Thursday 3 January 2019

Favourite Reads of 2018

At the end of 2018, we asked readers to nominate a favourite read of the year, and write a micro-review of their chosen book. The book could be from any time or genre - the only qualification was that it had to be a book the reader found particularly memorable, striking or enjoyable during the last twelve months. Here are the responses we received. Wishing everyone a great new year of reading in 2019!

Kirsten Arcadio

Kamila Shamsie, Home Fire: "A powerful retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire is one of the best novels I’ve read in ages. Intellectual, sharp, powerful, Shamsie’s style contains a kind of distance that cuts. This writing has the power to leave scars, and rightly so, for hers is an important story to tell. I found myself able to empathise with all the characters in turn, from the misguided nineteen-year-old from Wembley who gets corralled into joining ISIS, realising too late what a terrible mistake he’s made, to the plight of the privileged son of a British Muslim Home Secretary who falls in love with the terrorist’s twin sister. The story was tragic but believable, the characters well drawn, the terror and tragedy of their situations gripping. And not a word too many – everything quite deliberately crafted more reminiscent of poetry than prose. This is the kind of literature I love to read."

David Clark

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: "I've never been into graphic novels, but this was a revelation. I loved the way the images complemented and slyly commented on the funny, tragic, and insightful text."

Megan Corbett

Karen M. McManus, One of Us is Lying: "Like The Breakfast Club, but add murder and social media to create a genuinely unpredictable mystery that's so much better than The Breakfast Club."

Sharon Eckman

C. J. Sansom, Tombland: "The latest installment of C. J. Sansom's brilliant Shardlake series nearly didn't arrive, as he has been seriously ill - so for those who love these superbly-researched historical novels, it was a double joy. Tombland is so immersive and enthralling that I managed to get to and from Portugal without panicking about how much I hate flying. I also learned more about the Norfolk peasant rebellion of 1549 than I ever would have done at school." 

Kershia Field

Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: "Beautifully vivid storytelling in a way that makes you feel both warm and deeply sad. I'd recommend it to anyone!"

Aimi Francis

Thomas Ligotti, Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe: "I think I’ve got a new favourite author."

Colin Gardiner

Ruta Sepetys, Salt to the Sea: "Tells the story of four young people in World War II who flee the advance of Soviet troops across war-torn East Prussia. This novel is profoundly moving and fast-paced with believable characters. The forgotten stories of so many refugees fleeing the collapse of the Nazi Reich are revealed. This book will stay with you." 

Katharina Kalinowski

Henning Mankell, The Chronicler of the Winds (1995, translated from Swedish by Tiina Nunnally in 2006): "A beautifully poetic translation of human violence and warmth. Set in an unnamed African colony during civil war, the novel weaves an intricate web of unheard voices to tell the story of the street boy Nelio. In a moving tale of magical and painfully real elements, it appeals to the power of imagination and shows that being old has nothing to do with age. This was a very special book for me; one of those that permanently change how you view the world."  

Simon King

James Ellroy, Perfidia: "Crime fiction as history - Ellroy’s saw-toothed prose offers us Los Angeles in December 1941, a city high on bigotry, Benzedrine, and brutality."

Mary Ann Lund

Zaffar Kunial, Us: "Zaffar Kunial's first poetry collection reflects on his British and Kashmiri parentage, on language that joins and separates us, and on the experience of loss. His poetry inhabits NHS hospitals, Midlands post offices, and the outfields of cricket pitches; and we find George Herbert and John Donne there too. An exciting and humane new voice in British poetry."

Dan Powell 

Robert Shaw, The Flag: "Undeservedly out of print third novel from writer and actor Robert Shaw, The Flag wrestles with the politics of capitalism and, despite being published in 1965 and set in 1925, still speaks directly to our contemporary world."

Robert Richardson

Muriel Spark, The Go-Away Bird and Other Stories: "Published in 1958, Spark’s collection of short stories are broadcasting from a lost world, but her acute presentations of comedy, tragedy, sadness and absurdity continue to resonate."

Kate Sharp

Sarah Corbett, How To Be A Craftivist: "Inspiring, empowering, practical guide to challenging social injustice in a friendly, creative way." 

Sally Shaw

Nicholas Tromans, The Artist and the Asylum: "What are the secrets within the paintings of Richard Dadd?  This book will tell you."

Jacob Spivey

Vladimir Mayakovsky, A Cloud in Trousers: "I was unsurprisingly caught off-guard by the optimism and hope that exudes from this piece of Soviet-era Russian poetry."

David Swann

Daniel Mendelsohn, An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic: "A classics scholar gets stuck with his cantankerous Dad as a student on his Homer course, and then tries to go to Ithaca with him. My book of the year. Learned, wise, moving, and funny." 

Jonathan Taylor

Shirley Jackson, The Sundial: "Ironic, cynical, psychotic. A very domestic Book of Revelations."

Maria Taylor

Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: "A delicately-written novel about the lives of disparate characters brought together by a mute called Mr. Singer. Very memorable."

Miranda Taylor (aged 10)

Rachel Renee Russell, Dork Diaries: Birthday Drama!: "This book has a lot of drama in it. The main character Nikki has lots of crazy ideas for a party, which are very funny."

Rosalind Taylor (aged 10)

Matt Haig, To Be A Cat: "I loved this because it was exciting when the boy turned into a cat. I enjoyed reading about all of the dangers he had to face as a cat."

Paul Taylor-McCartney

Philip Pullman, Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling: "Enlightening and entertaining journey into the mind of the great storyteller - essays, conference papers and articles on his approaches to building narrative and art’s role in shaping both author, reader and society. Essential reading for any aspiring or established creative writers."

Harry Whitehead

Jennifer Egan, A Visit From The Goon Squad: "Virtuosic technical skill in these enormously entertaining and profound connected short stories that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011. What a book this is."

Lisa Williams

Tasha Kavanagh, Things We Have In Common: "Yet another 'girl goes missing' tale but told in a breathtakingly refreshing way." 

Lee Wright

Michael Winter, The Death of Donna Whalen: "A non-fiction novel from 2010, based on the records of a man’s trial for murder. Michael Winter turns normal lives into living nightmares in true Capote fashion. Raw language, ingenious structuring, pure storytelling."    

No comments:

Post a Comment