use the hashtag #FridayReads to tweet about the book I’m currently reading. I also enjoy keeping a record of all the books I’ve read over the year. Last year ended with a dire (for good reasons) total and I hoped that I would reach 50 (I like round numbers) books in 2017. Unfortunately, my current read will only make a total of 46.As in previous years, I noticed that I unconsciously read more books written by women and also mainly set in the UK, particularly in Scotland or Ireland and contemporary rather than historical. I suppose it’s natural to veer towards the genre that I choose to write but this year I made an effort to try to redress the balance.
Out of the total, I also read 1 short story collection, as well as 1 non-fiction, 1 children’s novel and 2 Young Adult novels as research for my day job work.
I enjoy reading book reviews and seeing recommendations on Twitter which means that I carefully pick my next read and the result is that I rarely make a poor choice.
But occasionally, I make an impulse buy and one of these was the only book I failed to finish this year. I’m drawn to dark themes but sometimes I like to lighten the mood with a more heart-warming book. I bought a major bestseller at the airport for a holiday read but I abandoned The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan after 100 pages. It had an interesting premise and I liked the opening pages but the characters and plot felt too twee for my tastes and I couldn’t bear to read on. There was only one book which I wished I hadn’t bothered to finish and it was Mercy Seat by Wayne Price. I was thankful that it was a charity shop purchase or I’d feel robbed.
Out of the 46, it’s very difficult to choose favourites but the top ten (in no particular order, as they say on the X Factor) which stood out are:
1) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
2) Turning Blue by Benjamin Myers
3) Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty
4) My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
5) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
6) His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnett
7) Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
8) Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
9) The Party by Elizabeth Day
10) Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
One thing I noticed about several books I read this year was that speech marks weren’t used for dialogue. This seems to be a trend but for me it serves no purpose other than making the reader work harder than necessary. This style didn’t put me off any of the books but did irritate me. Call me old-fashioned but speech marks have a function so why not let them do their job? I understand that sometimes the style is used to convey a stream of consciousness and can be effective but often it adds nothing to my experience as a reader. As a writer myself, I’m more concerned with keeping the narrative flowing rather than adopting pretentious quirks. Rant over.
I also noticed that slavery seems to be a popular theme in fiction and my current #FridayReads is Sugar Money by Jane Harris. This is the third slavery themed novel I’ve read this year and it’s shaping up to be as powerful a read as the other two.
The next novel on my TBR pile is The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. I have high hopes for this chunky novel and look forward to 2018 being a bumper year for quality fiction (with speech marks, please!).
What were your top picks of the year?